When I have dinner with friends, there are invariably several topics that arise in conversation. We talk about our lives, our relationships and our jobs, and then – we talk about Planet Earth II. The first series was a magnificent look at the vastness at the world outside our homes, but the second series? It’s evolved, becoming an intimate look at the natural beauty that surrounds us, showing us the world through the eyes of animals we mightn’t even know existed. It’s not surprising, then, that Planet Earth II has captured the hearts of our nation’s youth, is it?
Except strangely, it is. With viewing figures well into impressive territory, the British media seemed shocked that in the 16-34 demographic, more of us were watching Planet Earth than The X Factor. Now, for a society intent on shoehorning this demographic into the the ‘Milennial’ category, this posed a number of serious questions. How would they tell us off for being materialistic and mindless if we care more about the planet than reality television? It should hardly be a surprise to the world that young people are actively engaging in the world around them, discovering and rediscovering what makes the planet so special.
Planet Earth II is, if you wanted to be pedantic, arguably the greatest reality show on television right now. It doesn’t hope to make celebrities, offer cash prizes or show us the lives of the rich and famous. It isn’t a reality show like so many others, that force people towards jealousy and the desire for more – more stuff and more money, and a bigger house if at all possible. Instead, it’s a celebration of the world as it is, at it’s most fragile and spectacular outside of our living rooms and the living rooms of the elite we all watch. It finds the beauty that we’re missing out on, and it gives it to us with beautiful definition and clarity. For a generation increasingly burdened with socio-economic woes, with the rhetoric that happiness comes with ‘making something’ of yourself, it’s somewhat of a relief to step outside the rigorous examination and find contentment and awe in the world around us.
Speaking less existentially, Planet Earth II is also beautiful as hell. It’s filmed almost like a movie, rendered with remarkable high-definition and accompanied by a cinematic score. In the ‘Mountains’ episode this series, there’s an incredible sequence in which the camera swoops and dives like the eagles we see on screen, darting between the slopes and crevices of the landscape. The intimacy between the camera and the animals provides a unique experience which television has been crying out for. It’s not just a study of the natural world, but an active understanding of it. The camera is empathetic, allowing us the opportunity to see into the lives of these creatures that we’ve rarely been able to consider before. When you’ve got technology that allows us to experience the world in new and exciting ways, it shouldn’t come as a shock that young people are the first to get on board.
We’re not the generation of phone-obsessed layabouts that we’re often made out to be. We’re a collective of activists, both political and environmental, of entrepreneurs and technological innovators. More than ever, young people are engaging with climate change debates because it’s in our lifetimes that we’re beginning to see the human effect of life on Earth. We care, more than ever before, and if the viewing figures for Planet Earth II tell us anything, it’s that we’re becoming a generation whose mindfulness is beginning to eclipse what society once thought we were interested in. Planet Earth II is television that shows us the world at its most fragile and beautiful, and the young generation are no longer ignoring it – we’re getting more passionately involved with it than ever before. And when the alternative is Honey G, is there even a choice?
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Words by Jess Ennis