The authenticity of the cuteness in this photo of brand new polar bears is up for debate, after it turned out that the scene that produced those little ones was staged in a Dutch zoo. The picture comes from footage in David Attenborough's Frozen Planet, a nature show that airs on the BBC. The scene claimed to film bears hibernating in dens beneath the frozen earth, where they birth cubs. But, it turns out that the program staged the entire thing, crafting a faux den at a zoo, filming those scenes there instead of in the wild, reports the BCC. Considering it's a show about nature, one would think the environmentalists would understand. But, fans are pissed.
Attenborough defends his method, pointing out the impossibility of getting footage of the bears in their natural habitat. "If you had tried to put a camera in the wild in a polar bear den, she would either have killed the cub or she would have killed the cameraman," he said in an interview with iTV1. Having people down there would only disturb the animals, something Frozen Planet fans should understand, adds The Guardian's Hannah Randall. "Indeed, we should probably be pleased that a wild polar bear mother, curled up, hibernating in the snow with two very little cubs, wasn't disturbed by lighting, or wires, or the crunch of cameramen's footsteps above," she wrote.
But the betrayed point out that the footage didn't even note the fake scene and just continued along as if nothing had happened, leading viewers to believe that Frozen Planet had captured something raw. It really ruined the moment for The Guardian's Musa Okwanga. "I watch nature programmes because they are raw and visceral, and they remind me how lucky I am that I wasn't born in a time and place where I'd have to mix it up with raccoons and wolves every waking hour," he argues. "I don't watch them to see a bunch of bourgeois polar bears who have been edited into view, whose lives are precisely as sterile and self-contained as mine." But wouldn't Attenborough's stately voice declaring the scene as fake ruin the moment even more?
And this forgery shouldn't come as a complete surprise. Not only does the show have a clip of the fake scene on its site, Attenborough's had this stance on fake filming since at least 1998, when he used the same technique for his Life on Earth series. "It is always a last resort and it is certainly something I try to avoid," cameraman Hugh Miles told The Independent. "But on one or two occasions I have had to fall back on it myself. The truth is that all films are a cheat. We get as close as we can to the scientific truth and 99 per cent of the work is genuine." Anyway, purists: Not all of the cuteness was fake. The parts with the baby bears trudging through the snow happened in the wilderness. And at least some of this stuff in the trailer below is legitimate, too.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.