Blue Planet 2 and the public outcry it inspired over plastic pollution, global warming and the continued degradation of our natural world, was truly fantastic. Blue Planet 2 was great because it combined an unavoidable environmental message with an outstanding display of biodiversity. ‘The Blue Planet effect’ has led to increased public awareness of an ongoing environmental catastrophe, which has started to drive government policy.
The latest landmark BBC series, Dynasties, is an altogether different animal, one which initially I didn’t think I would like.
Each episode of Dynasties focuses on different charismatic species, such as, Lions, Chimpanzees, African Wild Dogs, Emperor Penguins and Tigers. They are tracked and filmed throughout their lives, spanning over long periods of time (2-3 years in some cases!) and we the viewer observe the trials and tribulations that each family endures.
It is basically the animal version of EastEnders or Hollyoaks.
My first thoughts on the hearing about the program were simple…….
‘Haven’t we filmed these animals enough?’
These charismatic species, awesome as they are, are some of the most filmed animals in the world and I, as a biologist, do love a bit of biodiversity in my natural history documentaries.
Despite this, the vast amount of people in the world are not biologists and may not care, or even be aware of certain species which are on the edge of extinction. Even if the whole world was aware of the plight of the Lord Howe Island stick insect would people really care?
Now ask people ‘do you care about Charm’, the badass lioness who wowed the British public in the lion episode of Dynasties, and I think it’s safe to say people care. Through some truly fantastic cinematography, audio and editing, each episode of Dynasties was an emotional roller-coaster, making it almost impossible to not feel empathetic towards the animals… and that is my point.
What Dynasties did so well is make people ‘care’ about these animals. It’s the same reason why Children in Need use individual, personable stories when fundraising. The truth is that most humans, despite all our flaws, are incredibly empathetic. Dynasties has successfully captured and played on our empathetic nature, in the same way all other media does.
Will it work? Who knows.
Personally, I think some of the criticism that Dynasties has received for not being as ‘environmental’ as other documentaries is unfair. Yes, the style of documentary is very different, but each episode, contains a message about the impact of humans on wildlife. Further, if people are inspired to protect charismatic species such as lions, then this will also involve protecting their habitats, which house many other species too.
Dynasties might not push an environmental agenda as obviously as Blue Planet 2 but if people ‘care’ about wildlife they are more likely to do something to protect it. I hope (and think) that this series will inspire people to care, conserve and fight for wildlife conservation. Perhaps if we want to have an environment full of biodiversity, we require a diversity of different natural history documentary to inspire people to do so.
Dynasties can only be a good thing surely!