Monday, July 6, 2009

take big risks with animals

(Nezua's imaginando)

Maybe sticking your head into the mouth of a killer whale isn't an especially "white" thing, but it sure does seem like one to me.

From Siegfried & Roy to Steve Irwin to the guy who tried to control Pinky the cat, every time I see or hear about someone doing something crazy dangerous with an animal, it's a white person.

Usually when I point out a common white tendency here, I try to explain what's particularly white about it, how being classified as "white" can influence a person to do this or that thing.

However, I'm a little mystified about whether taking unnecessary risks with animals really is an especially "white" thing, and if so, just why those who do it are overwhelmingly white.

Maybe it's a remnant from the days when white people went around conquering the earth? (Not that they don't still do that.) After all, that usually included conquering any new place's animals too.

Shut up, silly creature. We're white people. When we arrive
someplace we've never been, then we "discover" that
place . . . It's always been like this and always will . . .
This planet belongs to us now!
(larger image)

I was reminded of what seems to me like a particularly white enthusiasm -- "extreme" adventure involving animals -- when I saw this commercial for a new show, "Untamed & Uncut," on a network largely devoted to such doings, Animal Planet.

It's no surprise to me that, as far as I can tell, everyone depicted here in extreme proximity to a dangerous animal is white.


I wonder. . .

I also wonder about the viewing demographic for these kinds of shows.

Mostly white?

I'm guessing so.


  1. To have the time and money (and perhaps even the volition?) to risk one's life with dangerous animals, or with "extreme" sports is a game of the privileged. Perhaps it's a flirtation with mortality by people who seem more removed from limitations because of their privileged status within society. I agree with you, Macon - taking unnecessary risks with animals or with sports or whatever other "extreme" behavior seems to be a privileged and overwhelmingly white thing.

  2. i always noticed it was only white people that do this. i don't file it under bravery so much as stupidity. i am one white person you will never ever ever find swimming with sharks. i have to agree with the first comment. it makes sense that privileged people are the ones taking these risks since they probably don't have to worry about their potential medical bills so much. maybe that's why i won't do this crazy stuff since i'm broke right now--then again, i also don't really like getting hurt, so who knows...

  3. What does it say that the only thing I could think of in this discussion was Brian Fellows from SNL? (For those of you who don't remember: Brian Fellows was a Tracy Morgan character on SNL who hosted an animal show but was afraid of animals.

    Anyway, great post, and I'm with Bomboado's analysis. I thought that Pinky was hilarious and re-posted here.

  4. I always assumed it was a sign that their life was too easy so they had to add danger and drama.

  5. I have never seen a Black person do this, perhaps another thing that will be included in Stuff Black People Don't Like...

  6. Okay, so I busted up laughing when I saw the title of this post and the accompanying photograph. It's a sharp observation that taking risks with animals is something white people do. I never noticed it before this post, but it seems to be true.

    Taking risks with animals is in the same vein as bungee jumping, sky diving, shark cages, etc. It's a thrill-seeking activity. People pay a lot of money for thrill-seeking activities. Therefore, I've arrived at the same conclusion as Bomboado.

  7. I discussed this once with an African American man I worked with. We commented on this and how white people always go in the direction of an event. Like if everyone is running away from something, there will always be a few white people walking towards it. His view was that as a black man in America, he had enough things happening on a daily basis to keep his adernaline high, he did not have to look for adventure. Made sense to me.

  8. Macon, I always hesitate to comment and then I don't. People already think I'm some kind of raving malicious brother on a constant frothy rant. At the risk of confirming such exaggerated rumors, I must comment here. So if I sound rabid and overly generalizing, blame it on Macon.

    O.K. the topic of this post is really an old one in the black community. We have been stupefied for a very long time. It's been the topic of discussion over many a dinner and more than a few beers.

    It seems to me to stem from the slight xenophobia displayed by some. There is a compensation sometimes, what you might call on over-indexing of affection shown to animals as if to say. "see how compassionate I am, I Love all animals." When that same level of compassion is rarely shown for other human beings. I could go on but I feel a frothing coming on.

