The Animal Planet series Finding Bigfoot is coming to an end next month, and so there’s just a little while left to mock the show.
From the concept to the confident title, it certainly set itself up for ridicule, and Animal Planet didn’t help by not taking its own show seriously. (Though if you want a truly ridiculous Bigfoot show, I present to you Spike’s 2014 10 Million Dollar Bigfoot Bounty. Spoiler: It didn’t have to pay $10 million.)
Finding Bigfoot was much more earnest and honest than its title suggested, and though its quest may have been pointless and/or fruitless, the show’s focus was really on asking questions and attempting to find real evidence. They tried to substantiate people’s claims to have encountered Bigfoot.
Although most of the non-scientist, Bigfoot-believing team was trying to prove the existence of Sasquatch, the team also included an actual scientist, Ranae Holland. She asked questions and challenged her team members’ assertions, and challenged them to have higher standards of proof, even if the editing of the series wanted to leave more doubt than was warranted.
But why would a biologist associate herself with a show that was subject to so much mockery?
In 2017, Ranae answered that question in a TEDxSeattle talk titled, “What Bigfoot can teach us about curiosity.”
In that talk, she jokes that, on Finding Bigfoot, she’s “Scully but with three Mulders,” and says, “while I’m always skeptical, I’m never cynical, and as a left-handed environmental activist, out lesbian and woman in science, I’m accustomed to being an outsider, and I’ve developed a warrior grit and fortitude. But I’ve also learned that when sharing my perspective with others, a gracious approach helps us remove those obstacles to a sincere conversation.”
Ranae talks about the show’s fans who were often children—”kids who with the look of wonder in their eyes” and were “inspired by the possibility of Bigfoot” to go outside and look for evidence. “If it weren’t for these kids, I could not sustain myself on this crazy circus sideshow,” she says.
But there’s more value in Finding Bigfoot than just inspiring kids to do some skeptical inquiry, she argues, and says the show’s 11 seasons offer bigger lessons for us all.
“How do we find alliance between your beliefs and another’s without belittling and making the other side feel ridiculous? Have we become so polarized we can’t even have a conversation anymore?” Ranae asks.
Those are excellent questions. But the one that still has me thinking was this one:
“How did we go from kids always asking questions to jaded cynics assuming we have all the answers?”