Bigfoot: The Life and Times of a Legend
|Author||Joshua Blu Buhs|
|Publisher||The University of Chicago Press|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover)|
Bigfoot: The Life and Times of a Legend is a non-fiction book written by Joshua Blu Buhs and published in 2009 by the University of Chicago Press. It explores the history of the concept of Bigfoot, discusses the exploits of its believers, as well as hoaxers, and examines the cultural influences that give the entity its staying power.
Bigfoot: The Life and Times of a Legend is an exploration of the history of Bigfoot (called Sasquatch in British Columbia), and its counterparts, the Abominable Snowman and Yeti, with a focus on stories from the American Pacific Northwest. Buhs maintains that Bigfoot does not actually inhabit the forests, but, is "real" in the sense that the stories told about the creature are "part of the American cultural landscape".
Buhs contends that Bigfoot is a construct of popular imagination representing a "tradition of the wild man" that "allowed white working-class men" to hold onto traditional, masculine roles while societal changes (feminism and civil rights) in the 1960s and 1970s "challenged their assumptions about society". Although Bigfoot has its roots in European and Asian fairy tales, and sightings of "giant figures with long reddish hair" were reported in the 1920s. Buhs claims Bigfoot stories in men's adventure magazines, like Argosy, True, and Saga, as well as "mockumentary" movies shown in makeshift movie theaters called "four-wallers" in 1970s rural America helped give shape to Bigfoot and secure its place in popular culture. Bigfoot became symbolic of the changes these men feared and way of connection with (or escaping into) the wilderness.
Buhs provides a historical accounting of Bigfoot encounters, including purported sightings and abductions. He surveys the physical evidence collected and photographed (footprints, tufts of fur, droppings), and introduces readers to such devotees of Bigfoot as Rene Dahinden, Roger Patterson, Ray Wallace, John Napier, Albert Ostman, P.T. Barnum, Grover Krantz, Ivan Sanderson, and others who researched, looked for, and, in some cases, faked Bigfoot sightings or exploited the idea of Bigfoot for their own gain.
Buhs also outlines how the commercialization of Bigfoot, through the sale of commercial products (B-movies, T-shirts, TV shows, whiskey advertisements), transformed Bigfoot, once feared, into a creature to be ridiculed. Environmentalism, Buhs posits, changed Bigfoot into a gentle giant. By the mid-1970s, Bigfoot research had dissolved into "exposed hoaxes, arrogant and premature proclamations of conclusive evidence, and vindictive infighting."
Buhs' attempt at telling an historical account of an imaginary creature, for some reviewers, was problematic. Folklorist Jennifer Attebury argued that although Buhs used "excellent secondary sources" and solid primary sources, the exploration of Bigfoot might better be described as "fakelore." She suggested that the book might have benefited from theoretical frameworks provided by contemporary folkloristics.
Still other reviewers found Buhs' characterization of Bigfoot as reflecting the hopes, fears and desires of white working-class men "a bit of a stretch". Paul Lucier wrote in his review, "Buhs is sympathetic to the Bigfooters, and he tries to restrain any prejudgments, but in the end he cannot help but explode each incident and, perhaps unintentionally, show up the Bigfooters as either fools or frauds". In his review, Benjamin Radford wrote that Buhs characterized skeptics as "routinely ridiculing" the subject of Bigfoot, and suggested that prominent skeptical Bigfoot researchers, like Michael Dennett, treated the subject and its claimants with respect.
Some members of the Bigfoot community received the book less than enthusiastically, claiming it as a literary fraud.
- Pierleoni, Allen (June 1, 2009). "Between the Lines: True stories, and good ones". McClatchy-Tribune News. Washington.
- "Bigfoot: The Life and Times of a Legend". Publisher's Weekly. March 2, 2009. p. 53. Retrieved 10 May 2016.
- Laskin, David (May 2, 2009). "Tracking Sasquatch Lore, Sizeable zeal is always afoot". The Washington Post. Washington, D.C. p. C.1. Retrieved 10 May 2016.
- Radford, Benjamin (March–April 2010). "Bigfoot Beliefs in Cultural Context". Skeptical Inquirer. 34 (2): 59–60.
- Hoare, Philip (June 21, 2009). "Bigfoot: The Life and Times of a Legend by Joshua Blu Buhs:review". The Sunday Telegraph. London. Retrieved 10 May 2016.
- Ayoub, Nina C. (April 24, 2009). "Bawdy and the Beast". The Chronicle of Higher Education. Washington, D.C. 55 (33): 18. Retrieved 10 May 2016.
- Attebery, Jennifer (November 10, 2010). "The Life and Times of a Legend". Journal of Folklore Research. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University, Bloomington. Retrieved 10 May 2016.
- Pevere, Geoff (May 9, 2013). "Where did Bigfoot go?". Toronto Star. Toronto, ONT, Canada. Retrieved 10 May 2016.
- Paulson, Steve (July 25, 2010). "Joshua Blu Buhs on Bigfoot". To The Best of Our Knowledge. Wisconsin Public Radio. Retrieved 15 May 2016.
- Lucier, Paul (March 2010). "Review". Isis. The University of Chicago Press on behalf of The History of Science Society. 101 (1): 250–251. doi:10.1086/653905. JSTOR 10.1086/653905.
- Dixler, Elsa (October 31, 2010). "Paperback Row". New York Times Book Review. p. 24.
- Kozlowski, Lori (July 12, 2009). "Jacket Copy; In search of Bigfoot, not that he exists". Los Angeles Times. Lost Angeles, CA. p. E.2.
- Williams, Florence (June 7, 2009). "Be Very Afraid". New York Times Book Review. p. BR.19. Retrieved 24 May 2016.
- Kirchhoff, H.J. (August 13, 2009). "Big story, big dreams". The Globe and Mail. Toronto, ONT, Canada. Retrieved 10 May 2016.