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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Considering Adaptation Theories in the Globalized 21st Century

This post is based on a paper I wrote for Dr. Blair Davis‘ class on Adaptation during the Spring 2014 quarter at DePaul University in Chicago, IL. The purpose of this assignment is to “critically analyze in essay form the work of several adaptation theorists, in order to demonstrate [an] understanding of the phenomenon of adaptation as well as the evolving theoretical tradition surrounding it.” Therefore, I applied the work of three adaptation theorists to the phenomenon of cross-cultural adaptation, which is becoming increasingly common in the globalized world of the 21st century. I welcome any and all feedback, so please feel free to join the conversation on adaptation by leaving a comment in the comments section. Thank you.

Fidelity and Cultural Codes in Cross-Cultural Adaptations: The Consideration of Adaptation Theories in the Globalized 21st Century

This paper considers how various adaptation theories regarding cross-media adaptations can and should be applied to the study of cross-cultural adaptations, particularly when considering the increasingly globalized and mediated world of the 21st century. I contend that cross-cultural adaptations often negotiate many of the same tensions experienced in arguments surrounding the fidelity of an adaptation to the source material, both in adapting a property or story from one medium to another, as well as adapting it from one culture to another. This idea becomes important when considering that globalization has had a profound impact upon the very idea of adaptation, due to an increasing number of cross-cultural adaptations and/or translations which prove that the practice of adapting a property from one culture to another is now the norm rather than the exception, and has been a factor in cross-media adaptations for some time.1 Thus, it is important to understand how current adaptation theories apply to adaptations across cultures as well as across various media. Therefore, in this paper, I draw upon Thomas Leitch’s notion of fidelity in the context of literary adaptation, Guerric Debona’s argument regarding the cultural politics of film adaptation, and Timothy Corrigan’s discussion of the value of art in the relationship of an original to its adaptation, and I apply these arguments to the idea of cross-cultural adaptations in a global context.2

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