If you were born in the 1970s, then there's more than a fair chance you're as deeply scarred/inspired by the “Crying Indian” commercial—the most effective public service announcement ever made—as I was. All the Earth Days in the world can't match what you knew at first glance watching that commercial... litterbugs are the worst sort of people and if you didn't give a hoot and went ahead and polluted, well... you'd make the Indian cry. (It turned out the tearful one was an Italian American named Iron Eyes Cody, now buried at Hollywood Forever Cemetery . . . oh well, them's the shits.)
These days people need more than a one-minute PSA to get the message about protecting the planet. Between the Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, and others, there are currently airing (as in, right this second) a zillion programs that relay the incredible diversity of life on Earth. Of course, the subtext for many is the nasty effect that we humans are having on it. Think it means anything? It does. But I personally still see people chucking things out of their car windows, or discarding plastic sacks directly onto the sidewalk, at which time violent atavistic urges course through me and I see that tear trickling down that sad, betrayed cheek.
That effective little Crying Indian PSA was about a minute long, and its anvil over the head “subtlety” reflected the dire warnings of Cold War-era the sky is falling ideologies. A little bummed out goes a long way, though, and Disney’s recent feature film, Oceans, wisely saves its preaching for the latter part of its 84-minute running time. If you want to get the message across to young minds that we need to do something, nowadays the trick is to coerce them into paying attention. You have to wrap your conscience nudging in a delicious candy coating.
Setting the stage with some arresting images of humpback whales waving their fins above the water looking like nothing less than bona-fide “here-be-dragons” sea serpents, Oceans is a non-comprehensive parade of sea denizens, narrated by the soothing voice of Remington Steele, ahem… Pierce Brosnan.
Although it doesn’t really actually teach you a whole heck of a lot, it’s pretty intense to look at. There’s this part of me that believes that if enough accessible brains see something like this, they won’t so openly (and egregiously) trash the place up. I am a romantic.
For more about the world on which we live… the BBC series Planet Earth is, of course, at eleven episodes, much more extensive, and beautiful, to boot.