She was referring to “Mermaids: The Body Found” and “Mermaids: The New Evidence,” a series of Animal Planet specials that aired in 20.
“Mermaids: The New Evidence” was, at the time of airing, the most successful show in Animal Planet’s history.
The shows were fake, though you could be forgiven if you didn’t realize that.
Animal Planet, like many Discovery Communications properties, trades on its reputation for providing educational nature documentaries and lifestyle reality programs.
There is no easy solution, and the success of many of these shows means that the fake documentary phenomenon is here to stay.
There is hope: After receiving significant criticism for its programming, Discovery’s head of programming announced in 2015 that the company would phase out these kinds of programming, at least for Shark Week.“Nanook of the North,” a 1922 silent film that captures the daily life of an Inuk man in the Canadian Arctic, is often considered to be the first feature-length documentary.Later interviews revealed that significant parts of the film had been staged and bore little similarity to the lives of Inuit hunters at the time.Submarine blamed a real ferry accident, in which several passengers lost their lives, on a made-up shark; the search and rescue operators who performed admirably in their response to the accident had to issue a release disavowing Discovery Communications.Actual shark scientists were looped into the Shark Week narrative, often filmed without full knowledge of the theme and purpose of the documentary.These kinds of programs muddy the waters of education-based television.In the case of documentaries like “White Wilderness,” they can actively and seemingly permanently distort our perception of the natural world or, as in “Nanook of the North,” disenfranchise modern communities by painting them as quaintly primitive.By framing the villain in these productions as real, often nonpartisan, institutions like NOAA, they don’t just direct resources away from the agency’s actual work by forcing it to respond to a phony controversy; they lend weight to other campaigns aimed at discrediting these organizations.In the United States, the active, well-funded movement to deny the scientific consensus on global climate is adept at capitalizing on manufactured controversy.The conceit: that mermaids were real and that scientists from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration were actively hiding their existence from the world.A few dedicated scientists, hunted and harassed by government agents (at one point, security footage literally shows men in black removing evidence from a lab), were fighting to expose the truth.