A hospital in North Carolina has confirmed the eighth shark attack in the state in less than a month. Everyone from doggy-paddling young children to surfing teens to gently bobbing senior citizens are becoming snack food for one of the oldest living species on earth. And it’s either a swarm of ticked off sharks or one particularly peckish set of teeth doing the damage right now.
From Jaws to the Sharknado series, sharks have been elevated to almost mythic proportions, developing supernatural or god-like powers of reincarnation. Meanwhile, humans are becoming more perverse. We rally at the horror of those recent attacks – two teens have lost their arms – yet we want more.
So isn’t it lucky that with all this bloody news that the Discovery Channel just happens to be “celebrating” its annual Shark Week?
Viewers can “hitch a ride” on the fastest shark alive, then watch as a sperm whale is torn apart by a group of sharks like a living buffet at a wedding. Of course, this is all intended to be a learning experience. Consequently, there are also programs on prehistoric sharks. And Mythbusters will take on the fact versus the fantasy of the shark. There’s even a program on how to survive a shark attack. (Hint: don’t go in the water.)
Now science has learned much from studying sharks. If they can survive this long, they’ve got to have something to share with the one species that’s destroying the planet. So programs and weeks like this help support further studies and scientific breakthroughs. And I can get behind that.
But then there’s the audience participation factor – and really, common sense says that term should never be applied to sharks. Networks have come to love it when their viewers get involved in their programs. So they’re being asked to be a part of a “Social Shark Takeover,” referring to Shark Week as the #mostwonderfulweek on Twitter and Instagram.
They also want viewers to share their photos on Facebook. Already I fear the brilliant lengths to which some people will go in order to outdo each other and get the best photo. Thank goodness for Darwin’s Law of Natural Selection.
And then there’s the commercial aspect of Shark Week. Discovery has turned this celebration into a financial windfall for third world sweatshops and Taiwanese counterfeiters. Besides the typical shark backpacks and drinking glasses, the network is selling shark onesies complete with a head, shark attack fuzzy slippers, and (oh, the irony) the “Shark Week Lunch Collection.”
Yes, sharks do play an important role in nature. Yes, they’re often demonized and misunderstood. But since they’ve outlived practically every other being on the planet, I’m confident that they don’t need us cheering them on in order to survive.
It’s not that I hate sharks. The few I’ve met have been quite nice. But while we’re all celebrating Shark Week, let’s not forget there are eight people this year alone for whom this is a rather, uh, sore subject.