I’m trying to be funny here

Rewan Stand Up
Doing stand-up during my university days. I wish I still fitted in those clothes…

I’m only three episodes into vlogging and I have already realised how apologetic I’m being when I try to promote them. I had hoped that having the guts to upload those first videos would have allowed me to overcome the confidence barrier and just get on with it. I’m not so sure that’s happened.

The problem, in essence, is this: I’m trying to make you laugh – but I’m also worried that I might fail and so am trying to save face by acting as though that’s not my intention. It’s like if a person you have a crush on mentions they want to go see a new film that has just been released and you try and seize the opportunity to ask them out by saying ‘Well I was going to see it on Friday, I suppose you could tag along if, you know, you were free or whatever. But I can just go by myself, as that’s what I was going to do anyway, you know?’

Trying and failing to be funny is excruciating. Everybody knows this. During university I did stand-up comedy on occasion. I hasten to add that it wasn’t a dearth of good jokes that made me abandon it. Most of my gigs went swimmingly. One of them didn’t, and it’s painful when you’re on that stage, relaying a story which you think has great comic potential and getting very little response from the audience.

Vlogging is a bit like being a stand-up comic. In fact, that’s the reason I started doing it. For one reason or another I don’t really have the opportunity to do comedy where I live at the moment. But that doesn’t mean I don’t think up new routines. My colleagues in work have the unfortunate burden of being the test subjects for whatever observations, anecdotes, or analogies I think up during the day.

Just to sidetrack for a moment; being known as a bit of a comedian means you always get that awful scenario where, after having just uttered something hilarious off the top of your head, someone smugly asks ‘You’ve been waiting for an opportunity to use that one for months, haven’t you?’

Maybe that’s why I’m so desperate to get on a television panel show. People don’t often accuse panel show contestants of having prepared their jokes months in advance. Especially if it’s a satirical news show, about stories that only happened a few hours ago.

Anyway, back to the main issue. I suppose a more confident – and therefore, likely, successful – blogger or vlogger probably promotes their articles and videos along the lines of ‘Hey! You should check out this latest update, it’s really funny: you’ll love it!’

My promotional strategy is akin to that used by charity muggers: I have practised the phrase ‘Excuse me but do you have a minute to… Okay, no worries, thank you for your time, have a great day’ so that I don’t even have to wait for people to brush me off mid-pitch before trying to backtrack on my efforts.

So I’ve decided to just admit the problem, and then it’s not a secret. No point being embarrassed about saying something that has already been said. It’s like turning to a co-worker after a year in the office and saying to them: ‘Sarah, I have something to tell you: I work at this company’.

Rather like Alcoholics Anonymous, admitting the problem is halfway towards solving it. Not that I want to cure my desire to make people laugh. That’s an addiction that I want to be thoroughly enabled. I don’t want to find myself one day sitting in a circle of strangers at a comics’ self-help group, telling them how I went from ‘just trying to get a few giggles’ to ‘refusing to leave the library until at least one person bust a gut’.

But I will admit it, so here goes:

My blogs and vlogs – not to mention my books – are largely meant to be funny. My name is Rewan, and I want to make you laugh.

Introducing the Captain Reasonable Vlog

Great news: you can now watch me. I don’t mean all the time, and certainly not from behind some wheelie bins, or through my office window. But you can now have the next best thing to me telling you my thoughts in person, because I’ve started vlogging.

Fireworks Cropped

I’ve been wanting to vlog for a long time now, but something always got in the way. The videos I’ll be producing and uploading will mostly be the kind of material I would have performed as stand-up comedy were there more opportunities where I live to do so.

Instead, I just have to imagine (or, more accurately, hope) that there is laughter. The supportive kind, that is. Not the kind of laugh you do after you see someone fall over on a skateboard.

Meet Captain Reasonable; the World’s Most Affable Superhero

Captain Reasonable is my vlogging alter ego (my dictation software initially thought I’d said ‘flogging’ – that’d be a very different video series). If you’ve read a few of my posts on here, you’re probably already able to understand the inspiration behind him. I spend a lot of time considering how other people will react to what I say and write, which isn’t really my job. People can make up their own minds without me chipping in.

