After watching this, you might be mortified by this reenactment of a gruesome shark attack. I am here to clear things up a bit and maybe make you feel better. For starters, there is a disclaimer saying, “This program contains dramatizations of actual events. It includes some fictionalized characters to help tell the story.” This already tells you that this is more for entertainment purposes as opposed to the actual reality of the attack. After watching this video, I decided to research further about Julia Painting. I wanted to know exactly what and why this happened.
Julia was one of the nine victims in a series of shark attacks off the coast of South Africa. This incident was so large, it was called Black December. Her attack was pre-Jaws so keep in mind there was little to no research about sharks. No one knew the coast was infested with sharks, specifically bull sharks, one of the most aggressive species. Another factor that contributed to the attacks was that the local rivers were murky from runoff from livestock, therefore, tourists populating the coastal waters was much higher than normal during this time. If we had more information about sharks, maybe these accidents could have been prevented.
As you can see, there is a lot of information to disclaim to the audience. Without this information, this video would look like a vicious, intentional attack. It contributes to the constant bad media of sharks and promotes their aggressive behavior, which doesn’t even account for all species. This is just one out of the dozens of other dramatized or fake videos Discovery has aired for Shark Week. If they’re striving for shark conservation and to teach their audiences more about sharks, then why do they air such harmful and inaccurate programs?
When false programs like these were released from 2012-2014, Shark Week’s viewership broke records. A whopping 4.8 million tuned in on the premiere of the Megalodon. According to Forbes.com, Babej writes, “Was Discovery wrong to air Megalodon during Shark Week? Of course not: the network is a for-profit business, and as such measured by ratings and profit. As long as a show fits within a broad thematic umbrella and doesn’t drive away viewers or advertisers, it should be considered.” Well, there you have it. It’s all just one business plan, to suck people in, give them false information, and damage the shark’s image.
So the next time you plan to watch Shark Week, beware of these things. Make sure you double check the information, if you do wish to rely on Discovery’s education. Otherwise, enjoy the entertainment, but always remember sharks aren’t man-eating, vicious monsters. Picture them more as a valuable, large contributor to our marine ecosystems.