Chewing on the Grizzly Man: Getting to the meat of the matter
At the Sundance Film Festival in 2005 director Werner Herzog released Grizzly Man. The film explores over 100 hours of video footage left by self-described eco-warrior Timothy Treadwell. Treadwell spent 13 summers living with grizzly bears at the Katmai National Park and Preserve on the Alaska Peninsula in an effort to protect the bears living there from human harm. I argue that the dissonance felt by viewers of the film surrounds a disconfirmation of human faith in the nature/culture binary. Treadwell's death is troubling because the predator/prey relationship makes humans “pieces of meat” and as such objects rather than subjects. This interruption forcibly moves humans to the nature side of the dualism, thereby questioning the superiority of the culture side of the binary. The potential for deconstructing the nature/culture binary through Treadwell's story, as well as the judgments against Treadwell that resist such deconstruction, has significant implications for the environmental movement insofar as the nature/culture binary is central to Western environmental ideologies and exploitations.
* Earlier versions of this essay were presented at the 2007 meeting of the Conference on Communication and the Environment and the 2008 meeting of the Western States Communication Association.