Chapter 4: Convincing Discourses
One of the, if not arguably the most, better known cryptids with many names has been alluring to humans for decades. He has many names depending on the region he has been sited at. People call him the Yeti in the Himalayas, or Sasquatch if one happens to be from the South, maybe even Skunk Ape, but most people know him as the mighty Bigfoot. From the stories dating back centuries to the modern-day sightings, anyone that is anyone has at one point pondered on the existence to the big friendly ape-man-thing. People have seen him (or at least they claim to have), many want to see him while others do not, there is pictures and recordings of him-some more realistic than others. The real question comes into play when one contemplates on what draws or does not draw one into the mystique of Bigfoot. Could it be a neurologic disorder? Is it that the pranks are too elaborate to tell? Are scientists covering it up? Let’s hope to be wrong about that one, but the answer seems to be a lot tamer. The answer is found within the studies of English. In particular, secondary discourses fits this whole puzzle together.
To debunk this question, four articles were examined to piece it all together. We will begin with the big chalupa of the four; James Gee’s “What is Literacy?”. Gee talks about what makes him or herself him or herself. For example, everyone has his or her own “identity kit”; in layman’s terms that means the way a person acts from something as simple as speaking to the way he or she dresses (18). The way an identity kit is formed depends on the discourse one has encountered in his or her life. People one has met, values, areas, language spoken, etc. all go under this umbrella (18). The main parts of that whole equation are the primary and secondary discourses. Discourse refers to any instance where speaking or reading is involved. Secondary discourse is the main focus of this particular study. As Gee puts it, “secondary discourses involve uses of language whether written or oral or both that go beyond our primary discourse” (22). Basically, any situation to which language is used.
The first Bigfoot related article is Joe Student’s “Evidence for the Existence of Bigfoot (Free Style)”. Although it may seem quite innocent at first, it is a hugely misleading article. The whole point of it is to give a satirical view on the common sightings of Bigfoot commonly reported. The author Student is likely to be an acclaimed scientist that wrote that piece because of how easy it is to come up with a “sighting” incident. The author’s secondary discourse is revealed by the fact that the article was made as a joke. The reader can decipher that the author does not believe in Bigfoot or the people that claim they have encountered him. This is made most obvious when Student writes, “These sightings are not limited to wackos, quacks, or mugwumps” (1). If it is not clear enough there, he comes in the very next line by stating himself as a “normal” person compared to the rest. Student then goes on to write that his Bigfoot encounter happened after he consumed “glaucoma medicine” which puts the nail in the coffin concerning his discourse of the situation (2).
Secondly, comes Edward Simon’s “Why Sasquatch and Other Crypto-Beasts Haunt Our Imaginations.” This article happens to be more interesting than the first, specifically because it dwells deep into thought provoking territory. Simon’s purpose is to understand why people see fulfillment in cryptids such as Bigfoot (117). It all begins with people insisting on the vitality of Bigfoot’s existence. Simon goes way back to begin his explanation, “15th century” to be exact (117). The time period is around where the first stories of creatures that resemble Bigfoot commenced. Stories stemming across multiple regions of the world, not simply limited to the U.S or Asia. Since then, man has been enchanted by the lore of Bigfoot and or creatures similar to it. This is the part where discourse comes into play. Simon goes on to claim that this fascination is due to what Bigfoot represents, in a metaphor kind of way, for mankind. The first great tales ever told included characters (Enkidu, Nephilim) that were examples of man at its most basic and beastly way of being (118). This beastly character would morph into characters that had a beastly side with a gentle nature about them (118). People are drawn into that aspect of the character. The fact that a being is so close to our primal instincts but have emotions that are advanced is what Simon thinks people want to be able to live.
Moreover, Brian Regal puts this whole shindig together in his compelling historian article “Amateur versus professional: the search for Bigfoot.” Regal’s mission is to really cut into whether scientists or naturalists, everyday men that have no “academic training” as scientists do, should have more say than the other concerning Bigfoot (53-54). This debate dates way, way back to the days of the good old 1400s (53). Back then, it was the naturalists that were going out and recording what they experienced using their senses. What one has come to know as modern-day science stems from the information first recorded by naturalists all those centuries ago. Science used it as a steppingstone to get to where it is today. The rise of science led to the downfall in popularity of naturalists; an evolution would occur. As Regal states, “out of a number of guises, including birdwatchers, rock hounds, and outdoor recreation enthusiasts, the monster hunter was born” (54).
