Vandana Kumar Emre Koyuncu ENGL 106 April 30, 2012 Timothy Treadwell: A Life Searching for Love
Many of us plan our lives to be successful, and we do anything in order to be happy. However, one man defies this rule and serves his time to help bears in Alaska's Grizzly Maze. Grizzly Man, directed by Werner Herzog, is a documentary starring Timothy Treadwell. It tells the story of a man who spent thirteen consecutive summers in Alaskan wilderness trying to protect the bears. The self-documented story shows the hardships, insights, and survival tactics that Treadwell endured. During his insightful explanations of life, Treadwell continually states the fact that he failed in relationships. From his family, girlfriends, friends, and even himself, his relationships never withheld long enough. Although Timothy had many relationships with family, women, bears and himself in his life, he still felt weak because he felt forever alone. Having an only child, Treadwell's parents stressed the importance of being close to nature and animals. In his childhood home, Tim grew up very close to animals, which he considered important "friends." In addition to his animal friends, he had a close bond to a stuffed bear, which he even took to Alaska. After graduating high school, he pursued a career in acting in California. He had several small roles, but his big break came to a halt when the leading role went to another competitor. This led to a downward spiral in which Treadwell turned to alcoholism and abuse of drugs. Also, while in California, he created another identity to other people he would encounter in which he would play a surfer from Australia or an orphan from London. With his interest in acting, the only real role he could pull off was as a stranger to these people. When he decided that he could not better his life, he turned to his
childhood love, grizzly bears. We see in his clips, he wanted to help the bears of Alaska from hunters, poachers, and even Mother Nature. It was evident Treadwell was not satisfied with relationships, let alone his own life. His family was the first support system he ever had, but eventually lost touch contributing to a life without love. Timothy had grown up as an only child to his parents. In his house, the family nurtured many animals as well. He was brought up thinking animals are a good thing, perhaps to the extent of even family. By growing up an only child and having animals in the house with such close proximity, his parents are basically showing Treadwell that animals and humans can live together without the fear of danger and with love. It is understood that their son has learned from these experiences and thought that living with bears is acceptable. In the movie, Grizzly Man, his mom is interviewed saying his favorite toy was his stuffed animal bear, which also attended the Alaska trips. She mentioned that growing up, Timothy was a free spirited kid. Without the help of his parents, he managed to find a life in California. Slowly, he cut his parents out of life, perhaps because of guilt or shame, and created an alter ego in which he was a surfer from Australia or an orphan from London. His parents had given him the initial spark in animal culture, but did not care for educating him the dangers of that lifestyle. In the film, he explains how he spent his older years alone, which is may be why he felt comfortable alone in the Alaskan wilderness. Although his family and he were not as close, women still existed in his life. It is mentioned in the documentary that Treadwell had several girlfriends. Many were short lived, which contributed to his shame of becoming unsuccessful as an adult. However, one girlfriend, Amy Huguenard, had joined his journey to Alaska. There are about three shots of her face during the whole taping, yet she still managed to hide her identity from the audience. In her
diary, she has repeatedly quoted that she did not love Timothy and was waiting until he realized that this was dangerous. However, there is no justification to the audience as to why she kept joining him on these dangerous trips. Since he turned away from family and women, he felt alone contributing to his downward spiral. When being away from civilization and close to nature for so long, he began to regain his innocence by caring for the bears unconditionally. Treadwell refused to think of relationships, disregarded marriage, avoided having children, and other milestones most other adults experience. He quoted, “I always can’t understand why girls don’t want to be with me for a long time.” He evidently is concerned with the fact that he cannot sustain a relationship. From there, he feels worthless and alone being different from everyone else. With no affection or love in his life, whether it be family, women, drugs, or a job, Treadwell turns to his childhood love, the grizzly bears. Although he had lost touch with his family and women, Treadwell tried to find comfort and love by documenting something from his childhood-- grizzly bears. From his childhood, he has been comfortable living with house animals. This has taught him that living with animals is not as dangerous nor unacceptable to society. Deciding to spend thirteen consecutive summers in the dangerous Grizzly Maze of Alaska, Treadwell devotes his life to the care of bears. There are recorded clips of bears fighting, looking for food, swimming, and playing with their own children. During these clips, Treadwell is in awe of the life of bears. During even some clips, such as a bear fight, he attempts to give advice to a bear, which he thinks has “girl” problems. He continually repeats how he “has been there” and it leads to disaster. In addition these scenes, there seems to be a change in Treadwell. He seems more affectionate and loving towards the bears. He first creates names for the bears, such as Czar, Booble, and Thumper out of love. Slowly, he loses his masculinity and begins to act like a child by running free
alongside the bears as well as acting like a bear by grunting and imitating the movements of the bears. During the movie of Grizzly Man, he confesses “I love you” to the bears a little over twenty times. This is an example of how Treadwell has “fallen” to the bears because he can fully be himself with the love and care of animals, something he has learned from his childhood. However, with not having his love returned to him, his worthlessness and loneliness grows until he realizes that he could maybe even lose his life in the Grizzly Maze. Treadwell has a lack of quality relationships in his life, in which he resorts to the bears evident in the movie Grizzly Man. If one had examined his life, one would realize that he did not care so much for his own life. After high school, he tried to get a career in acting, which did not work out. Afterwards, he turned to alcoholism and abuse of drugs in order to feel whole, which, in fact, had an indirectly proportionate effect on his life. By doing this to his body, he was attempting to lose his life, whether it was intentional or not. Before things could go wrong, he began his voyages to Alaska. If alcoholism and drugs were not enough to threaten his life, the grizzly bears succeeded. He repeatedly says in the documentary that he is aware of how dangerous that lifestyle was. Also, he mentions that he will never hold a weapon on him because “I would never ever kill a bear in defense of my own life. I would not go into a bear’s home and kill a bear.” As a part of his innocence, he refuses to take care of his own life, as well as his companion Amy’s, because he thinks he is a guest in the bears’ home. This contributes to his loss of masculinity as well as being an adult. From being a substance abuser to being a threat to his own life, Treadwell demonstrates the loss of adulthood because he did not care for his life the least bit. In the documentary Grizzly Man, the audience sees that the lack of love in life can contribute to a life of isolation and darkness. Timothy Treadwell led a life of loneliness in
which he tried to console by returning to his childhood comfort zone. With failed relationships with his family, women, the bears, and even himself, he lost his life while he was trying to protect the one thing he indeed did love. Ironically, the love of his life killed him. In a way, Treadwell is a martyr. On the other hand, he lost respect for himself in which his downward spiral began. His story also tells us that no matter how many relationships you may have, you still need to take care of yourself before you can actually reach maturity.
Works Cited Brinks, Ellen. "Uncovering the Child in Timothy Treadwell's Feral Tale." The Lion and the Unicorn. 32.3 (2008): 304-323, Project Muse. Web. 23 February 2012. Grizzly Man. Director Werner Herzog, Lions Gate Films, 2005. DVD.