David Attenborough’s brilliant, isn’t he? I mean proper superfriggincalivagifeckspialidocious-type fantastic. Everything about him is ‘cool’, from his cheerful unconcern at having the type of hair that goes all floppy when he’s having a bit of a rumpus with a surly gorilla, to that voice of his – like partially melted Rolos that have been spiked with Temazepam and a really fine sherry. For his services to animal kind he should be lauded, applauded and jolly well HUZZAH’ed across the land.
There should be a haircut named after him – it worked with the ‘Rachel’ so why not the ‘Dave’? Commemorative, gold-leafed, ‘Collector’s Edition’ plates, mugs and figurines should be flogged to the masses via Sunday supplements and statues should be erected in his honour. Why wait until he’s gone to the big Serengeti in the sky? Start carving them NOW I say! We could ditch poncey Eros in Piccadilly and instead have a majestic ‘Dave tickling a koala’. Why have Nelson looking all squinty and stand-offish on top of his column when we could have ‘Dave doing an impression of a meerkat’? And let’s convert The Angel of the North (which nobody really likes anyway, if their honest) into a giant Dave, arms outstretched in welcome, with Marcel from Friends and Kes sitting on his shoulders.
I like him so much that if I was asked to appoint someone as ruler of the world England – and frankly, I don’t know why nobody has thought to ask me to do that yet – then I would probably pick David Attenborough.
‘Only PROBABLY?’ I hear you gasp in shocked bewilderment.
Yes, dear, fragrant reader, I’m afraid so. There are a couple of small-but-can’t-be-ignored ‘quibbles’ that make it impossible for me to make David Attenborough our undisputed overlord:
- His brother. I’m fairly sure his sense of family duty would lead to him appointing The Lord Richard of Attenborough as High Grand Comptroller Wizard of Entertainment, or something. And whilst I’m reasonably fond of Richard Attenborough, it can’t be denied that he is a bit of a ‘luvvy’ type. Think about it. We’d end up with weather forecasts choreographed by Louis Spence and the news being delivered by overly dramatic news readers who choked on their own tears as they stared with haunted eyes into the camera lens. Also, there’s the whole ‘Little Dickie Attenborough’ thing… no, NO. We can’t have that.
- And this is the real deal-breaker… I think he’d make it compulsory to watch natural history programmes. And I don’t like those.
What? Well, I don’t!
Yes, I adore Dave, and yes, I love animals… I can see where your confusion comes from, but let me explain… What I DON’T like is David Attenborough and his theatre of animal death. Need further explanation? Just check out Twitter the next time Frozen Planet is on, I guarantee that you will see something very similar to the following, swamping your timeline:
‘Awwww!!!!! Penguins! PENGUINS ARE AMAZEBALLS!!!’
‘D’aw! Look at the cute way they walk!’
‘LOLZ! PENGUINS ARE HILARIOUS!!!!!!’
‘Look at their cute little fe… hang on…’
‘What is that ominous shadow looming behind that lone penguin who has inexplicably left the safety of the group and wandered dangerously close to the sea?’
‘WHY IS THAT KILLER WHALE LOOKING AT HIM FUNNY?’
‘Run, little penguin, RUN!!!’
‘Oh, I can’t look 😦’
‘Somebody tell me when it’s over! 😦’
‘YAY! He made it!! :D’
‘I need a stiff drink’
‘Does anybody know what the symptoms of a myocardial infarction are?…’
‘Think I might go and have a lie down. If I never tweet again – can somebody tell my mother I love her? Thanks.’
Seriously, Sir David… do YOU call that entertainment? Because in MY book there’s nothing entertaining about serious emotional trauma.
Do you hear that, makers of Watership Down? There is NOTHING entertaining about serious, emotional trauma. Thanks to you I have NEVER watched Bambi, Old Yeller, National Velvet, Cujo or The Lion King… well OK, that last one is mostly because of the Elton John muzak, but you get the picture.
Which reminds me – don’t start bleating on about ‘Oh, it’s just the Circle of Life’ because you can stick that right up your bum. We’ve only got Elton John’s word on it, after all. Maybe life isn’t that simple from my perspective; maybe I prefer trapezoids to circles, or dodecahedrons. Maybe it’s the big, squiggly line of life – ever thought of that, huh? I mean, I’m not that stupid, I know animals kill each other in order to survive. I also know that John Prescott does number twos – that doesn’t mean I want to see it happen. The toilet habits of fat Northern blokes, animal death and the contents of Frankie Cocozza’s pants are just a few of the things I prefer to remain blind to, thanks very much.
