I suppose the latest “western” television show is Sarah Palin’s Alaska, her “reality” show airing on TLC. I’ve just taken a quick look at a few clips from the first episode. The producers of the show have been very assertive about claiming that the show is “not political.” Even in the few clips I’ve seen (one of which involves an encounter with a mama grizzly (well, a mama bear), and another which involves a comparison Palin makes between a privacy fence the Palins build and US border security), there seems to be plenty of the political. Although there’s no direct metaphor drawn with the bear scene, mama grizzlies have been such a dominant campaign theme this past fall, we don’t need anyone onscreen to fill in the blanks for us. There’s a nice article, “Sarah Palin’s Alaska is not a Political Statement. Right,” that provides a good overview of all the overt, covert, and implied politics of the episode.
There’s also an amusing analysis of the good-fences-make-good-neighbors scene posted by The Young Turks.
And then there’s the mama bear scene, which, in large part, seems to be cobbled together with stock footage. Maybe this all really happened, but the decision to cut back and forth between reaction shots of the Palins and shots of the bears fighting makes it look like these are two separate events that have been edited (and not very convincingly at that) together. And, granted, I have no credentials for identifying bears, but it looks to me like there may be as many as four or five different bears in this scene (and that’s not counting the two cubs). It certainly doesn’t seem that the slighter golden-colored bear with the cubs is one of the two bears fighting (although that’s what the narrative implies—that the mama bear is fighting off an interloper–but the bear fight seems to be an entirely separate event from the mother and her cubs making their way along the shore and the edge of the water). Eventually, the bear with the cubs wanders into the same shot as the Palins (or at least into a shot with some people in a boat), but the editing here is so shoddy that maybe it has to have really happened, because, surely, if you’re going to fake this sort of thing, you would make it more convincing. Ultimately, I guess what I’m saying is, the Palins could very well have witnessed a fight between bears, which was captured on film, but that it was then edited in such a way as to make it seem faked even if it wasn’t.
The fact that Sarah is sometimes wearing a baseball cap, sometimes not, and that the presence or absence of cap varies from shot to shot (as does her position in the boat), also doesn’t inspire confidence. The positions of the individual family members in the boat also change with such rapidity that it’s almost dizzying—see Todd Palin in the back of the boat, see Todd suddenly at the front of the boat, see Todd suddenly not in the boat at all.
Here’s a link to a video clip of the bear encounter: