In 1988, Tom Golden created Shark Week, which is as its name states, a week’s worth of shark-related programming broadcast on the Discovery Channel. At the time, the programming was meant to support conservation efforts by informing the public about the true nature of sharks so as to shake the sensationalistic impression created by Jaws in 1975 as well as all of its successors. Since that time, it has become so popular that it receives significant marketing whenever the time approaches, as shown by the recent lead-up to the latest Shark Week that will be starting on July 23 of 2017.
How Fake Is Shark Week?
Unfortunately, Shark Week has become more and more fake in recent times because as it turns out, sensationalism sells much better than the truth of things. For proof, look no further than the fact that its programming is now focused more on entertainment than on education, so much so that much of it is now docu-fiction rather than documentaries. Unsurprisingly, this sensationalism has been rather problematic for experts supporting conservation efforts, which are needed because sharks are a critical component of the marine ecosystems that provide such a huge percentage of the human population with food, economic opportunities, and recreational opportunities.
The best example of Shark Week’s increasing fakeness can be seen in the docu-fiction claiming that a prehistoric shark called the Megalodon could still be found in modern waters with no more than short disclaimers at the end to tell people that it was nothing but docu-fiction. Even worse, the docu-fiction claimed that evidence of their survival was being covered up by governmental authorities as well as mainstream scientists, meaning that it didn’t just propagate outright lies on what is supposed to be an educational channel but also damaged the public’s trust in them. Something that resulted in the mass harassment of real scientists involved in shark-related research.
This is not helped by the fact that even when it is not docu-fiction, much of Shark Week’s programming is still much more focused on sensationalism that sells rather than the programming block’s initial intentions. For example, one of the regular features of Shark Week is the documentary that focuses on finding a supposedly legendary shark in some part of the world, which tends to be filled with exaggerations to stir up the viewer’s fearful imagination before concluding without present any evidence of its existence whatsoever. Furthermore, other Shark Week documentaries are stuffed full of fake shark experts with neither expertise nor experience, real shark experts who have been lured onto them on false premises, and inaccuracies that seem to originate from sloppiness as much as bad intentions.
Has Shark Week Become Too Fake in Recent Years?
With that said, it is interesting to note that not long after Rich Ross became the new President of Discovery Channel in October of 2014, he promised to remove docu-fiction from Shark Week’s lineup. As a result, while Shark Week is still too focused on the most sensationalistic aspects of the public interest in sharks, it is not as bad as it was in the not so distant past. Unfortunately, this is still no more than damning praise at best.