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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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.

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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)”

The Pop Culture Lens Podcast: Episode 2 – Freaks (1932)

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 Podcast: Episode 2 – Freaks (1932)”

A Brief History of Postwar Japanese Cinema

This post is based on a presentation I put together for Dr. Michael DeAngelis‘ Cinema of Peace class that was taught at DePaul University during the winter 2013 quater. It is simply meant to serve as a brief introduction into the history of postwar Japanese cinema, and is in no way comprehensive. Any factual errors are mine and mine alone, and I welcome any and all corrections, along with any other feedback you wish to provide. Thank you.

POSTWAR JAPANESE CINEMA: REMEMBRANCE, UNDERSTANDING, AND THE PAINFUL ART OF HEALING

INTRODUCTION

The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II were atrocities that would have lasting effects upon the nation of Japan and its people for decades afterward. According to Clif Ganyard, “Japan is still the only nation to have experienced a nuclear attack and so it is really the first and only post-nuclear, post-apocalyptic society.” Similarly, Mick Broderick (1996) asserts that “Hiroshima and Nagasaki evoke powerful and sombre associations of holocaust and apocalypse, a microcosm of the twentieth century’s staging ground for a global nuclear war” (p. 2). This becomes evident when looking at Japan’s national cinema; movies produced in Japan often explore the trauma that resulted from the atomic bomb attacks, even when they aren’t explicitly about the event. This post will serve as a a brief examination of Postwar Japanese cinema, with a particular focus on the themes of remembrance, understanding and healing that have been evident in Japanese films since around the end of World War II in 1945.

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NotFilm needs your help…

So if you read this blog, then you probably know by now that I love films of all shapes and sizes. What you might not know, however, is that some of my favorite films in the whole world are documentaries about movies, because they can lead you to all sorts of films you might not have discovered otherwise. Which leads me to the point of this post: right now, someone is trying to make a documentary about a film that sounds absolutely fascinating. The documentary is called NotFilm, and it’s an experimental essay about playwright Samuel Beckett’s Film, his single work for projected cinema. NotFilm is the brainchild of Ross Lipman, and is described as such:

In 1964 author Samuel Beckett set out on one of the strangest ventures in cinematic history: his embattled collaboration with silent era genius Buster Keaton on the production of a short, titleless avant-garde film. Beckett was nearing the peak of his fame, which would culminate in his receiving a Nobel Prize five years later. Keaton, in his waning years, never lived to see Beckett’s canonization. The film they made along with director Alan Schneider, renegade publisher Barney Rosset, and Academy Award-winning cinematographer Boris Kaufman, has been the subject of praise, condemnation, and controversy for decades. Yet the eclectic participants are just one part of a story that stretches to the very birth of cinema, and spreads out to our understanding of human consciousness itself.

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