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David Attenborough accused of excluding homosexuality from animal documentaries

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  1. They didn’t watch his program about bonobos then.

    1. I think the issue here is that Pink News are not very able in reporting the story. It sounds as if the academic report is considering a variety of nature programmes, three of which are Attenborough’s, and their failure to cover a broad spectrum of animal sexual behaviours. The way Pink News screams its headline implies that the report is critical of Attenborough’s oeuvre as a whole, even though if you actually read the report it admits that Attenborough isn’t actually mentioned by name. Yet again Pink News is more obsessed with getting hits via a celebrity’s name than actually accurately presenting the story in headline and report.

      1. I regret having to say this, but there have been some embarrassingly bad and tabloidish headlines on PN lately.

        1. Staircase2 9 Feb 2013, 1:55am

          Well said
          It’s been going on for a while
          And whenever I’ve mentioned it I’ve been voted down by the kneejerk comments contingent.

          Tabloidising the headlines cheapens the otherwise good work that Pink News has traditionally been known for.

      2. If you can access the paper, it’s at http://ecs.sagepub.com/content/16/1/100.short, and is pretty interesting. It does largely focus on BBC programmes narrated by Attenborough, and mentions him by name repeatedly (I’m not sure how Pink News missed that).

        One of the examples they discuss is a section on chimpanzees in The Life of Mammals. They show two very similar shots of a group of males interacting, and a mixed group of males and females interacting. The voiceover interprets the behaviour of the males as “grooming” and “bonding”, while the apparently identical behaviour of the mixed males and females is “sex”. Similarly, the Life of Birds describes an encounter between two male sandpipers as “fighting over females”, though the images don’t make it clear that this is what is happening, and homosexuality is very comon in this species. There is just an underlying assumption in most of these programmes that all sex is procreative.

    2. Nor did I. Did that cover alternative interpretations of sexual behaviour in bonobos then? If so, my admiration of Sir David Attenborough is even greater than before.

      Scientists who are turn out to be exceptionally good at popularising their subject in media such as television have the “problem” that their skills will be in demand for many many years, and well after the point where the ideas which were prevalent in their own heyday have moved on. If they can embrace the new science in their older days and adapt, that is exceptional.

      The late Sir Patrick Moore comes to mind as a similar figure in another field. He was a great populariser of Astronomy, but he clung tenaciously to the long discredited theory that moon craters were caused by volcanism. Changing the conclusions of your life’s work is incredibly difficult.

      1. There isn’t really any other way to interpret sexual behavior in bonobos as other than for procreation.

        They have sex all the time, constantly, between all genders. Their entire group dynamic is based on sex as a social tool.

        1. Also (along with the common chimpanzee) they are the closest living relative to humans. When homopobes say “same-sex attraction is unnatural” they should remember the diverse sexuality in our closest cousins.

        2. Chris Morley 8 Feb 2013, 3:24pm

          CRW you’re answer is contradictory.
          Since, as you say, bonobos have sex all the time irrespective of the partner’s gender, procreation cannot be the only way to interpret their sexual behaviour, as you suggest in your first sentence.
          You give the likely true interpretation in your last sentence – sex with both genders is used as a social tool.

          1. You missed the ‘other’, Chris. The sentence is right; it just takes a while to see.

    3. The exception doesn’t prove the rule.

      Do you not agree that it is a sad fact that in general nature documentaries do not feature homosexual relationships between animals?

      I think Dr. Brett Mills has made a very strong and a very worthwhile point.

      If children throughout the UK, and the world, were to see a proportionate amount of natural homosexuality in nature programmes it would most certainly reinforce the belief that homosexuality is natural.

      I watch a fair number of nature programmes, including Attenboroughs, largely because my partner loves them, and Dr. Mills’ reflection has caused me to stop and agree that the inclusion of homosexual mating behaviour is extremely rare. In fact, the only time that I have ever seen footage of it has been when PinkNews or somesuch has directed me to a video on YouTube or suchlike.

      I think we should all support Dr. Mills and campaign for producers to include a proportionate amount of homosexuality in nature programmes.

      1. Tim Chapman 8 Feb 2013, 4:36pm

        Quite agree with you, Eddy, but I would have said “…reinforce the fact that homosexuality is natural”.

