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Animal review: sorry celebrities – Attenborough’s still the lion king | Television

male lions do not care for children. You don’t hunt. And yet they get the first carcasses that the lionesses have hunted through the savannah all day. Her manes may look gorgeous, but only in the sense that Prince Charles looks good in uniform and medals, even though everyone knows a lackey presses toothpaste on his toothbrush.

In the first episode of the Netflix series Animal, we see a panting lioness who waits for the proverbial gnub leg while her lord and master pleases himself. Can lionesses roll their eyes? I’m sure I noticed a hint of an ironically raised eyebrow. Why there was no #miaowtoo movement is a mystery to me. Do lionesses meow at all? I am no wiser after watching this global hour when big cats slaughter other wildlife in various locations.

Despite using the latest technology, including gimbals and drones, I’m not clear about what Animal adds to our understanding of nature other than celebrities doing the voiceovers (a mixed blessing as the narrative is so shallow at times that she feels like they literally called it). Still, I really like it that Rebel Wilson narrates two male koalas fighting over a female in a tree and dog-loving Bryan Cranston, who explains the hunting strategies of dog packs as if we were Jesse Pinkman and he meticulously teaches Walter White how to cook pure meth. David Attenborough doesn’t have to feel like his job is in jeopardy, however.

As for Rashida Jones, I’m very happy to believe every old bullshit she tells me, but the actor’s opening voice is hard to swallow. “Nothing stimulates our imagination like a big cat,” she tells us. Oh come on, Rashida. Why did these poets bother to get up in the morning?

We can learn a lot from cats, but documentaries like this prevent us from knowing the truth about their existence. Cats don’t feel the need to review their lives because they know they are worth living, as the philosopher John Gray explains in Feline Philosophy. Even if they could operate television cameras, cats would never make documentaries about people. Nor would they make dramas about themselves because they are too busy living unreflected. In contrast, human pathos is such that we are constantly examining our own lives, but also continuing to make television programs examining the lives of other animals in a self-destructive search for the meaning of life. However, I’d be more likely to see Tiger King 2 if it was done from the Tiger’s perspective.

Animal is nothing if not visually captivating. One night in the Okavango Delta in Botswana we observe a lioness who leaves her cubs alone in search of breakfast. Lions have six times better night vision than we do – and the show brilliantly simulates what the night world looks like to them. Here every living being – hunter, hunted and circling hyenas – seems to be lit from within, like the suspicious frosted glass illuminated by a lightbulb that Cary Grant carried upstairs in Alfred Hitchcock’s Suspicion of Leonean Threat to his wife Joan Fontaine. The doomed wildebeest’s eyes are intense rays of light, but cloudy as the lioness succumbs. Then more pairs of eyes appear in this black and white spectral landscape: a hyena clan trying to molest the lioness and cheat out of her prey.

However, watching the show isn’t so much fueling my imagination as it is my feeling of personal inadequacy. While a five-month-old snow leopard cub chases an ibex on a narrow ledge over a ridiculously terrible precipice in the Himalayas, I reflect on my inadequacies. I am neither free from vertigo, nor do I have a tail as a counterweight, nor do I have incredibly cute speckled paws. As for dinner competence, I recently lost the will to live when there was a free space on the supermarket shelf where the oat milk should have been.

Nothing cheers me up in this series more than the young animal waving its paw to an ibex that is just out of reach. Cut to the mother who is monitoring the development of her offspring’s hunting skills. I don’t know if Capricorns who cheated on death can high-five their fellows, but probably not. And they don’t do shows about ibex or wildebeest. Just as history is never written by the losers, animal documentaries rarely give the prey perspective. If people were more compassionate, we’d be making various documentaries – not so much about the thrill of killing as about the horror.

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