Tales from the Jungle

I couldn’t bear to watch this, but I figure its worth a mention: the BBC’s series “Tales from the Jungle” has been uploaded to YouTube. The entire episodes on Malinowski, Margaret Mead, and Carlos Castaneda are up. There is also a show called “First Contact” in which “Adventurous and high-paying tourists are being offered the chance to make “first contact” with some of the world’s last remaining uncontacted tribes.”

I made it about 10 minutes into the Malinowski film before giving up. Maybe someone else will have greater fortitude.

11 thoughts on “Tales from the Jungle

  1. I don’t know if one has to be British at all (since I am Irish), but I wonder why there seems to be a trend in anthropology to reject any attempt to bring anthropology to a mainstream audience. Is this because:

    1) We, as anthropologists are so intune with what our discipline is about that know one else really has a clue


    2) that anthropologist exsist in a discipline that demands a sense of arrogance.

  2. Though the answer is clearly 2, I’m surprised you consider our arrogance as something negative. I thought that was the whole point of becoming part of the anthropological conspiracy.

  3. John,

    I think you\’ll find that most of the members of this blog (writers and readers) wholeheartedly endorse the popularization of anthropology. The problem is \”preserving the anthropology\” while doing so. If the anthropology is lost then what is being popularized? Little more than the prejudices and stereotypes anthropologists work so hard to undo…

    But the real problem with this show has nothing to do with that. It is really, really, badly made. If they had hired decent writers I might have still been able to enjoy it!

  4. I, like John, am also curious to know more about why these clips are unbearable. What’d badly written about it? I grant that they’re being a wee bit sensational about Malinowski’s “secret diaries” (who among us is never lusty and judgmental in the field ;)), but they’re still telling it pretty well, to me.

  5. Hah hah, I for one think Malinwoski’s daughter’s crack was funny: “You’re an American, you can’t help yourself.”

  6. I have three problems with these “Tales From the Jungle”.

    First, the music that they use is not very good and misplaced throughout the film. In many cases it is overdramatic and distracting.

    Second, something feels off about the way each of them were cut. A lot of scenes don’t flow well into each other.

    Third, they feel to soap operaish (I know that is not a word). It’s one thing to talk about the controversies in a famous intellectual’s life. It’s entirely another to cut a documentary in such a way that the controversies seem sort of tawdry. Some recent PBS documentaries about black scientists (for black history month) did a much better job balancing telling a story about an intellectual’s life, giving iformation and dealing with controversy.

  7. Shows like this cast Anthropologists in a bad light – I mean I could hardly make out the faces of MacFarlane, Kuper or Gosden with that spotlight rigmarole! A-and using a torch in the Pitt Rivers Museum is totally unnecessary: they have had electric lights installed for quite some time now.

    And another thing. The clothes. I am sure the real Malinowski would have ironed his shirt when making an appearance on TV. Plus that bloke reading from the Notes and Queries totally could have been Dumbledore.

    Having said all that, I really like this series. They are well made, expensive productions that serve as pretty good introductory primers for a public audience. They are not badly written compared to most of the previous attempts I have seen, and in any case have lots of well known academics doing the talking head bit. The episode on Tom Harrisson, narrated by David Attenborough was great.

  8. The three main segments in the BBC series narrate the devolution of cultural anthro. Malinowski segment is a tragicomedy. Mead segment is a soap opera. Casteneda segment is a lurid expose.

    Current professional cultural anthro. exists only as scandal in the media imagination, so BBC series serves as origin story, the story of decline and fall.

    When I hear “Tales from the Jungle,” I think “Tales from the Crypt.”

    I haven’t seen the segments on Harrison and Anstice (who is not an anthropologist). But, based on the three I have seen (BM, MM, CC) and what I know of Antice, contrary to what Tim says, the BBC shows are dreadful “primers for a public audience” regarding cult. anthro.

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