Warning: This promo spot bites

Animal_planet_2In a world where shows like Jackass and My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance offer prime opportunities for laughing at others’ mishaps (there’s even a word for such a phenomenon in German—schadenfreude, which Webster’s 10th defines as “enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others”), do we really need advertising providing more humor at the expense of others?

The pain-pleasure principle is exemplified in a current promo spot on Animal Planet that features the network’s own Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin, handling a variety of critters as Johann Strauss Jr.’s “The Blue Danube” waltz plays. But these bite-happy animals are pretty touchy, and they let Irwin know it—synchronized to the strains of the music. Picture this:

Da-da-da-da-dum,
“Ow, ow! Ow, ow!”

Da-da-da-da-dum,
“Ow, ow! Ow, ow!”

Yes, as the network suggests, there is pain on Animal Planet. But must we laugh at it? It’s not as if Irwin’s competing for a $50,000 prize at the expense of other, er, back-biting contestants or family members.

Irwin takes it in stride, and nips come with the territory. But perhaps something other than schadenfreude could be exhibited in future spots touting the network’s offerings. Maybe next time, Saint-Saens’ “Carnival of the Animals”?

–Posted by Simon Butler