The truth of the matter is I am a big, soppy tart of a girl and I just can’t handle the emotions that come from witnessing an animal in peril or actually dying. I cry at foxes, for goodness sake! They don’t even have to be dead or operating heavy duty machinery without the appropriate safety equipment (that would have me gibbering in seconds), just normal, healthy, happy foxes basking in the sunshine… and I’m in floods. So can you appreciate what footage of a polar bear, floating forlornly on a rapidly melting ice flow would do to me? The beauty of animals breaks my heart; natural history programmes, with their sumptuous shots, fascinating insight and stirring soundtracks just throw in a whole bunch of guilt and anger into the bubbling stew pot that is my emotional state because they are a reminder of what arrogant, selfish shits we humans are for creating such carnage and environmental havoc on a planet that is not ours to fuck up. David Attenborough, with his gentle, wistful tones, might think he’s merely enlightening me on the migrational habits of the Semipalmated Sandpiper, but all I actually hear him saying is:
‘You! You and your heartless kind are killing the planet and all the lovely, ickle creatures that dwell here… and for what? For the sake of having BIG HAIR! You disgust me!’
I’m not saying natural history programmes shouldn’t be made, of course they should, they play an incredibly important part in bringing awareness of nature and the plight of the planet to people who would otherwise be oblivious to it. And I greatly admire the people who make wildlife films. I could never do it, I’d want to interfere too much. It’s why I should never be allowed to time travel either; just like it would be my first mission to go back to the seventies and warn Elvis to cut down on the pies and the spangly catsuits whilst adding more karate moves to his live show performances (thus throwing the whole alignment of space and time out of whack and no doubt endangering my own existence in the process), my first instinct on witnessing a lion stalking a hapless impala through the arid grasslands of Africa would be to try to shoo it off with a ring binder or clipboard. I wouldn’t be able to help myself. I couldn’t passively sit and film the demise of a baby elephant that had wandered into a bog of quicksand in order to accurately capture the reality of the animal’s existence, I’d force the camera crew to form a human chain and then try to drag it to safety. And then I’d call it ‘Bob’ and take it home to meet the cat.
All I’m saying is I would prefer to watch nature programmes that will entertain and inform me without reducing my face to a puddle of salty snot. Let’s have some documentaries I can watch and enjoy – like Animal Magic! Johnny Morris managed to be consistently funny and heart-warming without ONCE resorting to mimicking what a marmoset might be saying as it disappeared down the throat of a vulture. Let’s have some nature programmes with zero levels of death, suspense, or poignancy – just nice clips of happy animals, cute clips, funny clips – if YouTube can do it I’m pretty sure the Beeb can! Will Self could narrate in a mildly bored and sarcastic tone, and say things like:
“Here we see a bobcat doing nothing in particular.” *very long pause* “It looks a bit mangey to me.” *another lengthy pause* “Oh, it’s licking its arse now. That’s epiphenomenal, isn’t it”.
I don’t know about you, but I’d enjoy that.
In my opinion, the BBC has made some of the greatest natural history programmes in the history of gogglevision; even the one minute trailers are breath-taking and leave you with a hankering for a sense of adventure and a box of Cadbury’s Chocolate Animals. And I think it’s fair to say that Attenborough can take a lot of the credit for that fact, it’s his understanding and compassion for nature that has driven and inspired so many of today’s wildlife film makers. He and his vast catalogue of work and achievements are some of the few things we Brits can be truly proud of. If Dave were to compete in the Natural History Film-Makers Olympics, there’s no doubt we would kick some serious ass and bring home the bling.
Sir David Attenborough’s films are justifiably world famous now, having been syndicated across the globe, bringing pleasure to millions. And just like the wildlife whose lives they document, I love knowing they’re out there.
I just can’t watch them.
And I just can’t make Dave the King of England, no matter how much I’d secretly like to. I’m sorry.
Ps: Here’s the trailer for Frozen Planet… even this chokes me up.
Pps: It’s a beautiful planet, isn’t it? And it’s not just ours… so please, be careful with it. x