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Temirova 1 Mariyam Temirova Emre Koyuncu ENGL 10 4/24/12 The Grizzly Side of Life Choices Conventional wisdom has it that all people obey the same laws of psychology and patterns. One of the patterns that all people develop is acting out of self-interest. Every action is made after careful weighing of pros and cons, costs and benefits. The result of this all is that actions narrow down to personal gain. Essentially, everything people do is to receive pleasure and contentment. Timothy Treadwell, a brave adventurous actor who dedicated his life to grizzly bears in Alaska, is no exception. A “kind warrior�, as he referred to himself frequently, spent thirteen consecutive summers among bears in a park on the Alaskan peninsula. He filmed over one hundred hours of priceless footage that he intended to use for his advocacy work, raising awareness about the grizzly bears as endangered species. Very active in the community, he was a frequent speaker in schools and talked to children, whom he absolutely adored and could relate to. In fact, some of his friends often described him as being infantile. Timothy lived on the edge of death. He fully realized the danger he was putting himself in, yet every summer he chose to go back to his safe haven, to his paradise on Earth. In 2003, he spent the last summer of his life in a place called Grizzly Maze, the most dangerous part of the park. That summer he fell victim to a brutal and most terrible death: he was killed by one of the bears. After his death, German documentary director


Temirova 2 Werner Herzog took interest in his story and made it into an over two-hour long documentary. There are conflicting opinions from both critics and the audience regarding the portrayal of Timothy in the movie. Some people disagree with the representation, and claim that the director was biased and purposefully portrayed Timothy as immature and caught-up in his fantasy world. Others, however, support Herzog’s portrayal of Timothy as of a mischievous child. However, Ellen Brinks disagrees and in her essay entitled, “Uncovering the Child in Timothy Treadwell’s Feral Tale”, she asserts that childhood and child-like behavior are important aspects that are missing in the Herzog’s documentary. Although many viewers perceive Timothy’s journey as an act of valor and bravery, they disregard the fact that he did it for himself and for his personal pleasure. It wasn’t about bears, but about Timothy himself. Timothy failed in school, which resulted in the development of deleterious habits and his dissatisfaction in the workplace stimulated emotional problems. As a consequence of these unfortunate events, he developed both hatred toward society and a desire to escape his confinements. All of those parts played a crucial role in his resolution to run away from the society and stay closer to wild nature and bears. In the end, Timothy was merely a broken human being who was crying out for help. He found it in the Alaskan wilderness. When he graduated from high school, Timothy Treadwell had a great deal of potential. He went out into the world, but he fell short of the expectations. Timothy was an all-American boy, and was very popular and active in high school. He swam on the high school team and was given a college scholarship. Nevertheless, he was unsuccessful academically, faced problems with professors, struggled with behavioral issues, and lost


Temirova 3 his scholarship. He was young, broken, seeking his place in life, struggling with identity, and was full of questions. Unfortunately, in dealing with this, he began looking for answers in all the wrong places. Timothy found answers in alcohol. In college, he started drinking excessively in an attempt to forget the pain and the reality. He surrounded himself with a group of people who had a bad influence on him. Later, Timothy dropped out of school and developed serious substance abuse problems. However, he reached a turning point after college and decided to pursue acting, something for which he had a great passion. He was determined to start off fresh and pursue his dream. But regrettably he was not successful. Failure in career made him feel unaccomplished as an individual. He went to Los Angeles to become an actor, full of excitement and enthusiasm. In the documentary, his parents talked about Timothy’s aspirations as an actor. They commented on his great desire and passion for the career. Much, like Timothy, however, millions of people go to Hollywood to pursue their dreams. Only a miniscule fraction gets noticed and signs contracts with studios; and even after signing a contract, not everyone is successful. It is a cruel competitive business that shows no mercy. Timothy was not in that small fraction and did not get a contract with a studio or get the part in the TV show, for which he desperately desired and tried out for. The merciless life of Los Angeles and the failure at the job he loved, seriously hurt his self-esteem and made him doubt himself. People deal with problems differently; Timothy chose a dark path in coping with the stress he was under at the time. After an unsuccessful try in Hollywood, he resumed the self-destructive behavior of his past, drinking. Timothy simply wanted to be happy and escape the harsh reality. He escaped to Alaska, where he finally ended his substance


