When we left naturalist and filmmaker Paul Rosolie, we were told that he journeyed to the Amazon, donned a special suit, slathered himself in pigs’ blood, and allowed himself to be swallowed whole by an anaconda on “Eaten Alive,” in a two-hour special produced by the Discovery Channel that would air December 7. Rosolie would be removed from the snake by a cord attached to his suit, presumably before he was digested. Animal rights groups and zoologists objected, quite accurately, that this was cruelty to animals for sport.
What did viewers see on December 7? (I’m sorry: my sock drawer desperately needed organizing that day. I’m basing this on published accounts.) Rosolie found an appropriately large and hungry snake and attracted its attention in the water. The 20-feet long reptile attacked, wrapped around him and then began to constrict. Then the snake started to try to eat the naturalist head first: Rosolie’s helmet camera provided a lovely shot of the anaconda’s gaping throat.
At that point, Rosolie did a terrific imitation of Gene Wilder as “Young Frankenstein” after he had himself locked in a room with the Monster with instructions that nobody should let him out no matter how much he begged. (“Let me out! Let me OUT OF HERE!!! GET ME THE HELL OUT OF HERE!!!….Mommy!” ) Rosalie’s team rushed in and pulled him away, disappointing the snake.
And also disappointing viewers, who, reasonably, expected that when they tuned in to a show called “Eaten Alive!” they would get to see someone eaten alive. “On ‘EATEN ALIVE’…naturalist and wildlife filmmaker Paul Rosolie enters the belly of an anaconda in a snake-proof suit,” read the Google description under the Discovery Channel’s website, and not “On ‘EATEN ALIVE’…naturalist and wildlife filmmaker Paul Rosolie starts to let himself be swallowed but finds that the experience is even more unpleasant and dangerous than he expected and bails out at the first hint of trouble. “ Remember, Discovery knew what was on the video before it advertised it.
Was this a bait-and-switch? Of course; in fact, it was literally a bait and switch, and the promotion constituted false advertising. The Discovery Channel released a pathetic and dishonest rationalization:
Paul created this challenge to get maximum attention for one of the most beautiful and threatened parts of the world, the Amazon Rainforest and its wildlife. He went to great lengths to send this message and it was his absolute intention to be eaten alive. Ultimately, after the snake constricted Paul for over an hour and went for his head, the experiment had to be called when it became clear that Paul would be very seriously injured if he continued on. The safety of Paul, as well as the anaconda, was always our number one priority.
Translation: “Paul created this challenge to get maximum attention for himself and to make a lot of money. He went to great lengths to let everyone think that he was, in fact, eaten alive, when he really chickened out. Our number one priority was buzz and ratings, and we deem the whole scam a roaring success.”
Rosolie also was spinning. First he admitted that the snake wasn’t tracked down in the wild as the special suggested: it had been held in captivity for the purpose of eating him on camera. (That was good for the snake, right, Paul?) but Paul said this was no big deal. Then he told one publication:
“Well, the story of this is an attempt. When you say Nik Wallenda is going to cross the Chicago skyline, they didn’t promise he was going to make it; they promised he would attempt it. So the show is called ‘Eaten Alive’ and that’s what we worked as hard as we could to do.”
Yes, but that attempt was live. Your “attempt” had already failed, and you still allowed it to be advertised in terms that suggested that you were, in fact, eaten alive. A fair and accurate title would have been: “Scared Shitless By A Big Snake.”