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What The Big Year could have been

January 27, 2012

I guess this thing from the producers of The Big Year is supposed to be funny and go viral?

I’ve gone on the record as saying I thought The Big Year was a nice little movie.  I never really expected it to be a blockbuster or a gateway to field ornithology, though in all of our heart of hearts that’s what we may have hoped for.   I think we were all pretty happy that it treated birders with respect and didn’t mock us simply for the sake of being mocked. Yeah, there’s an near bottomless well of potentially mockable offenses we subject ourselves too, from wide-brimmed hats to multi-pocket vests to obsession with taxonomical arcana (though I’ll defend that last one to the end), but that’s the easy way out.  The more courageous tack is to poke fun while attempting to understand that our eccentricities come from a uniquely authentic  and earnest place, and by god isn’t it nice to be unapologetically passionate about something in a world where it’s far too easy to succumb to suffocating cynicism?    I mean really, that may be my favorite thing about birding right there.  I’m a right cynical bastard about just about everything and, because of that, probably very nearly insufferable on topics of politics, religion, sports, and whatever else normal people talk about.

But, aside from my family, birding may be the single most purely joyful thing I can be a part of, which probably means I’m in it way too deep to be able to watch something like this without getting a little defensive of my Tilly-hatted brethren.

I guess that’s why this above video rubbed me the wrong way.  I did laugh, the pronunciation of Columbus is pretty funny and I’m not made of stone, after all.  But it’s mockery for no other reason that to point and laugh, which just seems so base, so juvenile, so unfair, to me.  The best humor comes from a deeper knowledge, and an affection for, the subject.  See any of Christopher’s Guests “mock”-umentarys for some of the best examples of this.  The writers and actor at work here seem only to have noted that the bird calls are silly and that people look sort of funny when they look through binoculars and run with that.  I see nothing here to suggest that the parties involved have ever met a birder, or even attempted to google “birder” to find out what’s up.  But that would probably get in the way of their “art”, right?  Anyway, not impressed.

I guess we should all be happy that this wasn’t the direction the screen-writer and director took the movie itself in.  Small victories, I guess. See what I mean by cynical?

So do I have this all wrong?  Am I completely off base here?  Is this a genuinely legitimate take on birding?  I’m not sure I can tell. What do you think?




  1. David permalink
    January 27, 2012 7:15 pm

    That’s not even funny to a non-birder (I just made my friend watch it). Yes, he thinks I’m weird sometimes when I talk about birds…but no, not funny to him. He says there are much funnier things I do which could be spoofed. He won’t tell me what though….

  2. January 27, 2012 10:35 pm

    Well…I thought it was pretty damn funny, despite being a bit off base. What’s wrong with mocking birders? I do it all the time (including myself)…it’s quite fun, actually.

    The only thing I really didn’t like was the publicity people labeling it as a “viral” video…I’m pretty sure that’s not how it works.

  3. January 28, 2012 6:06 am

    I don’t find it very humorous myself (overdone, overplayed)… I think a John Cleese or someone else could’ve taken the same approach, tightened it up, been wryer, and made it funny; but this attempt, to me, is just weak and flat, or as Nate said, “juvenile.” Still… humor is a funny thing 😉 so to speak (and highly idiosyncratic), so I can imagine it will tickle some folks’ funny bone.

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