The Captain Reasonable vlog starts with Episode Two. Why? Well, you’ll just have to watch the video below to find out.

Dear Journal

The other type of video I will be regularly posting will be as part of a series entitled Captain Reasonable’s Journal. These are essentially podcasts, or narrated newspaper columns, with added snazzy visuals. I’m putting together lots of footage and effects, so while they will follow the same format, each one will be just as interesting to look at as it is to listen to.

They are only a couple of minutes long each, so do give them a watch. You can find the first one below.

Never Miss a Video: Subscribe Today

If you enjoy these videos, the best thing to do is subscribe to my YouTube channel. This ensures that you never miss my latest upload. They’ll get shared on my other social platforms as well, including Facebook, Twitter, and of course on here. If you haven’t yet done so, subscribing to this blog lets me know that you’re enjoying this and gives me more motivation to keep going.

And don’t forget to comment and let me know what you think of my videos.

At what point does a savvy customer become a greedy customer?

Listen to this blog post using the SoundCloud player below, or read with your eyes underneath. Don’t forget to check out my Christmas advent calendar of jokes by liking my Facebook page.

Three things have happened recently. Three things of relevance to this post, that is, and technically one of them isn’t recent at all. I’m sure more than three things have happened globally, or even locally for that matter. But I couldn’t exactly start this post with the line ‘1.8 million things have happened recently’. And how do you even define ‘recently’? That changes everything. Crap, this has all gone horribly wrong.

Start again…

Hello.

The three things that have happened that are of relevance are:

  1. Everyone is getting very Christmassy
  2. The new Sainsbury’s supermarket has just opened in my hometown
  3. I saw a blog about people buying eBooks on Amazon, reading them, and then returning them within seven days to get a full refund

These things all combined to remind me of the Facebook status I read about this time last year. It was a status about why people should support their local, independent shops. However, it wasn’t a plea, and it certainly wasn’t motivational. I actually thought it was a tad aggressive, in that it followed the tone of ‘If you shop at the big chain store for Christmas presents you’re wrecking the livelihood of a poor, starving independent shop owner. You might as well go and stamp on their face as they try to eat their pitifully small turkey’.

This got me thinking, and over the year the issue of small shops versus big brands continued to bubble away in the back of my mind. As we approach Christmas, this issue becomes even more pertinent.

We are all just looking for value

The thing is, because that Facebook status seemed to imply that we were doing something wrong by shopping at big stores I naturally thought about my defence to the argument. The main reason that we will shop at the big stores is the obvious one – it’s cheaper. I bought Adobe Photoshop Elements a while back from Amazon. Why didn’t I buy from my local technology shop? Because it was £20 more expensive. £20 is a lot of Smarties. (Note: I tend to measure currency in terms of Smarties, just as I measure calorie intake in terms of Kit Kats – e.g. ‘Wow, that slice of cake was 3.5 Kit Kats!’).

As much as sometimes it would be great to shop at local stores anyway, regardless of the higher prices, I expect many of us just can’t afford to. When we can get more for less, it is so wrong that most of us choose to take it?

The plight of the independent shopkeeper

I don’t blame independent retailers for having the higher prices. It’s a matter of logistics, not greed, I know this. Amazon can sell a CD for half the price of a brick and mortar store, because they don’t have the same costs when it comes to overheads (when you’re a small company, it’s a lot harder to afford the expensive accounts who help you avoid paying tax). If independent retailers matched online outlets, or supermarkets, on price they’d very quickly go out of business.

So it’s not the retailer’s fault that there is such a price discrepancy. Are bigger companies being too ruthless? At what point does having a competitor turn into being dominated by a merciless rival?

Or should it be our responsibility as the consumer to pay the higher prices of independent stores to keep them in business?

Smarts or greed?

