Reflection: Interspecies Relationships
"Grizzly Man"
By Tessa Tapscott (04/26/13 16:09:39)
Related animals: Grizzly Bear, Human

In class last week we discussed people that try to own or live with dangerous animals, this made me think of the film, Grizzly Man, which I finally watched recently. The movie by Werner Herzog follows the tumultuous life of Alaska’s resident recluse, Timothy Treadwell. Treadwell spent 13 summers in the Alaska wilderness living with and trying to protect grizzly bears. He became like the bears, moving like them, making noises like them, marking his territory, standing his ground. He began to take video equipment with him on these trips in order to document his travels and the shed light on the plight of the Alaskan grizzly bear. All this footage was found at the site of his death.
While much of the documentary is made up of his own work, there are also many interviews with his friends, family, colleagues and critics. One comment each one of them makes is that Treadwell became “like a bear” in his personality and mannerisms, some believed that this lead to his imminent demise. A member of the local Native American tribe described the way in which he sought to become a bear to be almost insulting to the bears as separate beings. His culture teaches that the bears should be respected and honored as wild animals, humans should not try to infiltrate their sacred habitat, nor should they try to act as them. Treadwell felt that the only way to help the bears was to try to understand every aspect of their lives and the best way to do this was to live like they do. To him, even organizations trying to help the bears were not doing enough and he felt personally insulted that the plight of the bears were not taken more seriously.
In the end he pushed his luck over the limit by staying out in the wilderness past the time that he usually would, as the seasons changed new bears moved into his territory and they were far less accepting of Treadwell’s antics than the regular group of bears he came in contact with. One particularly ferocious bear attacked Treadwell and his girlfriend, whom had accompanied him on this trip. Their pilot found both of their bodies several days later, along with a camera that recorded the their final cries for help.
The film was haunting because you know Treadwell’s fate from the beginning, but you have to watch his steady progression towards this end. While many viewed Treadwell as fanatical or even slightly insane his passion and love for not just the bears, but all wildlife is apparent in his footage. One must respect his drive to go out there and do what he loves not mattered what or who might try to stop him from doing so. Yet, I also agree with the Native American from the film, perhaps his approach was too invasive and too extreme, it predetermined his death. The way to save the bears is to get others to see that there is a problem, but Treadwell’s character alienated most humans, especially those whose opinions he wanted to change. While death at the paws of his most treasured creature was probably one of the greatest deaths he could have hoped for, it did not benefit his cause. He needed to get his footage edited and out to people who could help improve the situation for the bears, instead he became just another crazy environmentalist that got killed. And while this film uses his footage, it is more focused on Treadwell than on the bears and does not have the intended effect that Treadwell would have hoped for. One can only hope that his close friend to whom all his video equipment was bestowed will follow through with his dream and edit the footage properly.

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