Evolution and Mass Media

In an effort to generate more content for my blog, I am posting an edited version of a paper I wrote as an undergrad at the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay. This paper briefly considers how misrepresentation in television, movies, comic books, and video games can reinforce or contribute to a general misunderstanding of the Theory of Evolution. As always, if you have any questions or comments about anything presented here, please feel free to offer feedback in the comments below.

Mutation: it is the key to our evolution. It has enabled us to evolve from a single-celled organism into the dominant species on the planet. This process is slow, normally taking thousands and thousands of years. But every few hundred millennia, evolution leaps forward.

– Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), X-Men (Bryan Singer, 2000)

The Theory of Evolution is one of the most well-known scientific theories, and it serves as the backbone of modern biology. It informs our understanding of where Humanity as a species originated, and can even assist in speculating about where we might be heading. Unfortunately, despite the widespread recognition of Charles Darwin‘s and Alfred Russell Wallace‘s most famous theory, it is often misunderstood and misinterpreted by the general populace. One reason for this misunderstanding might result from the numerous ways evolution is misrepresented by mass media, including popular television programs, movies, comic books, and video games. Mass media often perpetuates two of the most common misconceptions regarding evolution; the first involves the idea that evolution only works in a forward motion and is driven by some sort of purpose or goal, as opposed to a series of small changes that occur to a population over a period of time. In addition, television programs, films, and comic books also perpetuate the popular misconception that Homo sapiens descended directly from monkeys or apes, rather than clarifying that humans and apes simply share a common ancestor (Fig. 1). Unfortunately, this misunderstanding is cyclical; misunderstanding leads to misinterpretation leads to misunderstanding. Additionally, one must also take into account the use of artistic license and/or exaggeration for comedic effect. With this post, I briefly outline the Theory of Evolution and attempt to explain how it is thought to work. I then examine some of the ways that mass media has misrepresented or misinterpreted this idea, and consider how such misrepresentations can contribute to and/or reinforce misunderstanding of the theory by the public at large.

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Possessed Women, Haunted States: Cultural Tensions in Exorcism Cinema

9781498519083

I am proud to announce the impending release of my first monograph (co-authored with Dr. CarrieLynn Reinhard of Dominican University), Possessed Women, Haunted States: Cultural Tensions in Exorcism Cinema. The book considers the various ways that the exorcism films produced since the release of The Exorcist (William Friedkin, 1973) either reflect, reinforce, or challenge prevailing sociocultural and historical anxieties relating to women, people of color, and the nonheteronormative.

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My first journal article

Just a quick post to share some big news: last week, I published my first peer-reviewed journal article! In addition, the article won the Fred E. H. Schroeder Paper Award at the Midwest Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association annual conference this past weekend! My (award-winning!) article “Shakespeare, Didgeridoos, and Samurai Cowboys: Remixing National and Cultural Identities in Sukiyaki Western Django” appears in the latest double issue of the Popular Culture Studies Journal, the official journal of the MPCA/ACA. If you want to read this article, you can download the issue (for free!) right here.

(please excuse the fact that I appear to have misspelled “didgeridoos” in the title of the article…I have no idea what happened there)

A collection of my recent podcast appearances

Over the past few weeks, I appeared as a guest on a couple of podcasts, and I thought it might be useful to collect those here for anyone who may have missed them. (it’s also a good excuse to post some new comment on this dusty ol’ blog of mine)

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Oscarwatch Podcast: Unforgiven

Hey folks! In my ongoing effort to get this old blog of mine back up and running, I thought I would tell you about my recent guest appearance on the fantastic new podcast, Oscarwatch. Hosts Steven Buja and Alex Riviello graciously asked me to come on and talk about one of my all-time favorite movies, Clint Eastwood’s elegiac Western Unforgiven. In this episode, we discuss how the film demythologizes everything from violence to masculinity to the American West itself. It gets kind of heavy at times, but still manages to be a lot of fun throughout.

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Making Sense of Cinema: Empirical Studies into Film Spectators and Spectatorship

9781501302947

Hello! I know it’s been a while since I’ve updated this ol’ blog of mine (outside of the call for chapters I posted last week, anyway), but in my defense I’ve been busy with some other projects. In addition to working on the Pop Culture Lens podcast, I’ve been plugging away on some book projects with my partner, CarrieLynn D. Reinhard. While I can’t really talk about one of those projects at this time (but I can hint that it does relate to this post), the other one will be released soon, and therefore I wanted to get the word out about it well in advance.

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The Pop Culture Lens: Episode 11 – Captain Midnight

The Pop Culture Lens is a podcast that offers fresh perspectives on past media. This episode looks at classic pulp hero Captain Midnight through the lenses of transmedia storytelling and adaptation.

The Pop Culture Lens is a scholarly podcast hosted by myself and Dr. CarrieLynn Reinhard of Dominican University. In each episode, we seek to offer fresh perspectives on past media as we attempt to determine whether or not it holds any relevance to the contemporary sociocultural experience. We structure the podcast so the format loosely resembles an academic paper, but we present the information in a way that everyone can understand.

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The Pop Culture Lens: Episode 7 – Godzilla (1954)

The Pop Culture Lens is a scholarly podcast hosted by myself and Dr. CarrieLynn Reinhard of Dominican University. In each episode, we seek to offer fresh perspectives on past media as we attempt to determine whether or not it holds any relevance to the contemporary sociocultural experience. We structure the podcast so the format loosely resembles an academic paper, but we present the information in a way that everyone can understand.

Continue reading “The Pop Culture Lens: Episode 7 – Godzilla (1954)”

The Pop Culture Lens: Episode 6 – The X-Files (1993-2002)

The Pop Culture Lens is a scholarly podcast hosted by myself and Dr. CarrieLynn Reinhard of Dominican University. In each episode, we seek to offer fresh perspectives on past media as we attempt to determine whether or not it holds any relevance to the contemporary sociocultural experience. We structure the podcast so the format loosely resembles an academic paper, but we present the information in a way that everyone can understand.

Continue reading “The Pop Culture Lens: Episode 6 – The X-Files (1993-2002)”

The Pop Culture Lens: Episode 5 – Planet of the Apes (1968)

The Pop Culture Lens is a scholarly podcast hosted by myself and Dr. CarrieLynn Reinhard of Dominican University. In each episode, we seek to offer fresh perspectives on past media as we attempt to determine whether or not it holds any relevance to the contemporary sociocultural experience. We structure the podcast so the format loosely resembles an academic paper, but we present the information in a way that everyone can understand.

Continue reading “The Pop Culture Lens: Episode 5 – Planet of the Apes (1968)”