In doing research (really) for a paper that I’m writing, I stumbled across a misbegotten bit of infotainment on the Web site of the Science Channel that I feel I must call out. At the risk of drawing attention to content we all should ignore, here goes.
On its “aliens & space” page, the Science Channel offers us a list of “top 10 hot alien chicks.”
Hot? Chicks? (Really, “chicks”? Jeeze.) Science?
Again, with no intent to draw attention to this schlock, I highlight it to critique the piggish back-to-the-’60s attitude reflected in the content, which is freely available to all who can read (including, presumably, fourth graders who get browsing time in school). And I want to make sure that my readers can see for themselves that, no, I am not overreacting.
The list includes:
- Princess Leia (“Star Wars”): “Leia is a twin. And we all know being a twin totally doubles your pleasure, doubles your fun.”
- Sil (“Species”): “Raise your hand if you know a chick whose primary — nay, ONLY — goal is to get it on.”
- Seven of Nine (“Star Trek: Voyager”): “She’s used to holographic relationships, which means you get to go with the guys to the game while your hologram is wiping her tears during that Chick Flick you’re dying to never see.”
- Leela (“Futurama”): “She can’t exactly be all up in your business. It’s not like she can sleep with one eye open.”
- The alien queen (“Aliens”): “I mean, the chick is fertile. I’m not alone here … right? Have I mentioned she’s fertile?”
- Leeloo (“The Fifth Element”): “She won’t say much, since she … well, can’t. One word, three syllables: MUL-TI-PASS!”
- T’Pol (“Star Trek: Enterprise”): “You’ve got yourself a certified alien hottie! …While your chances of hooking with T’Pol are slim to none, your chances of one day meeting a Vulcan are…more likely than they were before. Using data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope scientists from the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics and the SETI Institute now claim that there’s a solar system which is a younger twin of our own, just 10.5 light-years from us.” (At last, science!)
While these revolting views are offered in the first person, the person who has offered them remains anonymous (for good reason?).
I have my issues with the Science Channel, which offers slivers of science embedded in fluff and fantasy (a.k.a. crazy made-up stuff). The Science Channel, the self-described “home for alien programming” on TV, is owned by Discovery Communications, which bills itself as “the world’s #1 nonfiction media company reaching more than 2 billion cumulative subscribers in 220 countries and territories.” Discovery Communications earned $1.1 billion in net income on revenues of $5.5 billion in fiscal year 2013. Among its strongest series are “Amish Mafia,” “Fast ‘n’ Loud,” and “Naked and Afraid.” The corporation owns The Learning Channel, which airs programs such as “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” and “Sister Wives”; and Animal Planet, whose programs include “Finding Bigfoot” and “Mermaids: The New Evidence.”
This year the Science Channel aired Season 3 of its TV series “Alien Encounters,” which mixes science with fiction to speculate on “the impact of aliens on humanity” (“Science Channel,” 2014). I’ve only watched one episode, as it caused me to beat my head against the wall.
A press release announcing Season 3 states: “How would the world react to an alien race arriving on Earth? How would the human race be forever changed by extraterrestrials? What would be the impact of human contact with aliens? With 74-percent of Americans believing in the existence of aliens and 15 million believing they’ve actually made contact with extraterrestrials, many people have burning questions about life beyond Earth and its impact on humans…. According to Science Channel general manager Rita Mullin, ‘Making contact with life outside of Earth is a source of endless fascination for our viewers. [‘Alien Encounters’] feeds their interest with the perfect blend of intriguing, speculative questions plus perspective from real experts, and information about the latest scientific advancements. With [this] one-a-kind series…and our annual ARE WE ALONE? event, viewers continue to turn to Science Channel as the home for alien programming on television’.”
Real experts, eh? As opposed to what other kind? (By the way, at least one of those experts works for the SETI Institute.)
According to The Futon Critic, a Web-based prime-time TV report, the June 17, 2014, episode of “Alien Encounters” ranked #47 on the Nielsen ratings list for the night, drawing an audience of 271,000 viewers including 102,000 adults ages 18-49. At #1 on the list for that night was “America’s Got Talent,” with “Extreme Weight Loss” at #7, and “Real Housewives of New York City” at #30. For Tuesday June 10, “Alien Encounters” ranked #48; for June 3, #44.
The Science Channel also has aired “Aliens: The Definitive Guide,” a two-part program billed as “an ‘Encyclopedia Galactica’ of non-Earth life forms, and an investigation into the latest scientific understanding of life beyond planet Earth.” Says Debbie Myers, executive vice president and general manager of the Science Channel, “So many people are obsessed with the existence of aliens. ARE WE ALONE? ignites their imaginations with bold new questions, and engages current research happening in the field of extraterrestrial life. It’s programming that asks questions and makes you think. We hope ARE WE ALONE? advances the conversation even further.”
By the way, a one-hour prime-time TV program typically will feature 40 minutes of content and 20 minutes of advertising. Web sites and other promotional tools for these programs are loaded with ads as well. The primary purpose or function of all this content is to make money. (See: Discovery Communications.)
Talk amongst yourselves.