Response to Russell and Grizzly Documentaries
By Alli Harrod (05/12/10 16:04:23)
Related animal: Grizzly Bear

In Charlie Russell's response to the work and death of Timothy Treadwell and Werner Herzog's "Grizzly Man," Russell juggles Treadwell's methods and protocol in his interactions with grizzly bears with Herzog's skewed portrayal of Treadwell and his ethics. First, Russell explains that he and Treadwell personally differed in methods and protocol with grizzlies. While Russell used pepper spray and electric fences for his personal safety he criticized Treadwell for not doing the same. He warned Treadwell against not using precautions, claiming that Treadwell's death would "undo" any of Treadwell's efforts to change the relationship between humans and grizzlies. Russell also points out that Treadwell's methods and protocol did, however, work in the relationship between he and the bears successfully for thirteen years and that, with Herzog's portrayal of Treadwell, this fact is commonly overlooked by viewers who mostly see his death as a "deserving" one. Consequentially, Russell argues that Treadwell's work as presented by Herzog actually reinforces the opposite of Treadwell's message, that grizzlies are violent beings and that their relationship with humans should be one of fear so that bears do not attack humans and humans feel justified to carry guns and shoot bears. Herzog's work, Russell claims, traditionally aims to present bizarre characters, so Treadwell was presented as a "nut case with a death wish." He suggests that Jewel Palovak, Treadwell's ex-girlfriend who received all of Treadwell's tapes, should have been more discerning in filmmakers and found someone unlike Herzog who would have been more critical, knowledgeable, and "sympathetic towards bears." Russell states that Herzog's commentary actually "expounds his own, very simple ideas about nature and how man doesn't belong out there in nature with all these 'horrible' animals." I believe that when comparing "Grizzly Man" to "Walking with Giants: The Grizzlies of Siberia," an example of the importance between discerning filmmakers' methods of presentation and point of view emerges. Contrary to what Herzog presented, in "Walking with Giants: The Grizzles of Siberia" we see the embodiment of Russell's theory that grizzlies are "trustworthy...and man is not." In this film we saw how methods and protocol between humans and grizzlies differed (from Treadwell) and how an exact opinion of proper protocol was depicted (unlike what Herzog characterized of Treadwell.) While there were no scenes of pepper spray usage like Russell discussed, there were plenty of depictions of the use of a cabin and an electric fence for the safety of humans and baby grizzlies involved. I think that between the two documentaries there is a significant difference in protocol and personal ethics over how to keep one "safe" and what that means in the land of the grizzlies.

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