Friday, February 03, 2006

Smarter than the average Barbera

More on the willful blindness of certain “experts” as to the true nature of their chosen subjects, as our good friend Desargues draws our attention to another example of the same kind of romantic nonsense.

Timothy Treadwell was a “bear expert” in the habit of living for months at a time among wild bears of Alaska, giving them names and sneaking up close enough to touch them. Alas, it appears that the bears did not reciprocate his feelings: at some point during his final visit they dispassionately decided that he and his girlfriend were easier to catch than yet another bloody salmon, and promptly ate them both. Rangers stumbling upon the grisly scene were forced to shoot the bears to recover the remains.

One deduces from this tale of woe that the North American varieties of bear are made of sterner stuff than their child-rearing Indian and European kin. A search unearths four other examples of fatal bear attacks in the same general area, without even starting on horror stories such as the baby eaten right out of its stroller in upstate New York.

Like M. Cousteau, Mr Treadwell preferred to characterise his unpredictable friends as misunderstood – “harmless party animals”, even. One may now suppose that he has modified his views somewhat, although sadly too late for himself and especially the luckless female who trusted in his expertise. In their memories therefore we hereby dub North America’s bear community “the sharks of the forest”.

So how does one go about confusing a five hundred pound carnivore with a soft toy? Wise old birds have long warned us that
“it’s always tempting to impute
unlikely virtues to the cute”

The otherwise inexplicable popularity of the Kennedy family is grim testimony to this deplorable human frailty. But the cuteness excuse just doesn’t wash with me this time. Bears are big, they’re covered in filthy fur and ticks, and they reek. A teamster’s mother might find that combination appealing, but don’t tell me anyone else is rushing to hug them. Something else is at work here, and inevitably the finger of suspicion swings unerringly towards the real culprits - Hanna Barbera.

Stay with me here.

Yes, it was those unscrupulous manipulators at Hanna-Barbera who lured luckless losers like Mr Treadwell into the hills, with the reckless and deceptive nonsense of Yogi Bear. Yogi and Boo Boo were not much prettier than the real thing, but they were harmless. They were in fact simple and easily biddable creatures who would do practically anything for a “pickernic basket”, which is how Ranger Smith persuaded them to pose for that tawdry and ill-advised Spartacus centrefold with the Banana Splits and got the whole show cancelled.

Sadly, children’s cartoons are a notoriously unreliable source of zoological minutae. For example, one can watch any number of episodes of Magilla Gorilla without once learning that gorillas build nests and show a high degree of fecal disinterest. Or that they can, if sufficiently provoked, rip off your arm and beat you to death with the wet end.

And so it is with the bears. We were conned, plain and simple, by shameless pro-bear propaganda, and two more victims have paid the ultimate price. Surely Hanna Barbera know the human cost of their products by now, yet apology comes there none.

How many more must die? How many more tourists shredded while proffering a picnic basket? How many more children pounded to a pulp by a deeply disturbed discount gorilla from the pet shop? How many more blameless citizens shot by incompetent law enforcement horses?

Hanna-Barbera – j’accuse…

Yogi and Boo Boo, yesterday. Foiled by those fiddly little clips on the child seat, they skip the hors d'oeuvre and go straight to the entrée…


R. Sherman said...

Actually, I think the evil W. Disney started the ball with "Bambi." Before we all cried when Bambi's mother died, we lived our lives in the blessed assurance that animals were nothing but meat and decoration for the "English" room in the basement.

BTW, I was in Glacier National Park this summer which is Grizzly Beulah Land. I bought two cans of bear spray and asked the clerk at the outdoor supply store whether it worked. His response: "It'll work . . . unless it doesn't.


Jamie said...

You lie.

The Care Bears are cuddly, loving creatures. Just like lions (e.g. Simba and Aslan).

Gorilla Bananas said...

A gorilla would have to be pretty cheesed off to pull your arm off and Davey Boy of the BBC found the band he was seconded to placid enough.

I have a feeling you might be interested in the blog of another creature from a wild place who has managed to tame himself.

R. Sherman said...

I loved this quote in the story about the infant:

"It may be the first season that it may have been on its own, and it may very well have perceived this infant as a food source," [Police Chief] Lawrence said. "I wouldn't categorize it as an attack - as far as a running, snarling attack."

I'm sure the parents were relieved to hear that.

PI said...

Animal lovers who reduce animals to their own cutesy sentimentality are a pain in the bum. Today is the coldest day of the year hereabouts and I am supposed to feel guilty at wearing my thirty year old coat made of vermin (mink). Well I don't. We fought the fascists for freedom of choice didn't we?
The people who dice with death and wild animals would do well to respect the seasons. EG Avoid the stags on Exmoor in the rutting season. Apparently it was the hungriest time for the bears when the tragedy occurred. Sorry to ramble on.

Anonymous said...

At the risk of sounding like a tedious high-brow, Walt D wasn't the first to inculcate in children this notion that bears are our fuzziest buddies. It was Hesiod. Surely most of you must have seen the Pallazzo Pitti in Florence. AT the end of the royal apartments, there's a large room--the Sala della Stufa, where the stove was. It has four large frescoes, depicting the four ages of humanity, according to Hesiod. In the Golden Age, you see children happily riding bears, and lions merrily frolicking around with lambs and stags. I guess back in the day lions must have been feeding on apples. So you see, the anthropomorphization of furry critters began way before Disney.

But in some people, like Threadwell, this misguided notion can reach delusional proportions. I really suspect that, had he survived the bear attack, he'd have brushed it off with a smile as a breakdown in communication between the two species, or something like that.


Ivan the Terrible said...

Hi again RS - I'm a firm believer in bear spray. My favourite brand is produced by Uzi, but Heckler & Koch have a good one too.

Jamie - get help. You're a zebra. Stop sucking up to the lions.

GB - I'd be the first to admit that poor Magilla would have good reason to be upset. More on that topic to come on Monday :) Thanks for the intro to Muttawa - I especially liked the Muslim Offence Level chart...

Hi Pi - best thing to do with the bunny huggers is to lock 'em in a pen with the object of their affection for a bit and see if they survive the experience. Now that's a reality TV niche crying out for exploitation.

And Des - thanks again for the original link for this post. I'm sure that if he'd survived with a bump or two only, Mr T would have responded exactly as you describe. But his girlfriend would probably have been handing out the lumps instead. Women are, in the end, far more practical than men - even the hippy ones.

Anonymous said...

Ivan - I wouldn't recommend Uzi "bear spray". Uzi's only shoot 9mm Europellets. For a fatal wound you need something in a hunting caliber.

Amusing discussion of the subject is at

Ivan the Terrible said...

Excellent article again, Des - thank you. Especially good advice re removing the front sight from a bear defence rifle, so that "it will not be as painful when the bear shoves it up your ass". These mountain men think of everything...

The Remittance Man said...

Much as I hate lawyers, the evil capitalist bastard in me spots a nifty money making scheme here.

If Americans can sue tobacco companies because they got cancer, surely we can sue Hanna & Barbera and Disney for "bear trauma". And if they try and use the "Discovery Channel defense" we can counterwith the "Surgeon General's warning" refutation.

Money for old rope if we can find an unwanted relative or two to feed to the bears, methinks.


Ivan the Terrible said...

And there's never any shortage of unwanted relatives. Just be careful you don't end up in the frame.

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