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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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)

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.

Continue reading “The Pop Culture Lens: Episode 11 – Captain Midnight”

The Pop Culture Lens: Episode 9 – Fandom

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 9 – Fandom”

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)”

The Pop Culture Lens: Episode 4 – Bewitched (1964-1972)

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 4 – Bewitched (1964-1972)”

The Hobbit International Research Project

Are you a Tolkien nerd? If so, Dr. Martin Barker of Aberystwyth University needs your help with his massive international survey of Lord of The Rings fans. Check out this blog post from Dr. CarrieLynn Reinhard’s site, and learn how you can participate in a huge, international research project.

It's Playing, Just With Research

Are you a Tolkien fan? Did you enjoy the Lord of the Rings films? What do you think of The Hobbit films? Join in with thousands of others and share your thoughts in this massive international survey!

From Dr. Martin Barker, one of the lead researchers on the project, who previously oversaw a similar project on the Lord of the Rings films:

“In December 2014, the most ambitious film audience research project yet undertaken launched.  Based on research groups in 46 countries, and operating in over 30 languages, the World Hobbit Project has set itself the challenge of answering a series of difficult research questions.

With minimal research funding (just enough from the UK’s British Academy to create the complex website, multi-language questionnaire and associated database), we are totally dependent on our ability to use online means to reach a wide range of people around the world.  Our survey went…

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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)”

The Pop Culture Lens Podcast: Episode 1 – Easy Rider (1969)

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

Continue reading “The Pop Culture Lens Podcast: Episode 1 – Easy Rider (1969)”