Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Revisiting 2012 With Apocalypse Island

Once more skipping further down the list, we arrive at a piece that will be of relevance and interest to me as I explore several southern Mexican and Central American Mayan ruins. Someone (I think the very man at the center of this post) wasn't entirely amused by my somewhat scathing analysis of Apocalypse Island.

The History Channel recently reaired a documentary(?) entitled Apocalypse Island, which follows two "explorers" as they bumble toward a mysterious island in the Pacific believed to hold the key to unlocking the Mayan mystery and its revelations for 2012. I should have known from the way in which the film was edited to delay, delay, delay that a needless sense of suspense was being built. To me, this meant the climax would be as disappointing as a night with.... I'll let you fill in the blank. When one resorts to sideshow tactics, invariably the truth inside the tent will be a rip off. And so it was.

Our principle protagonist is James Turner, a self-proclaimed "explorer" with a passion for 2012 doomsday predictions. He believes weathered rock formations on Robinson Crusoe Island, one of the remote Juan Fernandez islands off the west coast of South America, which sits roughly along the 2012 solar eclipse route, are actually monuments fashioned by a famous and powerful Mayan ruler, Chan Balum. Along for the ride is Jeff Salz, a cultural anthropoligist with a penchant for self promotion. He plays the part of the skeptic--to an extent.

Shot more like a reality show, the documentary obviously recreates key scenes to make them look more dramatic. Case in point: the climactic moment wherein our intrepid explorers risk life and limb to make it to the top of island is shot by a camera man who already managed that feat. But our explorer slips on rocks and makes a dramatic display of how dangerous it can be to uncover the truth.

Facts aren't relevant in the History Channel's new-found quest for this sort of sensational programming. Mayan scholars refute facts concerning Mayan abandonment, etc. put forth unquestioningly by Turner. Jim Aimers, a poster on the History Channel's thread for this story, states "Real Maya archaeology is exciting and interesting without bogus end-of -the world fantasies (2012 is merely the end of a big cycle, and the fact that the Maya believed that the world would continue is evident even at Chan Balum's Palenque--so important to Turner's "hypothesis"--, where inscriptions predict celebrations hundreds of years after 2012)."

Yet, throughout the film, we hear precious little counterpoint to Turners ideas. No learned scholars come forth to debunk the dated or wholly inaccurate information concerning the Maya. Furthermore, this purportedly remote and uninhabited island has a thriving tourist trade on its northern flank. If that's not a sitcom staple, I don't know what is.

However, Turner defends himself by saying that what aired was not the documentary he had in mind. He feels he was duped by the History Channel as they attempted to make the show somehow more sexy. Yet, he links to it on his website, so he must not be too put out by it all.

Still, his critics are relentless, as one poster on the History Channel board writes: "Many people commenting on the program have called it a hoax or a scam which wasted two whole hours. Since Turner is appealing for people to donate money (up to $500) to continue his 'research' on these 'monuments,' he is committing fraud. I sincerely hope no one falls for his hype." Another poster marvels at what he views as Turner's extraordinary ability to dupe the History Channel into not only footing the bill for his Pacific holiday, but to air it on TV.

Much like the heated 2010 elections, 2012 hysteria will soon reach a fevered pitch as the clock winds down to zero hour. The History Channel preys upon its viewership with such offerings. All I can offer is this caveat: don't be a victim. Question everything and research for yourself the facts presented in these programs. Don't limit yourself to spurious Internet searches either. Utilize our nations libraries while you still can and refrain from being a mindless TV zombie.

The original post can be found here:


Autumnforest said...

I had that documentary on my to-do list and missed it totally because 2010 bores me to tears, but I was curious how it was done. The problem with letting the channels in on these things is the editing process. We see that with lots of the paranormal shows where editing is performed to try and make something out of nothing. It's smoke and mirrors and the collective of society is not as stupid as they seem to think. Titillate our minds with something we can sink our teeth into and we'll be devoted, dink us around like an owner pretending to toss the ball for the dog but only hiding it behind his back, and we'll quit fetching. Great post!

Cullan Hudson said...

Yeah, on my recent trip (just got back as I write this) to Belize, I learned from the Maya (Mestizos) that they think the whole 2012 thing is silly and that if you understand how the Maya used their calendars, it makes sense. They only wrote out to 2012 and stopped. If they had kept doing it (before the collapse of their civilization), they would have gone further into more short/long cycles. It's arbitrary.