I guess I should start off with a capsule recap of Expedition Unknown S01E07 “Captain Morgan’s Lost Gold,” but I frankly have nothing interesting to say about it. This hour saw host Josh Gates travel to Panama to retrace the steps of the Welsh pirate Henry Morgan in search of Morgan’s sunken ship, the Satisfaction. The enjoyable hour provided a fun tour of Panama and some interesting glimpses at some of the underwater archaeology being done off the country’s coasts. It, of course, turned up nothing related to Morgan, and the big set-piece shipwreck Gates investigated was that of a sixteenth century Spanish vessel. This is actually something of a bit of news, at least if you rely on Wikipedia, since the initial discovery of the ship in 2011 (the foundation for this episode) suggested that it was Morgan’s vessel. Recent analysis concludes that it was not, a fact not yet reported on Henry Morgan’s Wikipedia page as of this writing.
Here I think there is one somewhat interesting thing to note: Gates all but admitted that Expedition Unknown assumes that its audience (upper middle class white Americans—40% of the audience earns $75,000 or more per year) looks down on the developing world. Gates explicitly tells viewers that Panama City isn’t the third world backwater they imagine it to be and that Panama is actually a wealthy country. While it’s clear that Gates is interested in the culture of Panama, its indigenous peoples, and the devastating impact of the Spanish colonial era, this material is delivered almost sub rosa beneath a surface narrative about the heroic Welsh pirate and his lost treasure.
I’m not sure whether to praise the show for tricking viewers into being exposed to points of view beyond those of America and Britain, or to despair that media companies assume their audiences are ethnocentric and/or xenophobic, no matter how true it might be.
It’s probably worth noting that the show doesn’t seem to have a clear ideology on these matters. In episode 2, Gates deceptively depicted Cambodia as a primitive hell-scape lacking modern infrastructure, but a few weeks later he found himself uncomfortable in the face of the extreme luxury he encountered in Peru.
Ancient Aliens Fashion
Do you remember how a few months ago I noted that according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office the trademark for Ancient Aliens transferred from Prometheus Entertainment to A+E Networks, the parent company of H2? Prometheus Entertainment, the producers of Ancient Aliens, filed for the trademark in 2009, and it was registered in 2011. A+E Networks must have taken control of the trademark sometime after 2012 or 2013, when I first reviewed the USPTO records. It was registered to Prometheus then. By contrast, A+E Networks has always owned the trademark to the name America Unearthed, as well as those of In Search of Aliens, and Curse of Oak Island. If you’re interested, the USPTO has not yet approved their trademark application for Search for the Lost Giants.
I wondered why the change had occurred (other than obvious reason that companies prefer to own anything successful), and it seems that we have another piece of the answer. A+E Networks seems intent on turning Ancient Aliens into a lifestyle brand, and with control over the trademark (both the phrase “ancient aliens” as well as the design of the Ancient Aliens logo), all the profit goes directly to A+E’s coffers.
According to an article in Global License magazine, an intellectual property trade publication, A+E Networks concluded a deal with Bioworld Merchandising for a line of Ancient Aliens fashions similar to the clothing line they licensed for Duck Dynasty. According to the report, the Ancient Aliens clothing line will include looks for men, women, and children in “apparel, headwear, sleepwear, loungewear and cold weather apparel.”
Obviously you need your Ancient Aliens sleepwear for those late night alien abductions.
A+E Networks’ director of licensing, Michael Sillery, told Global License that few programs from the cable giant have had the popularity and staying power of Ancient Aliens, which will enter its eighth season later this year.
“We may never know definitively if intelligent beings from outer space visited Earth thousands of years ago,” Sillery said, “but we do know that we’re excited to work closely with Bioworld to deliver unique new products that will resonate with fans of the series.”
In other words: Who needs the truth when we can have cash?
The Ancient Aliens fashion line is expected to launch this year at mass retailers across North America, though no specific stores have been named.
While this may seem like harmless fun, it does reinforce the concept of Ancient Aliens as a brand and therefore serves as a form of marketing to expand the reach of the ancient astronaut theory to new audiences, and to further legitimize the ancient astronaut theory, both by giving another level of corporate endorsement to it and by increasing the audience’s commitment to the brand by spending money to show their devotion.
