Category Archives: Media Theory

Fake News Isn’t the Problem, Relativism Is

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When the soon-to-be-president Trump called a CNN reporter ‘fake news’ to his face, it was both entertaining and ironic. First of all, it was great theater seeing such an esteemed agency being called out in such a public forum. But, if anyone is a peddler of fake news, it is Trump.

Fake news has become something of a boogeyman man of late. Since Trump’s surprising election, politicians and pundits from both sides of the debate have pointed to fake news as a major culprit in the debacle.

But so-called fake news is not limited to news agencies broadcasting dubious partisan views—that is just the most prominent example, so everyone, including the future president, is harping on it. Looking closer, we see that fake news actually stems from a more fundamental crisis of philosophy that has swept through our culture in the last decades: The belief that truth is relative and all one needs to do to make something true is to say it. That philosophy is what fake news is all about, and the Donald might be its most reliable adherent. Continue reading

On Mourning Celebrities

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2016 was uncommonly brutal on celebrities.

I might be a humbug, but I don’t get the grief over celebrity deaths. Yes, death is bad and it is especially sad to think of a talented person passing. As psychologist David Kaplan suggests in Lindsay Holmes’ reflection on Prince’s death, “We may grieve celebrities because our dream was to emulate their career path or because a celebrity death can also remind us of our mortality.”

But is all the lamentation really appropriate? Continue reading

If You Think This Is About Sexism and Racism, You’re Missing the Point

At first, it was entertaining to watch the talking heads try to make sense of the election results that they had been so wrong in predicting.

Then, it got scary.

As the results came in, and it became clear that Donald Trump would win the presidency, it seemed as though a light bulb flashed in their heads: Half of America is sexist and racist. Nothing else could explain this election of such a vile creature to the highest position in the land.

The musician Moby posted a meme that captured the consensus grief: “America, you are so much more racist and misogynistic than I’d ever imagined.” People wept in public at the clear evidence that America hates women, Hispanics, African Americans, Muslims, and LBGT types.

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It is an understandable frustration considering the kind of rhetoric that Trump has espoused over the last year. The thought is that, since some 60 million Americans voted for a misogynistic, xenophobic bigot, some 60 million Americans must be misogynistic, xenophobic bigots. As an emotional Van Jones put it: “This was a white-lash against a changing country. It was a white-lash against a black president, in part. And that’s the part where the pain comes.”

But can that really be the explanation?

Continue reading

The Moral Obligation to Be Beautiful

Recently, the folks at Boundless posted a provocative article titled ‘Where Have All the Beautiful Women Gone?’

The idea? That our culture, with its Photoshopped images and instant gratification, has numbed men’s minds to women’s natural beauty. The beautiful women haven’t gone anywhere; it’s just that men can’t see them anymore.

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Doubtless, those with access to social media can relate. We are constantly bombarded by images of ‘idealized’ figures, and, naturally, have come to expect this in the people we see in real life. Not finding it there, we are left unsatisfied and swipe away any real beauty that we might encounter.

But is this really the main problem? Continue reading

It’s ‘Put me in cold’, people, not ‘Put me in, coach’

CHADWICK BOSEMAN as Jackie Robinson in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ drama “42,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ drama “42,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

Ah, springtime.

The season of flowers, rain showers, and baseball. And, with Opening Day upon us, it is also the season of mangling the lyrics of John Fogerty’s ode to baseball, ‘Centerfield’.

Everywhere you turn during baseball season, you’ll hear this serenade of swat, and everywhere people will be singing it incorrectly. As you’ll hear it:

Put me in, coach
I’m ready to play today

And if you google the lyrics, that’s what you’ll see. It kinda makes sense, and everyone else is saying it that way, so no one thinks twice. Play ball.

The only problem is that those aren’t the lyrics.

Continue reading

The Superhero Heresy

March 5, 2016

With several blockbuster superhero films out every year, there can be little doubt that supers are hotter than ever. Batman, Iron Man, X-Men—there’s even something called Ant-Man. But, amid all the hoopla, one is compelled to wonder whether we have lost sight of what a superhero really is.

There was a time was when a superhero was the embodiment of goodness—bright, confident, and in service of truth, justice, and the American way.

Not so any more.

Of the eight major superhero pictures due in 2016, all are dark and brooding, some are violent enough to garner an ‘R’ rating, and the biggest of them feature superheroes battling, not a villain with some dark past, but other superheroes. These days, it’s the superhero who has a dark past, truth and justice are relative, and the best any of the heroes can hope for is a utilitarian solution to an unsolvable problem.

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This is a far cry from the original superheroes. In 1978, Christopher Reeves starred as the genuine and honorable Superman in the first ever superhero blockbuster movie. It was a faithful telling of a hero, who had been a beacon of hope and goodness for generations in America.

Since, the superhero genre has exploded in popularity now touting thirteen of the twenty highest grossing films of all time. But, as its popularity has grown, the movies have grown darker and the heroes have grown more anti-heroic. Tim Burton and Michael Keaton’s Batman (1989) presented a darker twist on the superhero, albeit in a colorful and campy way. Then came X-Men in 2000 and Spider-Man in 2002, by all counts darker and dealing with more serious issues. By 2005, with Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, we could see that the cheer of Superman was no longer relevant. Continue reading