"Mermaids: The Body Found": Stranger Than Fiction, Or Just Fiction?

BlogHer Original Post

Animal Planet billed it as a documentary. I caught wind of it on Twitter and immediately set my TIVO (or, y'know, the crappy cable company loaner I call a TIVO -- whatever). We put the kiddo to bed, and settled in to watch the two hour Charlie Foley piece Mermaids: The Body Found. I actually started it while my husband was in the kitchen grabbing a snack, but almost immediately stopped and rewound. If this was true, this was crazy. Scott was going to want to see this for himself.

From the Animal Planet website:

"This is the story of the first-hand account of a team of government scientists who testify they found the remains of a never-before-identified sea creature with ties to human origins -- a mermaid. Stunning computer animation, eyewitness video and photographic evidence shows what the creature looks like, and questions are raised about whether a massive government cover-up is hiding proof of their existence."

Within 20 minutes, my frontal lobe was aching and I was googling the background of this thing on my iPhone. Was it fact? Was it fiction? Did the Navy accidentally beach Merpeople with a sonar experiment gone awry? Could these scientists all really be this good looking?

If you missed MTBF (I'm abbrieviating it that way so as not to risk confusion with the Cher vehicle of the same name), you really should watch it -- it's compelling, to say the least. If you did see it, than maybe you know what I'm talking about. I'll confess. I had a War of the Worlds moment (the radio broadcast, not the Tom Cruise movie) where I was wholly convinced Merpeople were real. Or, more accurately, that the aquatic ape theory seemed entirely plausible.

Okay, that video might not be the best example of what had me buying what Animal Planet was selling, but the interweaving of fact and fiction made for a convincing -- and entertaining -- ride. However, I found myself slightly miffed as my husband and I (and our iPhones) determined that we were in fact watching more of a "mockumentary" than a "documentary," as our {usually so trustworthy!} TV schedule would have us believe.

A "Speculative Documentary," Foley calls it. While his last Animal Planet partnering, Dragons: A Fantasy Made Real betrayed its fictional underpinnings in its title, MTBH takes factual findings throughout history and across the globe (Tools! Freshly speared whales! Unidentified language-like sonar calls!) and strings them together with the fabricated narrative of former NOAA scientists and marine biologists as they investigate a series of whale beachings and discover the remnants of a sea-dwelling human cousin and a massive government cover up.

courtesy of Animal Planet

All in all, intrigued and still a little miffed, I'm going to say Foley did what he set out to do -- as reported in The Huffington Post -- "Foley hopes the special gets people interested in the Aquatic Ape Theory, but also admits that his goal isn't to win converts to the idea."

Did you watch? Did you bite? Am I just the most gullible person on the entire planet for wanting it to be all the way real?


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