2/20/2015 06:01:38 am
I enjoyed lasts night Expedition Unknown, I think it was the strongest episode of the season so far. You are right about it not really knowing what its identity is, I just look at it as a travel show with a little myth hunting thrown in as if it was a glorified vacation. I do have to say it is nice to see a travel show that goes to these different places on Travel Chanel that does not revolve around food.
2/20/2015 06:21:29 am
Surprising if they only branch out into clothing. Isn't the real money from AA merchandising going to come from wigs? I'm sure I'd buy one.
2/20/2015 06:40:56 am
That's a good idea. One of the major obstacles faced by the Greys in fitting in is their conspicuous hairlessness. This would be a solid way to help them in their quest, and make money at the same time.
2/20/2015 06:52:24 am
Yo Shane, I'd like to start a line of plugs and lubricants to help fight the scourge of probings. You want in on this action? :)
2/20/2015 11:38:58 am
2/20/2015 12:33:19 pm
Was it good for you, sweetie? :P
2/21/2015 03:14:34 pm
You mean a locking butt plug?
2/20/2015 06:50:01 am
"I’m not sure whether to praise the show for tricking viewers into being exposed to points of view beyond those of America and Britain, or to despair that media companies assume their audiences are ethnocentric and/or xenophobic, no matter how true it might be."
2/20/2015 04:45:51 pm
I don't quite get what's wrong with it, either.
2/20/2015 07:07:33 am
I've got no problem with Ancient Aliens merchandising on the brand name. That will harm its appeal to its core audience who may move on, and that will in turn hasten its cancellation. Duck Dynasty is all about a subculture feeling triumphant at the showcasing a supposedly suppressed identity of rural white evangelicals (never mind all the fiction in the show etc. etc., or how this isn't exactly an under-powered group in society). By contrast, the core audience for AA likes their forbidden gnostic secrets (even if they're in the safety scissors form). Putting that on a t-shirt will disenchant that a bit.
2/20/2015 07:30:33 am
That captures my thoughts on the matter pretty much exactly. (Except I'd add, conjecturally, that it's not just "suppressed identity" but "the ideal" more generally. Which also explains the "fiction" part.)
2/20/2015 12:40:46 pm
I just don't see Ancient Aliens having a market to tap into that's anything like this:
2/20/2015 01:15:31 pm
A disheartened older white guy and his money are soon parted. Especially if they live somewhere rural and can't spend their money on more flashy vices. Ahem.
2/20/2015 02:05:13 pm
I just realized how hard the resurgence of this kind of primitive conservatism must be hitting all the mail order bride businesses... :)
2/20/2015 08:44:11 am
Ah, Henry Morgan - don't know whether I preferred him on Dragnet or M.A.S.H. , either one is a treasure.
2/21/2015 03:21:39 pm
Your thinking of Harry Morgan. There was a Henry Morgan on I've got a Secret.
2/20/2015 09:31:25 am
The only problem I had with "Duck Dynasty" was when I watched it with my pet duck, Arnold. He would always roll over on his back after the episode was over and quack up.
2/20/2015 11:39:51 am
I like the idea of Ancient Aliens clothing. It will make it easier to identify the crazies just like the Duck Dynasty stuff has
2/20/2015 01:00:12 pm
Buy the stuff it will be collectable like smile faces, shirts that had x files turtle us out there and so on. 20 years from now it will be kitschy and remind all of the fringe ides of the fist few decades. Now for a hooked x tee
2/20/2015 03:18:56 pm
Sneak peek the first offering of AA accessories. Comic-Con approved, Years of test marketing........
2/22/2015 12:13:45 am
I think I still have one of those hair thinggies from that ComicCon around here somewhere. The Ancient Aliens On Board bumpersticker ended up on my beer fridge.
2/21/2015 01:08:09 am
">Ancient Aliens< sleep ware for those late-nite alien abductions"
2/21/2015 01:13:22 am
Duke of URL
2/22/2015 11:08:10 am
If the AAs/Grays/suchlike, are around, you should definitely sleep wary!
5/14/2015 09:05:40 am
I know one of the designers on this and she showed me the product designs - it actually looks amazing. Excited to see what comes of it. Very graphic - reminds me a lot of MARVEL apparel.
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I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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