Why Documentaries Are So Good (Or Can Be So Bad)

I was a strange, hateful kid. There were a lot of things that I just decided were bad without more than a glance at them. Never did I provide a real reason to support my dislike of any one thing. I just hated stuff.

Though I guess that hasn’t changed much. But now I can actually tell you why.

When I first discovered documentaries, my hateful little mind immediately wrote them off. A movie meant to teach me things? That isn’t Bill Nye the Science Guy? Why the fuck would I watch that?! I learn things in school already and it fucking sucks!

Yes, I was just as vulgar then as I am now. Maybe even more so. Much to my poor mother’s chagrin.

It wasn’t until I was much older, and out of school, that I learned to appreciate documentaries. Granted, they aren’t the kind of movies I can sit down and watch all day on a rare day off. But now, I can safely say I quite enjoy a good documentary. Although a bad one can be an incredibly frustrating experience.

There are a lot of different kinds of documentaries, each meant to teach you about different things. Nature documentaries are among the most common, teaching you about the habitats and habits of wild animals or strange plant life. Then there are historical documentaries, which do exactly what you’d expect. There are astronomical documentaries, where scientific professionals will talk about planets, space, space travel, and how aliens built the pyramids (those are my favorites). There are even sports documentaries, breaking down the history and struggle of a specific sport or team (this genre has finally started spreading into Esports, so I can finally be interested in it). Name a topic, there’s likely a documentary attached to it somewhere.

A good documentary not only teaches you about the subject. It also makes it gripping to watch. Simply talking about a topic isn’t enough to make it interesting, and you risk coming across as boring if all you do is drone out the information. That’s why so many people hate going to class; the topic may be interesting, but the teacher doesn’t care enough about it to make it seem interesting.

Although that’s hardly the biggest problem with schools right now.

This is why so many documentaries choose to have narrators with a soothing voice. Having a teacher-like figure in the film not only makes it easier to learn. But it makes it more interesting. Admit it, you’d have liked Biology class way more than you did if Morgan Freeman was your teacher!

Still, not all documentaries are winners. Some have lackluster visuals that don’t add anything to the subject. Others don’t have a charismatic narrator, forcing the audience to listen to some asshole drone on and on about a subject he wasn’t paid enough to care about. Others simply don’t understand their own subject material!

Take that god awful anime documentary on Netflix (I don’t remember its name or even if it’s still available and I don’t care to look it up). The subject matter is incredibly interesting! Going to some of the most experienced figures in the anime industry to ask them about their experiences, good and bad, could have been super fascinating! But the whole movie was completely ruined thanks to the awkward editing and punchable narrator! Worse yet, it was clear that the crew behind the production didn’t respect or understand anime as an art form. They went in with the late 90s and early 2000s mindset that anime is just some weird bullshit for weirdos from the east! It’s like if a Boomer tried writing an article about Fortnite! It hurts to watch!

Oh no. I used Boomer. I guess I’ll have to shut the blog down for spewing hate speech.

A bad documentary can be one of the worst viewing experiences imaginable. Luckily, there are more good ones than bad. Documentaries like the Planet Earth series, Blackfish (as depressing as it is), the legendary Super Size Me, and Won’t You Be My Neighbor are all incredible learning experiences!

As well as depressing. Or disgusting. Or both. It’s usually both.

There are a lot of things I wish I had done differently when I was a kid. I wish I were more sociable. More physical. But more than anything, I wish I were more open-minded. More willing to give things a shot rather than writing them off immediately.

But hey. I still have sixty-plus years on this planet (hopefully). Since I didn’t start then, I may as well start now.

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