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Whales and Wolves: The Hollywood Versions

The uplifting movie Big Miracle, opening this weekend, has the power to educate people across the country about America’s Arctic Ocean, along with the people and wildlife that call it home.

This is the same place Royal Dutch Shell is planning to drill in our Arctic waters this summer—with no viable method to clean up an oil spill in these extreme conditions. And President Obama has the power to stop them.

We don’t learn about Arctic drilling in Big Miracle but we do learn about the extreme conditions that are commonplace in the Arctic Ocean—from sea ice up to 25-feet thick to frigid temperatures and hurricane-force winds. Big Miracle also is a real life tale of one species (humans) coming to the aid of another—grey whales trapped by miles of sea ice.

Another movie, The Grey, opened last weekend. It stars Liam Neeson and has brought in a blockbustering $20 million in ticket sales. In this make believe thriller, wolves stalk, terrorize, shred and devour a motley crew of “roughneck” plane crash survivors. Yeah right, Hollywood! Wolves are actually skittish around humans and there have only been two known lethal wild wolf attacks on humans in North America. A band of sweaty men who probably haven’t showered in a long time seems like particularly unappetizing prey.

Scene from The Grey.

The Grey—set in frigid Alaskan wilderness—leaves viewers glad that they are nowhere near as cold as the actors in the movie. But more troubling, this movie might also leave viewers with the idea that wolves are bloodthirsty killers of men. That is simply not true. Just as Stephen Speilberg’s “Jaws” scared the pants off of folks about sharks, The Grey has the potential to foster an irrational fear of wolves, which are endangered in parts of the U.S.

So we have one movie—Big Miracle— that can inspire us to learn about the wilderness and how to protect it. And the other movie—The Grey—that does the opposite, likely creating fear and maybe even hatred. We expect more from Qui-Gon Jinn, the thoughtful Jedi master:

At Earthjustice, we work to ensure that the government makes decisions based on science, not politics or Hollywood fantasy when it comes to drilling in the Arctic or protecting endangered species.

Tags:  Arctic, Oceans, Wolves