  9. Ha, good post, and good point. There really is something very conquering-white-guy about that. Maybe more generally, white-gal too, at least in terms of affection and other modes of "getting close" to animals, sometimes wild ones. Us white peeps love the animals, especially the dog! followed closely by the cat.

    But don't forget Michael Jackson's "Ben," about a rat. Not HIS rat, I guess. The guy in the movie was white, if I remember right, so Michael was probly just gettin paid on that one.

    But yeah, taking risks with others is a part of that general (white) fascination with animals. and many factors go into it, depending on who's doing it. As for stupid risks, remember that barefooted guy on "Mutual of Ohama's Wild Kingdom," who used to wrestle hippos and such? And don't forget Timmy Treadwell! The guy who got eaten up along with his gurlfriend by the bears that he got waaaaay too close too. (Herzog's look at it is great, especially when Herzog listens to the death tape that no one else gets to listen to.)

  10. Just wanted to say your blog is extremely interesting. Also liking the name take from "Angry Black White Boy".

  11. Oo! Like the white people who have a "House Hippo"

    I'd say it's more of a white male thing - but that's more because every single white female I know looks at these guys and their response is "wtf is wrong with you??"

    Also, it's not just taking risks with animals, it's taking risks with ANYTHING. I know white guys-fully grown adults-who jump off barn roofs, shoot potato cannons at each other, and have broken bones while trying to do 'action movie' rolls into the shield of a car their friend is driving - while drunk.

    Any scars and injuries from these 'adventures,' they wear as a badge of courage.

    And then there's the white people's need to "commune" with exotic animals. I've lost track of how many white friends have the "OMG I swam with dolphins!!!!1111!11eleventy" photos posted up somewhere.

  12. I dunno, isn't it a macho white guy thing? Though maybe it's just a macho thing in general -- men seem to be the ones who are into bull baiting, dog fighting (and cock fighting, etc), trophy hunting, and other "traditional" forms of sport that is often considered animal abuse. And that happens all over the world. Perhaps it's just a (rather pedantic, I think) macho desire to "be above animals".

  13. Yeah. The rest of us, such as those living in developing countries, need only to walk down the street to encounter some form of danger/risk, so we don't need to go looking for more. We get them for free.

    The same goes with backpacking. Paying thousands of dollars to get on a plane, go to some 'exotic' country (read: poor), join an eco-tour (after burning all that jet fuel) and/or live poor for a few months with the natives and perhaps an exotic animal or two. It's a predominantly white thing, with the Japanese (the only non-white country with an economy that's been on par with white countries for awhile now) following close behind (and maybe some Koreans and Singaporeans are starting to follow suit).

    A friend (from a developing country - Indonesia) once shared how a Hollywood star cried on TV for all the whales that were getting killed. Frustrated, my friend said, I don't have time to cry for whales, there are people -you know, human beings- in my country getting killed all the time from civil unrest and what not that needs more attention. Granted, someone has to worry about the animals and eco-system, but just because the rest of us don't cry over animals, doesn't make us less compassionate.

  14. Not only do they take risks with animals, they have countless television shows showcasing their exploits. Can't watch Discovery, TLC, Animal Planet,Nat Geo etc. without seeing some Tarzan wannabe. Not to mention Sea World, etc., forcing animals to "perform". It's yet another white domination thing.

  15. Now that big game hunting is considered unethical, white peole have to do something to prove their mastery of all they survey, right? It's a combination of desire for dominion and subjugation and a need for artificial drama.

    So they go and mess with Great White sharks and crocodiles, and own giant pythons that strangle them when they pull them out of the cage to show off to their friends.

    I'm afraid I tend to root for the animals on the shows, mostly because there seems to be a large dose of stupid "nothing bad will happen to me" cottoning around the people who pull these kinds of stunts, and that definitely seems to be a white thing. I'd say male, but I've seen women do some pretty dumb things.

