Attitudes to foxes: Modern views of foxes
Foxes garner positive and negative views, and still clearly have a role in modern society. For example, Volkswagen called a recent type of small car, the Urban fox. In the 1970s, Audi also had a car called the Fox.
Foxes are used in advertising by many companies, including the ale Old Speckled Hen. The supermaket Asda used to have a fox on its own brand products.
Advertising plays on our perceptions of the foxes. For cars, they invoke images of agility and adaptability, whilst Old Speckled Hen plays on the roguish character. Asda in turn uses the perception of foxes as clever, to suggest that their own brand products are a clever choice. The Walt Disney company used the red fox to portray Robin Hood to suggest that foxes are roguish and outlaws.
For an animal both loved and reviled, foxes still hold a powerful image in modern society.
Foxes on the big screen
Many movies have told fox stories, both cartoons and films. Some are screen transpositions of books or popular tales (such as Disney's The fox and the hound J Arthur Rank's The Belstone fox) while others are just born out of admiration for this animal, as in the recent The fox and the child.
Bristol's foxes on television
Foxes have always been an extremely popular subject for television programmes. The BBC Natural History Unit was formally founded in Bristol in 1957, but the first of the landmark Look series was broadcast as early as August 1955. What better subject than Look: Foxes.
With the advent of better filming techniques, particularly the ability to film at night, two landmark programmes were based on Bristol's foxes. Foxes often have their cubs in the basement of houses, gaining entry through a broken airbrick. In autumn 1978 the BBC had acquired a derelict house, so as an experiment remotely-controlled infra-red cameras were set up in the basement and a pair of foxes introduced to the garden. On 10 April four cubs were born, and on May 8 1979 the first of a series of thirteen late-night live Foxwatch broadcasts went out on BBC-2, introduced by Stephen Harris and Derek Jones. Throughout that spring viewers were enthralled by the private life of this family of foxes, and the series was cut into a half-hour programme broadcast that summer as a Wildlife on One special.
At the same time, Stephen Harris had been working with producer Mike Beynon to produce a film about the lives of urban foxes, and this film (20th century fox) was first broadcast on 10 June 1981. Today, with its green night images, this film looks very dated, but when broadcast it was a sensation, with people seeing for the first time what happens on the streets of their cities.
- Attenborough, D. (1982) Wildlife through the camera. British Broadcasting Corporation, London.
- Parsons, C. (1982) True to nature. Patrick Stephens Ltd, Cambridge.
- Wallen, M. (2006) Fox. Reaktion Books, London.