Furthermore, monster hunters differ from naturalists by simply being passionate about the wild with little education behind it. In the 1920s, monster hunting enthusiasm in Bigfoot-like cases began in the Himalayan Mountains. Eric Shipton’s, mountaineer, “photo of a ‘snowman’ footprint” in 1951 started discussion (54). As a result, zoologist Wladimir Tschernezky concluded that the ‘snowman’ could be a descendant of the Gigantopithecus. Fastforward to the 50s and after some reports, amateurs’ quest to find Bigfoot was on. Whether it be for scientific recognition, money, or adventure, monster hunters wanted to find Bigfoot. These men were proud to be amateurs since they all seem to stem from humble beginnings. They believed “lab-bound eggheads” were wrong about Bigfoot (55). However, two men were interesting cases; they were scientists that counted as semi-amateurs (since they did not have any relationship to an institution) that believed in Bigfoot; Ivan Sanderson the Scottish naturalist and Bernard Heuvelmans, a Belgian zoologist. Heuvelmans would write On the Track of Unknown Animals, and Sanderson wrote Abominable Snowmen: Legend Come to Life. Both men were on the side of amateurs in believing scientists were wrong, choosing instead to believe in the reports, footprints found, and photographs and film taken. People such as Carleton Coon, George Agogino, William Charles Osman-Hill, and John Napier, who were all “professional scientists,” believed in Bigfoot for a brief amount of time before leaving it all behind them (55).
Surprisingly, only one man of science has gone all in with the Bigfoot belief, and that man is Grover Krantz the anthropologist. During his high school years, reading reports of the Yeti caught his fascination; his fascination increased with more exposure to reports of sightings and reading Heuvelmans and Sanderson’s books. Krantz’s very own visit to Bluff Creek, California to see the spot of a famous Bigfoot track caused intrigue within him. The biggest of highpoints for Krantz is in 1967 when the world famous Gimmlin-Patterson film of Bigfoot was released. At first, he thought it was someone in a gorilla suit when he viewed stills of the film, but once he viewed the actual film, Grantz was on board (56). As Regal states, Krantz caught wind of researcher John Green’s belief of a relationship between Bigfoot and Gigantopithecus, that impressed him (56). In 1969, there were hundreds of 17 in. long snow prints believed to be a Bigfoot up in Bossburg at Colville, Washington (53). The prints had a distinct feature in the form of the left foot having “protrusions on the outside edge” and “oddly misshapen toes” (53). Krantz would wind up going to Bossburg to do further studies. While there, he would meet John Green and René Dahinden, both amateur naturalists. Ironically, Dahinden thought the prints were fake, and Krantz believed them to be the real deal. Dahinden and Krantz, although they had an okay relationship, would come at each other’s throats because of the other’s stance on the footprints. Krantz would go on to throw his whole reputation onto the case only to be treated like an amateur from fellow scientists. His goal was to put Bigfoot “out of the hands of professional anthropologists while at the same time leaving amateurs like Dahinden behind” (57). Even after all of these examples and more, the conflict between amateurs and scientists is still at odds to this today states Regal.
In continuation, Regal makes it easy since his whole article brings up the secondary discourse from Gee’s article in rich detail. Amateurs come from humble backgrounds and spend more time doing outdoor activities, and scientists spend the time learning on everything that has to do with that. Of course, both sides will feel that they know more than the other, especially when it comes to Bigfoot. Their argument truly is not on Bigfoot per se. They are arguing over who’s secondary discourse is correct and who’s is wrong. Take Krantz and Dahinden for instance. Each one fits into either amateur or scientist, yet they end up doing the vice versa on their stance and arguing over it. Technically, they already had a pre-set notion because of their positions, but their secondary discourse led them to go against the norm. Change Bigfoot to whatever argument one might like, and the same outcome will arise because one will always feel his or her secondary discourse to be the right one. Joe Student’s secondary discourse fits smoothly into the side of the pool that is the scientists. Edward Simon and Brian Regal’ secondary discourse fall into the pond where they do not believe we truly have an answer to the enigma that is Bigfoot. They believe neither side is correct because there is no way to say who is right and who is not. All in all, the reasoning behind Bigfoot is based on a person’s discourse, and until we catch him, neither side will be able to agree on which side is right or wrong and that just adds to the intrigue.
Gee, James Paul. “What is literacy.” Negotiating academic literacies: Teaching and learning across languages and cultures (1998): 51-59.
Simon, Edward. “Why Sasquatch and Other Crypto‐Beasts Haunt Our Imaginations.” Anthropology of Consciousness 28.2 (2017): 117-120.
Student, Joe. “Evidence for the Existence of Bigfoot (Free Style).”
Regal, Brian. “Amateur versus professional: the search for Bigfoot.” Endeavour 32.2 (2008): 53-57.