I expect a lot of us would like to believe that we are savvy customers (incidentally, I like the word ‘savvy’. People aren’t savvy enough. Whilst I’m on the topic, people need to swashbuckle more as well). We often boast to our friends of the great deals we’ve got.

Where the Amazon e-book debate comes into it, is that I would argue the practice of reading a book and then returning for full refund comes under the category of greed, rather than customer savviness. There’s a difference between exploiting the competitive nature of business to find the best deal on a product, and exploiting a loophole in a system to gain something for free.

But at what point does savviness devolve into greed? I would argue that the eBook thing counts as piracy. But who is it okay to rob business from? Going to a store’s competitor is stealing business from them, but if the other store has a cheaper price, as a consumer would you not be foolish to knowingly pay the higher cost?

And what about preowned games? The practice of trading in games is essentially a highly-profitable rental service for the companies involved in doing so (note – this business model doesn’t work with bandages, soup, or firewood). But it means that the games developers are missing out. They only get money from the first sale, but their game could be sold two or three times over. Think of all the Smarties they are owed.

How much responsibility lies with the consumer?

The problem with the trading-in system with games, or returning eBooks for a refund on Amazon, or just shopping in supermarkets that are cheaper than your local grocers, is one of availability. At the end of the day, we do it because we can. As the blog post about the Amazon returns said, the people returning these books aren’t ‘evil’ – they are just ordinary people who have found a way to make their love of reading completely free (If only there was some organisation of buildings that you could go into and come back out again with free books, which you can read and then return without having to pay a penny…).

At what point does giving the customer value become sticking two fingers up at the people who work so hard to create the things they enjoy in the first place?

But with the rest of life, we know there are lots of things we don’t do just because the opportunity is there. Like playing Wink Murder at a funeral. When it comes to money, things naturally get more complicated, because there is a fine line between usefulness and greed. But the problem with business, is fundamentally it is about making money. As consumers, we can’t be expected to treat businesses like they are charities. But is it OK to frame the issue in such callous black and white terms?

Perhaps, in a world where we throw way too much, can’t pay attention for very long, are used to things being transient, and our communities disintegrating, perhaps it is not such a personal sacrifice to buy one book from your local independent bookstore, as opposed to two or three from Amazon for the same price. Perhaps we need to stop thinking about what we are losing by buying a brand-new game rather than the preowned one, and think about what we gain.

Of course it is easy to say, and not so easy to put into practice, but maybe, if just once in a while each of us did this, we’d be making a large investment in the future of our community, our planet, and our intellectual capacity.

And there would be enough Smarties for everyone.

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How things change – the place that was

Listen to this blog post using the SoundCloud player below, or read with your eyes underneath. Don’t forget to check out my Christmas advent calendar of jokes by liking my Facebook page.

I’ve given up and accepted the fact that I have to think about everything. Nothing just happens anymore. It goes into my head and gets chopped into tiny pieces and comes out again as a thousand questions, like pasta through a spaghetti cutter. It’s kind of annoying on occasions. I suppose the opposite would be to be totally vacant at all times, and that would be far worse.

What prompted my latest period of introspection was the fact a new Sainsbury’s has been built nearby. I like Sainsbury’s. Mostly because they have an apostrophe in their name. It’s the little things that count.

The location of this new store is in a very narrow field between two main roads, a sort of splinter of green land between the town I live in and the roundabout you need to go to in order to access the A roads which start you on the path of escaping Cornwall. Sainsbury’s new location is about 500 yards from a Tesco in one direction, and 500 yards from a Morrisons (no apostrophe, note) in the other. Penzance is only a small town. We now have more supermarkets than things to do.

Of course the locals complained

Penzance – in fact, Cornwall is general – is one of those places that time forgot. Or rather, the Cornish were offered time, didn’t like the change, and decided to stick with measuring the sun, thank-you-very-much. Anything new happens, the locals are up in arms and a committee is formed to protect the local landscape. As happened with Sainsbury’s. It was destroying the local landscape; spoiling the view.

What existed in that spot before Sainsbury’s was a tiny heliport: a large, rusty metal warehouse where the helicopter slept, and a small white shack that served as the departure lounge.

