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.
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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