The animals went in two by two: Heteronormativity in television wildlife documentaries

Brett Mills*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


This article examines British television wildlife documentaries in order to outline the ways in which limited representations of animal behaviour recur. It focuses on representations of animal sexuality, monogamy and parenthood, and suggests that how such activities are repeatedly represented draw on normalised human notions of such behaviour. This is demonstrated through comparison of these representations with literature from zoology and ethology, which shows that a considerably wider variety of animal behaviour has been documented. The article suggests that the discourses of sexuality, monogamy and parenthood are interrelated and interdependent, with the validity of each supported by the existence of the others. It is argued that how animals are represented in such documentaries matters, partly because normalised discourses must be drawn on in order for programmes to make sense of the behaviour they present, but mainly because animal behaviour is commonly used as evidence for 'natural' forms of human behaviour.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)100-114
Number of pages15
JournalEuropean Journal of Cultural Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jan 2013


  • Family
  • heteronormativity
  • nature
  • television
  • wildlife documentary


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