Sunday, 30 January 2011

Live Ford Super Sexist Sunday

Andy Gray, Richard Keys, sexism in football blah blah blah.

I’m sure you don’t want to read about them any more and I don’t intend to drag this tedious affair on any longer (apart from linking you to some other classic Keys moments, here and here).

However, I do want to say something regarding the idea of prejudice.  We have to remember that something is only racist, sexist, ageist or heightist if the respective issues are independent of the job that someone does.

If somebody is old and this leads them to do their job less adequately than they would as a youngster, it should not be taboo to remove them from the job. If viewers of a TV programme are more responsive to a 30-year-old than a 54-year-old, then age does get in the way with the profits that the TV company could be making.

Equally, if I applied to work as a waiter in a Chinese restaurant, they should have the right to reject me because I am not Chinese. If they employed me, it may make the place feel less authentic, potentially leading to a loss of earnings. Therefore, my skin would affect the welfare of the company and so they can reject me on those grounds.

If a business tends to employ people over 6ft 2inches, this is not necessarily heightist. A colossal robust man is probably more likely to dominate an alpha-male environment more successfully than a 5ft 5 weed. He is therefore more likely to close a deal and so his height does affect the profit a company makes.

The Abercrombie shop in London – possibly the most shamelessly vile place on earth – should be able to pick their assistants based on looks, because the type of individuals that enter that hellhole are responsive to pretty people. It therefore affects how much money the company makes.

My point is this: just because the individuals of a company are skewed towards a particular demographic, it does not mean there is necessarily anything suspicious or prejudicial about their selection policy. People seem extremely eager to jump on a bandwagon just to be seen as politically correct, but we need to think about issues before charging headfirst with accusations of “[insert taboo subject here]ism.”

The fact that our country is one of the most accepting nations on earth is something we should genuinely feel truly proud of. But we also have to remain thoughtful and not become mindless sheep. As for Gray and Keys, their comments were sexist because the fact that linesman (er… lineslady) Sian Massey was female did not impact upon doing her job.

I dedicate this post to Kate Walsh, after watching her on The Big Questions this morning. God, she’s annoying. Just like every fucking bitch in the world.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

The merging of two brilliant - yet quite distinct - arts

A clear recent trend has been emerging within the last couple of years. The job titles of ‘comedian’, ‘scientist’ and ‘entertainer’ are no longer necessarily distinct from one another, with all three meeting together inside a rather succulent melting pot of shamelessly nerdy satire. Countless comedians and scientists suddenly appear to be best buddies, performing on stage in an ambitious quest to promote their message in very light-hearted, science-based shows. It appears to be a mutualistically rewarding relationship, whilst the astronomical ticket sales illustrate the enormous audience out there for their slightly quacky, dry comedy.

The two leaders of this march are undoubtedly Brian Cox and Robin Ince. Cox – who gained a PhD in particle Physics and now works at CERN – and Ince – a stand-up comedian – have been the brains behind a series of shows, such as Radio 4’s Infinate Monkey Cage (available on iTunes as a free podcast) and the epic eight-night festive show Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People. In the next few months, they are embarking upon an additional run of live shows, called Uncaged Monkeys.

It is evident from their qualifications that we wouldn't naturally group these two people together, yet the popularising of science through humour – and the evolving nature of comedy to become more sophisticated – has led to a significant (p < 0.05) trend where these two great arts are becoming united. (Hopefully you spotted a joke there; don’t worry if not).

Comedians such as Ince, Stewart Lee, Richard Herring, Ricky Gervais, Ben Miller, Dara O’Briain and David Mitchell are jumping on the bandwagon, whilst scientists such as Cox, Ben Goldacre, Simon Singh, Jim al-Khalili and many others are doing so as well. Why is this?

Firstly, I think it has a lot to do with Robin Ince’s creation of Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People. These stage events (which can easily be enjoyed by religious people, by the way) involve several comedians/ scientists performing ten-minute pieces, in a spectacular mass exaltation of science and the universe, at a time of the year when the godless don’t really join in the exaltation of Jesus. Scientists become more light-hearted so as to appeal to a mass audience, whilst comedians tailor their pieces to the ‘science’ end of the spectrum.

The shows are extremely popular, and so they’ll naturally milk it for all it’s worth and maintain a winning formula. But this doesn’t explain why they’re popular, and I think I’ve worked this out.

There are so many people out there who really bloody love science. However, general society doesn’t seem to feel the same way. So there’s a slight incompatibility between these feelings and the desire to live a normal life and not repel potential mating partners. I find this rather frustrating and I’m led to think that this major part of me must be kept under wraps because it is just a bit too nerdy for civil society. It seems like thousands of people also feel this way, and the platform that Ince and co. have provided allows us to satirise this to the maximum. We’re laughing at ourselves in many ways, slightly ashamed that we find Robin Ince’s impressions of Carl Sagan so amusing. The society at large wouldn’t accept such humour and this creates an underground network where people can say, “I HAVE WATCHED THE WHOLE COSMOS SERIES FIVE TIMES. I KNOW MOST PEOPLE FIND THAT SLIGHTLY ODD BUT I LOVE IT.”

Thankfully, there seems to be a major group of people who all feel the same way, and therefore there is a niche for these Celebriscientists to tap into. Furthermore, being a comedian isn’t easy. You have to be intelligent, with a thirst for learning and an eye for irony. They are forced to think about things and so I don’t think it’s a major coincidence that comedians do appreciate science, because I’m convinced that any thinking person inevitably will.

So, considering the audiences of the two fields are probably quite similar, it’s not actually hugely surprising this form of entertainment has emerged. It even appears, dare I say it, rather intelligently designed.