Monday, November 14, 2011

And this is why.

I must never watch nature documentaries on National Geographic Channel again. It’s quite rare that wander over to that section of channels because the only thing I usually find on there is The Dog Whisperer. And after twelve too many hours of six too many Sunday marathons of that show I just avoid the channel altogether. 
Every now and then, however, I stumble upon one of their nature documentaries and end up watching obsessively for their entire two-hour run. The first time this happened was a few years ago when I watched one special about an evaporating water hole in the desert. The water hole started as a bustling ecosystem with alligators, deer, monkeys, and birds happily coexisting and splashing together, but soon enough the pond began to shrink and that’s when things got effed up. 
Monkeys started fighting with the alligators over the limited water supply, and everyone was screaming and the alligators were chomping off everyone’s heads and one of the monkeys broke his arm while playing a game of tug-of-war with an alligator using his baby as a rope, and then there was a shot of a mother monkey trying to prod awake the lifeless body of one of her babies and. I. CRIED. 
Soon the monkeys either died or went searching for other water supplies (which meant they were probably just going to die), and the birds flew away, leaving a lone alligator in the disappearing water hole. The pond soon turned to mud, in which the alligator got stuck after awhile. At the end of the documentary the once lush watering hole was just a dry, flat area, and the camera zoomed in on a tiny crack in the dirt, where you could see the stubborn alligator, barely alive, forever trapped in his former home. 
I turned off the television depressed and a little claustrophobic.
So you’d think that last night, when the new NatGeo documentary The Last Lions came on, I would have watched something else. But apparently my love for animals and beautiful film making makes me forget that I’m probably going to cry at some point during the next two hours. 
The documentary was like all those movies about a single mom who has to overcome adversity to take care of her children, except with lions. It starts off with the Mommy Lion happily hanging out with the Daddy Lion and her three cubs. BUT THEN THEY’RE ATTACKED BY SOME ANGRY LIONS FROM THE NORTH WHO WERE FORCED FROM THEIR HOMES BY THE RELENTLESS ENCROACHMENT OF MAN. They were all yelling and swiping and biting at each other and became covered in blood, and I was all...

But the fight is done. Mommy Lion has a cut on her shoulder, and she's scratched out the eye of another lioness. Daddy lion is all banged up, missing an eye, bleeding like crazy, and limping. When the sun rises the next morning he limps away to a quiet place, lies down, and does that heartbreaking thing that lions do in these documentaries: he just chooses to die right then and there. 

Mommy Lion then takes her three cubs and begins to travel south so they can avoid the evil pride who invaded their home. She can’t find any food, and the cubs begin to go hungry. Each time she tries to hunt, hyenas come and try to kill the cubs, forcing Mommy Lion to come and scare them away. And each time the cubs are threatened, it feels like I have a bowling ball in my stomach. I become all sweaty and tense, white-knuckling the armrests of my chair. 
They find a herd of water buffalo and the Mommy Lion tries to take some down, but she’s not successful. While she’s off trying something else, the evil buffalo go and trample the spot where the cubs are hiding.

When Mommy Lion comes back, she finds that all her cubs have disappeared. She goes searching and finds only one of them, the girl, who’s fine but scared. Then a some more freaking buffalo come and attack them, and Mommy Lion tries to save the baby, but when she finally gets her out of there, the cub’s back is broken, leaving her back legs limp behind her. Mommy Lion carries her away, tests out her lifeless legs, and begins walking. The cub walks alongside her mother on her front legs, but soon Mommy Lion begins to go ahead of her, and then they’re ten feet away, then thirty. The baby stops, and cries for Mommy Lion, and Mommy Lion looks back, but then turns her head away, and her face contorts as if she’s about to cry. 
At this point I’m bawling.

I don’t even want to go on. Right now I’m in the same place I was when I stumbled upon Marley & Me on TBS and I was ruined for an entire week. I get choked up just thinking about it. 
Here’s the last half hour: Mommy Lion gets angry and charges into the middle of the buffalo herd without any strategy at all, fails, and because of this the mean lion pride from before see her as a leader and they all reconcile, and THEN MOMMY LION FINDS ONE OF HER OTHER CUBS, healthy as can be, and everyone lives happily ever after.
I’m relieved, albeit shaken. 
No more nature documentaries for me. Give me a gory human-slashing flick any day, but it’ll take a while for me to recover from the paraplegic lion cub. 


  1. Awwwww. Poor little lions.
    Nice TV drawings.

  2. Oh God. I almost started crying in the middle of my office while reading this. How did you manage to watch the whole thing?! I still have to fast forward through The Lion King and Bambi when the parents die. Thank God I don't have any TV channels.

    P.S. Awesome lion drawings.

  3. Dang. I was kind of hoping that this had all been a dream and not a real story.

  4. I just gotta say that it's awesome to have two Christines commenting on my blog! One I'm in love with, and the other's from Canada, where my heart belongs!

    I watched the whole thing because I CARED ABOUT THE LIONS, of course! I needed to know that everything would be okay. :)

    Mom, I KNOW!! I would have been HAPPY to dream it...yes, I would still be emotional, but over FICTION.

  5. What is it about animals dying that is so much more heart-breaking than humans dying? On TV, I mean. I seem to do okay with like, crazy action movies where countless people are needlessly killed but the second a cute fluffy animal kicks it, I'm a wreck.

  6. It's so TRUE, Luda! I'm guessing it's because animals are innocent and humans are so flawed. We're all, "Hey, what did that animal do to ANYONE??" and, "Okay, that person was obviously messed up in some bad circles, so he probably deserves it."

  7. I feel ya. Sometimes those docs are depressing.

  8. GAH! The mother lion just walked away from her broken cub? Oh, my heart! Animal documentaries are heartwrenching because the struggles are so real - it's all about survival. And I think we're always surprised when we see animals displaying human-like bonding. Same thing when we see them displaying what appears to be callous acceptance of the laws of the jungle.

  9. I'm scarred for life now. Thanks. Guess I won't be watching NatGeo anytime soon.

  10. @Wynn-Anne: The laws of the jungle SUCK.

    And sorry, No Drama Mama. At least I warned you, eh?

  11. HEY! You have a follower named No Drama Mama?!?!! Verrrrrry cool!