December 8, 2012

Oh No! There’s A Bigfoot In My…

Last week, I wrote a story for redOrbit about a woman in Texas who claims to have sequenced the genome of Bigfoot.  That article went WHAMMO!  It had more hits, more shares, more likes than anything I’ve written.

Which got me thinkin’, what exactly does Bigfoot mean to us as a culture and why is he so popular… again.

Yeah, again.  Today we have Animal Planet’s Finding Bigfoot, Spike TV’s $10 Million Dollar Bigfoot Bounty, and over 1,700 books alone on Amazon ranging from fiction to “science.”  This is not new, however.

In the 1970s, there was a Bigfoot craze as well.  Movies like The Legend of Boggy Creek (1972) and all the sequels, and Sasquatch: The Legend of Bigfoot (1977) led to TV shows.  Hell, Sasquatch even made an appearance as a robot from outer space on the “$6 Million Dollar Man” and the “Bionic Woman.”  Bigfoot got his own show with “Bigfoot and Wildboy” in 1979, and there were even Bigfoot action toys with the Bionic Man.

Most monsters have some meaning for us as a culture.  Vampires represent our desire for the forbidden, Werewolves are our fear of the Other in ourselves, and Zombies show our fascination and revulsion to contagion.

Local monsters are to teach lessons to children, sort of like the Grimm’s Fairy Tales (the graphic, horrifying originals, not the watered down, silly Disney versions)   In our family, the monsters we had to deal with growing up were the Hager Dogs.  My grandmother lived in backwoods Louisiana and she had us terrified that the Hager Dogs would eat us alive if we set foot in the swamp at night.  Now, no such animal exists.  But, there were alligators and leopards (don’t laugh, they have migrated up from South America. I checked my facts before telling you what I remember hearing screaming at night from the swamps) and lots of venomous snakes.  There were good reasons to scare us out of those swamps.

But what does Bigfoot show us about ourselves and our culture?  Why is he so popular?

If he were an exclusively American phenomenon, I would hypothesize that Bigfoot was our new “noble savage.”  The Noble Savage was a social construct during the Romantic Period when our artists and writers were looking back to a simpler time.  They romanticized the lives of the Native Americans, thinking they were “one with nature” and had no social and political constructs like power and government to corrupt their inner souls.

It was a load of horseshit, but it caught on like wildfire.  Now, talking about Native Americans in that way would be racist and politically incorrect, so Bigfoot could take his place, right?

But Bigfoot isn’t solely American.  He has a close cousin, the Yeti, who has been a legend in the Nepal / Tibet region for thousands of years. In fact, the first known references to Yeti are as a “glacier being” recognized as a God of the Hunt by the pre-Buddist Himalayan cultures.  Just last year, Russian scientists announced they had a 95% certainty of Yeti’s existence. Of course, it was proved to be just a media hoax, but it still made worldwide news.

Could Bigfoot and Yeti just be our need to have a little mystery in our lives?  Every year, science explains more of the things that our ancient ancestors believed to be magic.  You can almost feel the magical world dying around us as the scientific knowledge takes over. Maybe, we need Bigfoot to remind us that not everything can be, or should be, explained.  Maybe, we need to believe in something science can’t take away from us.

Whatever the reason, Bigfoot is wildly popular again right now and I have a feeling he won’t be going away anytime soon.

Image Credit: John David Bigl III / Shutterstock

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