Mermaid Hoax: Did Animal Planet Blatantly Deceive Viewers? [VIDEO]
A mermaid hoax perpetrated by the Animal Planet fooled enough people this week that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was moved to put out a statement saying that "no evidence of aquatic humanoids has ever been found."
Three-and-half million people watched the Animal Planet special, "Mermaids: The New Evidence," which included allegedly never-before-seen footage of mermaids in the Greenland Sea.
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But it was all a hoax, as was last year's Animal Planet special "Mermaids: The Body Found," which fooled a number of people as well.
In a self-congratulatory statement devoid of any irony, Animal Planet's president and general manager Marjorie Kaplan said, "The phenomenon of 'Mermaids' has truly been a watershed -- and a watercooler -- moment for Animal Planet. These extraordinary television specials have electrified, challenged and entertained television audiences and online fans alike."
She failed to add "duped" to the list of verbs in that last sentence, but one gets the point.
Said one Twitter user, "Screw you Animal Planet for making me watch that stupid Mermaid documentary & it was all a hoax." Said another, "spent 3 hours last night watching all the mermaid stuff and come to find out this morning on the news its all a hoax...wtf?"
Ed Stockly of the LA Times said of the mermaid hoax, "It's remarkable how well this fake documentary mimics actual programs claiming to reveal actual creatures. Substitute Mermaids for Bigfoot, Chupacabra, the Loch Ness monster, ghosts and aliens, and it's hard to make a distinction between what's real but faked, and what's really fake."
A 1,000-word press release for "Mermaids: The New Evidence," calls the film "science fiction" twice, buried among sentences like "These are the facts," about a scientific theory that virtually no one gives credence to. To make the case for the existence of mermaids, Animal Planet points to the Aquatic Ape Theory, which posits that humans spent time adapting to a semiaquatic existence. Apparently heralding this unaccepted evolutionary theory, Animal Planet notes features that humans and aquatic animals share: "Webbing between fingers (other primates don't have this)...A highly developed brain, which depends on nutrients provided by seafood."
Whether or not Animal Planet buried the fact that it was science fiction, one thing is for certain: people love stories about mermaids and sea creatures.
"I suppose the human psyche is fascinated by mermaids because they're an idealized version of ourselves--the idea of a humanoid creature that lives in the ocean and can breathe underwater," said Charlie Foley, Mermaids creator, writer and executive producer and a senior vice president at Animal Planet. "Mermaids belong to a world we know and a world from which we come, but which is now alien to us; that's the world of the oceans, and so we identify with them even as they occupy a place of mystery for us."
Below, the trailer for "Mermaids: The New Evidence."
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