    Mind you, women seem to trend more to the "I saw this in a Disney movie!" style of trying to pet a dangerous animal, rather than trying to prove how brave they are by sticking their hand into the tiger's mouth, but both attitudes reflect the privilege of being removed from most of life's real dangers. Both types are appalled and outraged when something bad happens.

  16. "A need for artificial drama." Or at least, a desire for that. Thanks attack laurel, that sums up really well what several others here have said. It's a larger phenomenon among the privileged that seems to be exemplified by these thrill-seeking entanglements with dangerous animals, and fish. Insects too, at times.

  17. As a white guy, I've had my own personal flirtations with the idea of swimming (IN A CAGE, mind you) with a Great White shark. I think that's more from being fascinated by sharks for so long and not out of some desire to dominate all species. Or maybe it's because it's great and WHITE... I have not come up with a better explanation yet. :)

    I know it's mildly off-topic, but I have to agree with I Punched A Werewolf in the Face on her assessment of "Stuff Black People Don't Like to Do." My guess is that it's a white guy writing about black people and therefore does not capture the irony of sites like this one and "Stuff White People Like," but instead comes across as very hurtful. I grew up outside of DC and have seen some rough sides of town, but that blog has me sitting there and getting offended.

  18. "Maybe it's a remnant from the days when white people went around conquering the earth? (Not that they don't still do that.) After all, that usually included conquering any new place's animals too."
    To be honest, every group of people did that. That's why we don't have mammoths, Megalania, moas, giant lemurs, ground sloths, and a host of other species any more...

  19. Is this not a generalization, much along the lines of "black people are loud"?

    I agree with the post -- but again, is it not simply because white + dangerous animal is a positive trigger to a held stereotype? (as said by orange)

    Yet you have no problem claiming the truth of this one, while "black people are loud" offends you. Why is this?

  20. @ SeasonVelvet:

    Yet you have no problem claiming the truth of this one, while "black people are loud" offends you. Why is this?

    One stereotype has the potential to (potential to, hell, does) cause real and lasting harm to the group of people it is aimed at - "you're too loud, we're gonna shut you up" - and the other is seen in many circles as a positive trait (manliness, etc.). When the group in power makes sterotypes to diminish or denigrate an oppressed group, that stereotype is then used to justify further oppression.

    This is why "black people are loud" is offensive. Not to mention untrue.

  21. True enough that in a US context it requires time and money to do this sort of thing. So that pretty much means its going to be mainly a white person activity. Probably also true what the poster above says about black people having enough danger to worry about in their lives already.

    But outside the US, in South Asia and Africa, were there never, historically, indigenous (non-white) individuals who gained status or prestige by taking risks with the local wildlife?

    There's the tradition of 'snake charming' for example. I guess in an environment where wild animals are a real presence and potential danger there's a practical value to learning how to handle them, so in that context such risk-taking meant learning a useful skill - but I bet the same kind of psychology came into it as well.

  22. I'll point out that Untamed&Uncut has a decent number of clips that don't involve white people (mostly from India and various parts of Africa).

    It's really just a show that collects clips of animal-related incidents and airs them with commentary...

  23. LMAO! I've noticed this too. I was watching that show on the Discovery Channel where they show people getting hurt by animals and EVERYONE was white...not a single asian, black, or hispanic person.

  24. With so few people that care about animals, someone has to save them before they're wiped out.

  25. First of all there ARE black folks doing this kind of thing:

    I know for me though it's not about dominating the animal. It's about wanting to BE the animal, to connect with it's raw power.

    This is why that guy got too close to the bears and they ate him. He wanted to be accepted as a bear. Same with that dude that lives with a pack of wolves.

  26. i'm sorry: what?
    be accepted by the bears? that's the funniest thing i've read all day!

  27. That's right filthyGrandeur, just like people have an urge to go to another country and adopt their way of viewing the world, many people want to do the same thing in an animal culture.
    These men for example:

    They usually spend years living as close to, and sometimes just like, the animals. Then, typically, they pick up girls because girls are suckers for guys who magically commune with animals. Then the animals eat the girls and sometimes the dude too.
    It's all part of nature's great circle of life.


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