The Discovery Channel, the flagship network of the Discovery Communications family of networks and home of shows including Deadliest Catch, Gold Rush, and The Last Alaskans, has a new identity, including this tagline: “The World is Ours.”
Discovery Channel’s new logo has an image of the globe inside the D, which seems to be sending a clear message: all of the world belongs to the D, because only people with penises are featured in Discovery’s new promos.
A 30-second of promo circulating on social media includes just one woman, a participant on Naked and Afraid, so the one woman is naked.
A longer one-minute version has several women in the background, but every single one of the Discovery highlighted stars—who were filmed for the promo singing along with Blue Swede’s cover of “Hooked on a Feeling,” starting with the “ooga-chaka” chant—are men. Here’s the short version:
In a press release, Discovery and Science’s (female) executive vice president for marketing, Lara Richardson, says:
“Discovery’s global rebrand celebrates the legacy of our brand while refreshing it for the future. It was important for us to remind our fans who we are at our core while extending it out to the next generation. ‘The World Is Ours’ tagline represents what Discovery has always stood for and continues to be the driving inspiration for our future.”
Well, that’s depressing, at least based on this campaign: Who they are at their core is men. The legacy of the brand: also men. The next generation: also guys.
How could this video have been produced and released without anyone noticing—or caring—that it completely lacks any women? Were any female stars of Discovery shows asked to participate?
In response to the social media version, science journalist Erin Biba tweeted, “networks like Discovery refuse to hire women as hosts on science shows. They think only men can be experts. “The World Is Male” they’re saying with this. They are wrong.”
The press release also says that Discovery Channel…
“…is a lifestyle, a motivation, a mindset. For decades, Discovery has built genres that have defied expectation and defined reality. It has allowed audiences around the world to fall in love with our planet and the people, places and stories that make it home.
Through Discovery’s unique point of view and breadth of charismatic talent, the network authentically transports audiences into new worlds through inspiring stories and immersive experiences. There is no one better to describe what Discovery is than its exceptional band of storytellers—our on-air talent.”
This sounds very nice, but why are the storytellers all men?
Two years ago, Biba wrote about how female scientists and experts aren’t chosen to appear on camera. She discusses the “exceptionally small group of female science celebrities on television,” which has led female scientists and communicators to other venues, including podcasts and books.
Evolutionary biologist Beth Shapiro tweeted in reply that when she was approached about participating in a television show, “I was told (apologetically) by a female producer that their (male) audience doesn’t want to get information from women, which is why they wanted my help with content but that I would not be on camera.”
In other words, producers and networks don’t lack female experts, they just choose—deliberately—not to put them on camera.
While Discovery Channel’s shows are heavily male, the network chose not to feature any women in their promo.
I like a lot of Discovery’s shows and specials. And it’s perfectly fine to have a show that has a predominately male cast, like Deadliest Catch.
But why not feature some of the strong women Discovery already has on its shows, including the bad-ass survivalists on Naked and Afraid (who often outlast their male counterparts) or the women on The Last Alaskans?
Why weren’t any of them featured in the promo? Not one!
The hosts and “top experts” for Discovery’s live broadcast Sunday from Egypt are all men: Josh Gates will be underground, while another guy will be hosting above ground, talking to two male experts. There are no women archeologists or experts on Egyptian burial sites?
I understand that Discovery’s primary demographic is male. In December, Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav said its flagship network “has some ratings challenges, but is still the number 1 (non-sports) channel in America for men.”
So of course they’re going to pander to that group, especially if they’re terrified of losing even more viewers. Hollywood is an industry that operates based on fear, after all.
But targeting television programs to people based on their genitals seems kind of ridiculous, doesn’t it? Every single man in the United States doesn’t like the same thing, just as every single woman doesn’t like the same thing. And some men and some women actually share interests!
People are complicated. Television shows can appeal to many different people.
On Discovery’s web site, a page for the new “The World is Ours” tagline says this:
“Discovery is the global destination for high quality content that ignites viewers’ curiosity through authentic stories, immersive experiences, and world exploration.”
If you really want to ignite curiosity, maybe don’t exclude half the world’s people. Because that’s a real D move.