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'Hello World' Offers Jarring Contrasts: Singers vs. Nature's Brutality
July 9, 2016  | By David Hinckley

Hello World may be the year’s most unusual nature show.

Premiering Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on the Discovery channel, Hello World lets six singers – Christina Aguilera, Usher, Ellie Goulding, Steven Tyler, Joan Jett, and Dave Matthews – pair up their music with a half-hour musing on the animal kingdom.

The series will run for three weeks, with two back-to-back episodes a night, and the result, naturally, feels a little different with each celebrity.

The Aguilera episode, for instance, titled “Don’t Mess With Mama,” has the singer rhapsodizing over the joys and rewards of motherhood while we watch some of nature’s starkest brutality.

Aguilera narrates the maternal responsibilities and habits of several wild species, one of which is the cheetah.

First we see Mama Cheetah running down an antelope that she kills to feed her cubs.

Okay, that’s what “going out for lunch” means on the veldt.

We return soon thereafter to watch Mama Cheetah take down a young eland, hold it long enough for the cubs to catch up, then let it go so the cubs can learn how to take it down and kill it themselves.

Again, that’s how it works. The weird part is setting it against Aguilera’s loving narrative of motherly devotion, a rhapsody that could have been lifted from a Hallmark card.

It’s everything up to and almost including “You go, Mama!” Considering that much of the episode has Aguilera comparing her own child-raising experiences with those of grizzly bears, mountain goats and peregrine falcons, it’s a little unnerving to contemplate what may be happening at Christina’s house.

The point, of course, is that mothers are fiercely protective and very practical. They shield their young from the dangers of life in the wild, and they equip them with the skills to one day survive on their own.

It’s heartwarming and noble, points Aguilera repeatedly makes while telling us that her professional performing success has become less important in her life than her role as “Mom” to her two children.

Personalizing the parental habits of wild animals would in itself offer a different slant from the many nature shows that document such matters.

The really odd part is romanticizing the process. Watching a cheetah run down a young antelope, flip it over and kill it with a powerful bite to the throat just has a whole different tone than Aguilera’s casual ode to maternal affection. Or even, for that matter, the scenes in which Mama Mountain Goat coaxes a young goat to cross a cascading mountain stream.

It’s as if two very different elements of a story were mashed together, and the raw albeit honest brutality of one element should somehow feel fully compatible with the unapologetic sentimentality of the other.

At the very least, it leaves us to wonder briefly how Mama Eland might feel.

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