The Guardian

Chimps go ape for cinema: is this the beginning of the end for mankind?

The Guardian logo The Guardian 17/07/2019 18:00:00 Stuart Heritage
a close up of an animal: Do chimps have the capacity for film snobbery? Will some of them even exaggerate their own fondness for difficult foreign-language arthouse fare as a dismal attempt to cover for their screaming lack of personality? . Primates primed for a big-screen treat. © AFP/Getty ImagesDo chimps have the capacity for film snobbery? Will some of them even exaggerate their own fondness for difficult foreign-language arthouse fare as a dismal attempt to cover for their screaming lack of personality? . Primates primed for a big-screen treat.

Four years ago, while excavating the rainforest floor of Ivory Coast, archaeologists from Leipzig's Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology made a startling discovery. From a metre deep in the earth, the archaeologists began to uncover a series crude tools that chimpanzees had passed down from generation to generation in order to enhance their food-gathering abilities. In short, they discovered that we are living through the chimpanzee stone age. 

At the time, this was huge news. But new research has just blown this discovery out of the water. Because now we know that chimpanzees would probably quite enjoy Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2.

Researchers from Duke University in North Carolina have discovered that chimpanzees become more sociable after watching films. The chimps were placed in pairs and subjected to a short video, before the researchers measured how long it took them to approach their partners, and how much time they spent together. The chimps who had watched the video together approached their partner faster and spent longer in proximity to them.

This ultimately means that humans are not the only species able to gain greater social bonding from shared experience. It also means that when you paid £15 a ticket to sit through Men in Black: International with your friends, you were probably demonstrating evolutionary behaviour millions of years in the making. Lastly, it means that your average chimpanzee is more evolutionarily advanced than former England striker Michael Owen.

Lex Barker posing for the camera: Now him we like . Lex Barker in Tarzan's Magic Fountain. Photograph: Snap/Rex/Shutterstock © Snap/Rex/ShutterstockNow him we like . Lex Barker in Tarzan's Magic Fountain. Photograph: Snap/Rex/Shutterstock

But what to do with this information? It's reassuring to know that other animals can take the same pleasure from shared experiences as we do. Yet this may mean chimpanzees are catching up with us, and it will only be a matter of time before they out-evolve us and begin to wreak a terrible revenge on mankind.

The only answer is more research. Watching films together can bond chimps, but is the bonding affected by the type of film they're shown? For example, how would they react if shown Avengers: Endgame? Would the procession of context-free story beats and interdimensional time travel baffle them, or would they find themselves instinctively rooting against Thanos? Would their attention begin to dwindle during its three-hour runtime, or would they be as invested as the biggest Marvel fanboys? Once it had finished, how keenly would they anticipate Spider-Man: Far From Home?

More importantly, can the chimps hate-watch? If you gather a number of chimpanzees together and make them watch, say, Transformers 2, would they become more bonded by how terrible it is, or less? Do chimps have the capacity for film snobbery? Will some of them even exaggerate their own fondness for difficult foreign-language arthouse fare as a dismal attempt to cover for their screaming lack of personality? How do chimps feel about all-female remakes of beloved classics? Is there some way to measure their likelihood of downvoting YouTube trailers for the 2016 Ghostbusters movie or Ocean's 8? Because that seems quite important.

We cannot afford to rest until we know exactly how into film these chimpanzees are. The repercussions of this research could be enormous. At the very least, we'd know to include a scene of them all watching Freddy Got Fingered the next time anyone decides to remake Planet of the Apes.

17. heinäkuuta 2019 21:00:00 Categories: Manchester Evening News The Guardian

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