  2. Just playing right into the hands of The Daily Mail!!!!

    1. Robert in S. Kensington 8 Feb 2013, 1:54pm

      Yes as well as the right wing christian nutters on the back bench and at C4M/CI, Christian Concern and the ever hatefully vitriolic Roman cult.

    2. What are you saying, John? Please elaborate. I hope you’re not implying that a call for honest presentation of homosexuality in nature is inappropriate. Honesty and the facts are never inappropriate and one must never be fearful of the bigots’ responses.

      1. Robert in S. Kensington 8 Feb 2013, 4:18pm

        I agree with Dr. Mills strongly, but this sort of thing could be taken up by those hate groups I referenced above and spun out of context to smear the gay rights movement. You can only imagine what would be coming from their mouths should they see this as an opportunity to promote fear and intolerance towards gay people. It’s the sort of thing the Daily Mail and Telegraph readership thrive on.

  3. Craig Denney 8 Feb 2013, 2:31pm

    It’s the BBC that are the homophobes, Attenborough is only the presenter.

    1. I’m sure there are many homophobes amongst the decision-makers and the directors of all nature programmes, however such a high-profile presenter as Attenborough wields enormous power. One word from David, and it will be done! He’s a very very powerful man. I once saw him at the Proms standing at an exit of the auditorium, he was enjoying the adulation of every one filing out past him. I was with my boss, who went to university with Attenborough, and I cringed at the way my boss prostrated himself before the famous man. If Attenborough were to email the BBC’s Bristol studio tomorrow and say, “From now on, I want a proportionate amount of homosexual behaviour included in all my documentaries” you can bet your bottom dollar his will would be done! Pronto!

  4. I’ve grown up watching a lot of Attenborough and I have to say the traditional idea of the family is not exactly majorly represented. While I’ll admit there hasn’t been much animal homosexuality in these documentary’s, polygamy, promiscuity and single parent family’s are very commonly shown – more so than those animals who ‘mate for life’. I think Attenborough and in fact most nature documentaries do a fine job. Homosexuality would possible be more shown if it served an evolutionary purpose which, more often than not, it doesn’t. Sporadic homosexual animal couples adopting orphans isn’t really common enough to show in an hour program.

    1. I think we should be guided by experts like Dr. Brett Mills who have hopefully scrupulously and objectively evaluated a wide range of such programmes.

      1. Chris Morley 8 Feb 2013, 3:49pm

        Dr Mills studied just three of the very many series made by Attenborough, the latest of which is now almost 10 years old. I’m not convinced his evaluation of the 3 series he did look at was “scrupulously and objectively evaluated”.

        Attenborough’s programmes have certainly shown and described a wide range of animal behaviours which do not match human heterosexual behavioural norms.
        I find it very hard to accept Dr Mill’s claims about the absence of representation and descriptions of “polygamous bondings, decoupling of social monogamy and sexual monogamy, instances of surrogacy and adoption, and the success of offspring raised outside the male-female pairing.” My recollection is that Attenborough’s programmes often show and describe exactly that.

        Maybe he will make a programme that brings together the considerable evidence of same sex animal behaviour, bonding and nurturing of offspring. But the reality is there would be no species survival without at least heterosexual coupling.

        1. Tim Chapman 8 Feb 2013, 4:45pm

          “But the reality is there would be no species survival without at least heterosexual coupling.”

          Yes, of course, true of almost every species including humans. So does that mean there should also be virtually no reference to human homosexual couplings on television? If not, then why mention it?

  5. In a heterosexually-dominated world, what do you expect? It simply will not occur to straight documentary makers to cover the issue. But it should. The BBC’s Diversity Department should be watching for issues of this kind. Perhaps they have and they reckon the ‘chattering classes’ (the main audience, I suspect, for wildlife programmes) and The Daily Mail would simply not be able to stomach the sight of two male kangaroos engaged in carnality …

    1. All sides mentioned, you couldn’t get funding for your documentaries.

    2. But they’ll stomach it once they get used to it. Never get it to them, and they’ll never stomach it. It’s basic conditioning.

      It’s about bloody time Daily Mail readers and everybody else cooed, “Ooooh, ah! Just look at them! Aren’t they adorable! Two boy monkeys who love each other! It’s so sweeeeeet!” It’s possible!

