Man and Grizzly

Grizzly Man and Project Grizzly would make for quite a double bill. Timothy Treadwell was such an original that another even remotely like him seems an extraordinary unlikelihood. The same could be said of Troy Hurtubise. And yet their obsessions worked out in such oddly similar ways.

Treadwell, obsessed with grizzly bears, spent thirteen summers living close among them in Alaska. Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man documents the tragic result: he was killed and eaten by one. Troy Hurtubise, obsessed with grizzly bears, created an armored suit to enable him to study them from close. Peter Lynch’s Project Grizzly documents the comic result: in its first field test, the suit proved unable to stand upright on a slope.

Treadwell and Hurtubise would not have gotten along. Treadwell was a loose, shaggy hippie type, with a back-to-nature message and a drop-out slow-down ease-up sense of human life. Hurtubise is a jittery striver, a technophile and a desire to conquer the unknown. They’d have hated each other and everything the other stood for.

Except for that thing about the bears. Both of them loved grizzlies. Both wanted to get closer to a bear than most people thought safe, sane, or possible. Both recognized the danger; both thought they’d been uniquely chosen in life to find a way to surmount that danger. You can see it in the films: both of them were truly happy only when there’s a bear about.

It goes deeper than that, though. Both were—or came across on screen as—profoundly bipolar. You can see it in Treadwell’s ranty monologues and Hurtubise’s sales pitches. You can see it in their charismatic ability to pull others along on their bear quests, and in the bitter paranoia-tinged rants that they slide into unexpectedly You can see that awful energy coursing in both of them, for good and for ill—and when it reaches an extreme, that’s when the attachment to the grizzlies surges forth.

Perhaps the bear is the bipolar animal? Quick research suggests it may be:

Of course, most of these are polar bears, not grizzly bears, but the concept still seems to have some resonance.