The preference for the exotic in wildlife broadcast film

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Arts & Architecture


American wildlife broadcast film has exhibited a preference for exotic fauna, leaving much of North American wildlife underappreciated. The American preference for the exotic finds its roots in the early African hunting films of Cherry Kearton, John Hemment, and Martin Johnson. These films became manifestations of the Pristine, a conceptual realm of untouched wildness filled with aesthetically-pleasing megafauna. Since then, visions of the Pristine, through the exotic wildlife and landscape, have remained popular in American broadcast viewing, as seen in Animal Planet's programming. Exotic wildlife broadcast film encourages viewers to engage in the roles of tourist, refugee, and conservationist. These roles, in turn, foster an understanding of nature that is dominated by seemingly plentiful megafauna, disconnected from humans and valued through a nature-importing model.
The challenge in viewing domestic wildlife in broadcast film is that Americans cannot engage in the tourist role, one that highly values novelty and exceptionalism. In addition, Americans have become increasingly urbanized and separate from their natural surroundings. This separation between Americans and domestic wildlife may foster negative attitudes toward and misinformation of domestic fauna. Despite small steps in presenting domestic wildlife in Animal Planet programming, the prevalence of exotic-focused wildlife film has done little to bridge the gap between Americans and domestic wildlife. Filmmakers should reconsider the appeal of exotic wildlife (novelty and rarity) in order to foster interest in the vast array of generally unknown domestic wildlife. In a way films can encourage American viewers to become "tourists" to their own country's wildlife and foster the same positive values Americans hold for exotic fauna.


Kis-ka-DEE is a film that is part of the student's thesis project.



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