    3. Robert in S. Kensington 8 Feb 2013, 4:22pm

      The BBC doesn’t give balanced or equal coverage to gay issues. The equal marriage debate is one example. It certainly wouldn’t entertain documentaries exhibting same-sex sexual activity among wild life. The don’t want to offend their religious viewers and listeners whose opinions they value most above all others.

  6. Animals only life in nuclear families and only have heterosexual sex. They get married, have two children and live happily ever after. Yes, watching wildlife BBC docs can be a bit like watching Bambi or the Lion King

    1. Sarcasm is fun, isn’t it?

  7. What tripe. And too good a name to be dragged into it…

    “Heterosexuality is upheld as the norm in wildlife documentaries”

    Perhaps because it is. As it is in all of nature, including humans. A species in which heterosexuality was not the norm would die out rather quickly.

    1. “Perhaps because it is. As it is in all of nature, including humans.”

      You seriously believe that? Lots of species don’t even have sex. Lots are hermaphrodites (each individual is both male and female). Lots have non-procreative sex all the time (whether for recreation or bonding or something else).

      1. Yes, James. It doesn’t take much brainpower to figure that one out. If the majority of a species doesn’t have procreative sex in one form or another, then they will die out. That’s logic, not belief.

    2. I don’t think the necessary implication is that heterosexuality in animals need not be normal – just that it is not the only naturally-occurring sexuality. It’s not an either-or dichotomy. That’s absurd.

    3. Staircase2 9 Feb 2013, 2:01am

      Not necessarily
      You’re buying into that rightwing Christian notion that ‘if we allow the gays then the whole human face will face extinction…’

      You’re also supposing that it’s either/or which it may well not be in many cases in the animal kingdom…

      Suggesting that more variety of homosexual examples should be shown does not suggest the whole bloody animal kingdom is gay…

  8. ..this is such an annoyance, and also very unsurprising…as the human race has always excelled at brushing the truth, mostly regarding nature under the carpet, especially via the ‘Church’…When we consider homosexuality taking place amongst animals and even us (although we’re animals as well) Which therefore means we are very much alike all of them. We just pretend we’re different.

  9. SimonInNY 8 Feb 2013, 3:24pm

    In Blue Planet Attenborough narrated a male male group orgy of sperm wales

  10. In his defence, David Attenborough does stand firmly opposed to the Creationist Religionists who cling to the literal bible. Every moment of every one of his programmes is a promotion of evolution as the reason everything, everywhere, exists, which would include LGBT people and animals. The bible-bashers must have him top of their hate list, with Brian Cox underneath him.

  11. Christopher in Canada 8 Feb 2013, 5:10pm

    Seeing as the “norm” in nature is one of harems and single, ever-battling dominant males who abandon their females to raise the young on their own, this whole notion of having to copy nature is hogwash (unless you wish to propagate a stereotype about certain populations that live in Baltimore)….

    Birds don’t count – they are descended from dinosaurs, and research shows they cheat on each other constantly.

  12. norman campbell 8 Feb 2013, 6:51pm

    it is my understanding that male animals mount other males to show who is boss

  13. Well I did see the programme about bonobos…but in all truth I watch a lot of nature programmes and it’s rare for homosexuality within the animal kingdom. And I’m not pointing fingers is Sir David, but all nature programmes.

    I can remember the report about the gay penguins and how many people thought it was total rubbish and that with humans it was a choice!

    They need to start educating people more that it’s. Not just us who can be born gay or Bisexual. Do that and the number of those who insists it’s. A human thing etc will reduce!

  14. This is the BBC we are talking about. If he had found camp mincing animals cross dressing they would have had star billing.

  15. Leave him alone, he is a lovely man.

  16. What a load of rubbish. It’s a nature documentary, not a political broadcast. I don’t care if gay animals aren’t shown and don’t find it remotely “heteronormative”; and anyone who does needs to get a life. As someone with a love for the natural world I find urban halfwits like this most annoying.

    There is a reason we have scientists in charge of these things, not professors of TV and media studies with their dubious social pseudo-science. The professor’s assertions regarding Sand Pipers, for example, are laughable.

    Why are these pseudo-intellectual wasters given a cent of taxpayer’s money? “Professor” of meeja studies… lmao.

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