Temirova 4 abuse and found peace of mind. In a sense, he created his own studio with the wild Alaskan nature as a set, his own story line with encounters with the grizzly bears and foxes, and of course Timothy himself was the star actor and director. In the documentary, Herzog showed a couple of instances where Timothy did several takes for a scene, showing how much he enjoyed the process of filming and acting. Timothy did not make his dreams come true in Hollywood, but he instead made them a reality in Alaska. As a result of his life experiences, Timothy loathed civilized society. In fact, it was clearly demonstrated in a couple of examples in the movie. In one instance, he was angered with the Park Service, and cursed and blamed them for everything he thought they did wrong. The director had to mute the video because of the crude profanity Timothy chose to use in his rant about the Park Service. It was obvious how much hatred he had inside; he was full of rage and the use of sound was unnecessary in demonstrating the point. Another example occurs in one of the interviews. Timothy’s friend talked about Timothy getting upset with airport security, further supporting the idea that he detested society and its restrictions. He despised civilization with all of his heart. It was evident that Timothy was content in being separated from the outside world. He thrived upon living in the wilderness, independently and in solitude. In one of his videos, he described the euphoric feeling of being alone and away from the civilized world. He was separated from the civilization by thousands of miles and mountains. As director Herzog described, the stony mountains represented his soul, his inner-self: broken and shattered. They were a symbol of hatred and anger which had accumulated inside Timothy for many years. In addition to these emotions, the feeling of insecurity and helplessness crept into his mind.


Temirova 5 Timothy simply felt the urgent need to get away. Because of this, he chose to leave for Alaska and found his passion in studying grizzly bears. Failure in college and work, struggles with alcoholism, and a consequential hatred of society all suggest that Timothy went to Alaska out of self-interest to seek his own peace of soul and mind. Nevertheless, some viewers challenge that idea, arguing that Timothy really worked for the protection of bears as he frequently repeated in his videos. These viewers are accurate in their claims as Timothy truly connected with the bears and strove to be the “kind warrior”. However, the bears didn’t truly benefit from his protection. The relationship was reversed: he needed them. The bears lived in Alaska for thousands of years. The Park Service already excelled in protecting the park and the bears. Nonetheless, Timothy crossed the line, both the line of the law and the line of nature. He got closer to bears than park rules instructed. Furthermore, on a deeper level he crossed the fine line that divides humans from animals. In the documentary, Sven Haakanson, a native Alutiq, who lived on the Alaskan peninsula his whole life, said that bears were to be revered and kept distance from. To his tribe, crossing such a line was considered an act of disrespect and dishonor. That, however, never came to Timothy’s mind. He gave the bears names, tried to build relationships with them, ran around them playfully, and treated them, as Sanders said, “as if they were people in bear costumes.” Timothy did so because, in creating such relationships with the bears, he felt good about himself and accepted. Although his intentions were inherently good and reputable, it wasn’t only out of love for bears. He immersed himself into the life of the bears because he took immense pleasure in doing so.


Temirova 6 The other argument that viewers sometimes voice is that Timothy went to Alaska solely for purpose of studying the bears and advocating on their behalf. While it is true that he was sincerely interested in their lives, and thus filmed them continuously, he violated many essential rules scientists follow while studying animals out in their natural habitats. His presence alone changed bears’ behavior patterns. In the movie, he even intervened with nature itself while trying to alter a spring’s direction to bring more fish to starving bears. Despite his good intentions, his actions were widely perceived as utterly unacceptable in the scientific world. Because of this, saying he was the bears’ advocate would not be an entirely correct statement. Our personal happiness is the leading incentive and stands behind our decisions, and he is no exception. Subconsciously, he became close to these bears to be happy, therefore he was acting out of personal selfinterest. This is a natural thing to do and should not be looked down upon. Timothy, no matter how much he longed to be a bear, was just a human being following a human pattern. Timothy Treadwell may have had honest intentions of being a “kind warrior,” but his actions were primarily fueled by personal self-interest and self-gain. When facing problems of real life, he unsuccessfully tried to solve them with alcohol. After a brief turnaround, which resulted in failure again, Timothy developed an inherent disgust with the inequity and restrictions of society. As a consequence, he rebelled against the society he so despised and retreated into the wild life of Alaskan peninsula. Timothy is a perfect example of the fact that people are not perfect and all have flaws. Humans subconsciously follow a pattern of reaching self-actualization through self-interest. In this, choosing to do something out of personal gain should not be judged negatively. Timothy


Temirova 7 reached self-actualization and his decision should be respected. As Ellen Brinks asserted, he chose to live in an adult fantasy. The fantasy full of joy and adventure. He was blissful and finally found peace of both body and soul.


Temirova 8 Works Cited Brinks, Ellen. “Uncovering the Child in Timothy Treadwell’s Feral Tale.” The Lion and the Unicorn 32.3 (2008) 304-323. Print.

Grizzly Man. Dir. Werner Herzog. Lionsgate, 2005. DVD.


Grizzly Man (revised)