Animal Studies Journal


Human interactions with nature reveal contradictions and misunderstandings based upon anthropocentric colonising behaviours. Cultural forms such as film and media have played a key role in creating and perpetuating negative affect towards nonhuman species, particularly apex species, shark, crocodile, bear, and snake. From early Hollywood films through to contemporary online series, these majestic species have been subjected to vilification and denigration onscreen, resulting in speciesism, subjugation and colonisation of animals, whilst simultaneously extending human ‘authority’ over nature and perpetuating fear – particularly of apex species. A range of hybrid genre textual examples from screen and media, from fictional (feature) and factual (documentary) film and television (docu-nature series) will illustrate these paradigms. An ongoing issue is the anthropomorphising of species onscreen. Drawing upon extensive work since 2009 with international classifications (ratings) systems, this paper will also examine the positionality of the American Humane Association in monitoring the role and treatment of ‘animal actors’ in film; developing a compelling empirical case for the necessity for reform in classifications (ratings) systems, expanding classification Codes to include non-anthropocentric perspectives and the rights of nature with regard to nonhuman actors in public awareness. The necessity for a nuanced understanding of ontological damage to species is currently not a classifiable theme under any existing classification (ratings) systems. An outcome of this article is the proposed development and implementation of a new classification symbol designated as ‘Animal Shield’. This interdisciplinary article will be presented from the perspectives of an environmental ecologist and cultural film studies scholarship, building upon research into decolonising nature.