Synopses & Reviews
Winner of the History of Science Society's Watson Davis and Helen Miles Davis Prize in the History of Science.
From the early exploits of Teddy Roosevelt in Africa to blockbuster films such as March of the Penguins, Gregg Mitman's Reel Nature reveals how changing values, scientific developments, and new technologies have come to shape American encounters with wildlife on and off the big screen. Whether crafted to elicit thrills or to educate audiences about the real-life drama of threatened wildlife, nature films then and now have had an enormous impact on how Americans see, think about, consume, and struggle to protect animals across the globe.
Gregg Mitman is William Coleman Professor of the History of Science and Interim Director of the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
"Gregg Mitman's Reel Nature isn't a book about natural history filmmaking, it's the book: it's the one I recommend to all our students." - Lloyd Spencer Davis, Centre for Science Communication, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand
"As the popularity of natural history television continues to soar, we need a book like this to help us understand the influences that this 'electronic environment' may have on the ultimate survival of our natural one." - Thomas Veltre, Wildlife Conservation Society
"A wonderful book that takes the reader into the worlds of dog and dolphin TV stars, on-screen wildlife conservation, and popular nature films. Readers will never see their animal familiars in the same way again." - Donna Haraway, University of California, Santa Cruz
"Few books offer greater insight into the cultural history of American ideas of nature during the twentieth century than this one. Whether one cares about the history of filmmaking, the evolution of American environmental attitudes, or the ways that science, commerce, and entertainment have shaped each other in the creation of American consumer culture, Reel Nature is essential reading." - from the Foreword by William Cronon
For more information about the author go to: http://gmitman.com/
"Mitman's research, nuanced and satisfying, contributes to both film theory and ecocritical theory and explores the ways in which they should not be separated." -Stephanie Lyells, Journal of Ecocriticism, January 2012
Americans have had a long-standing love affair with the wilderness. As cities grew and frontiers disappeared, film emerged to feed an insatiable curiosity about wildlife. The camera promised to bring us into contact with the animal world, undetected and unarmed. Yet the camera's penetration of this world has inevitably brought human artifice and technology into the picture as well. In the first major analysis of American nature films in the twentieth century, Gregg Mitman shows how our cultural values, scientific needs, and new technologies produced the images that have shaped our contemporary view of wildlife.
Like the museum and the zoo, the nature film sought to recreate the experience of unspoiled nature while appealing to a popular audience, through a blend of scientific research and commercial promotion, education and entertainment, authenticity and artifice. Travelogue-expedition films, like Teddy Roosevelt's African safari, catered to upper- and middle-class patrons who were intrigued by the exotic and entertained by the thrill of big-game hunting and collecting. The proliferation of nature movies and television shows in the 1950s, such as Disney's True-Life Adventures and Marlin Perkins's Wild Kingdom, made nature familiar and accessible to America's baby-boom generation, fostering the environmental activism of the latter part of the twentieth century. Reel Nature reveals the shifting conventions of nature films and their enormous impact on our perceptions of, and politics about, the environment.
Whether crafted to elicit thrills or to educate audiences about the real-life drama of threatened wildlife, nature films then and now reveal much about the yearnings ofAmericans to be both close to nature and yet distinctly apart.