It’s not so much about Sainsbury’s itself, I don’t think. The locals here just don’t like change. When the local college was revamped, they erected a small Wind Turbine for the science students. Residents of one village claim they can hear it spinning, and they live a mile away. I’ve stood right underneath it, and it would be drowned out by a car driving past.

The shifting nature of a place

A couple of weekends ago, we went to explore the new store. As I said, there’s not much to do down here. It was an event. The local road now has a roundabout in the middle so that middle class people who desperately aspire to shop in Waitrose can buy Jamie Oliver products in orange plastic bags. We pulled up into the car park, with its slick, freshly tarmacked surface and its crisp parking bay lines. I stood in the car park then, faced by the glowing juggernaut of the new store (it was night time; the whole thing was quite beautiful, with its flowing roof, stone walls and wood cladding), and remembered that this used to be a field.

A field in which I had never been, but had driven past probably thousands of times in my life. I knew that field. It was green, full of helicopters and rabbits. It didn’t change at all in the decades during which it sailed by the car window.

But now, it is something completely different. The green grass is hard black car park. The rusty old helicopter hutch has been replaced by a gigantic structure, big neon orange signs everywhere. People who would never have set foot in a mere field now flock to buy croissants and wine and balsamic vinegar and Potpourri.

Which is funny, isn’t it? It’s like looking down at your body to find you’ve got donkey legs. Something so consistent, so unchangeable, has been completely transformed. Perhaps it’s grown up, like everything does? Perhaps that’s what the residents in Cornwall are afraid of? That one day they will wake up and everywhere will be carpark and aisles of fridges full of posh yoghurt.

We went inside and explored the new supermarket. It was very nice. I bought the latest Stereophonics album, which is also nice. I’d never have found that in a field with a helicopter.

And in ten years’ time, it will be hard to believe that there was ever a time when Sainsbury’s wasn’t there. I’d love to have some kind of siren go off in my mind at the exact point where it became pedestrian, so I could appreciate the moment it transitioned from something new, and worthy of considering, to something to take for granted. Something as permanent and unchangeable as a thin field with a spluttering old helicopter in it, and a few surely deafened rabbits.

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A Christmas advent calendar of jokes

As a special Christmas treat (and I use that word lightly), I’ll be posting a new one-liner joke on my Facebook page every day until December the 24th, when I’ll end with a joke bonanza. To let you know what you’ll be in for when you Like the page, here are the first two ‘doors’ in your Christmas Comedy Advent Calendar.

Christmas One Liner #1 High Christmas One Liner #2

The next door in the advent calendar of laughs/guffaws/groans/decisions to kill this humble writer will be uploaded to my Facebook page tomorrow. Visit www.facebook.com/rewantremethickauthor to make sure you don’t miss out.

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The women are taking over

Quick, everybody run. The women are taking over. Where can we go that is safe? I know, to the hills. Women can’t climb hills, can they? They can? Where will this equality madness end? I know, we’ll hide in a jar with a stiff lid.

Then again, if all the men do that, how will we get out? Damn it, we’ve played right into their hands.

One of the interesting facts about the equality battle (and considering the attitudes held by the more extremist members of both sides, ‘battle’ would seem to be the appropriate word) is that those for and against equality for women often end up using the same arguments.

Again, the women are taking over

There’s an interesting (and by interesting, I mean bloody annoying) thing that both feminists (read: some feminists) and misogynists like to do whenever a woman shows the slightest bit of promise in an area that is, at the present and/or historically, male dominated. It’s to loudly and proudly declare ‘The women are taking over’ or ‘See women can do this too, the time of men is limited’.

It’s funny how that sentiment is used as both a pro and a con of women being empowered. But it’s a stupid attitude that doesn’t really help.

I’ll give you an example.

Men aren’t funny anymore

Rather ironically, this was the premise of a recent article I read in one of those newspaper supplement magazines the other day. It’s ironic because the article (written by a man) was meant to be a ‘Yay for women’ piece about the fact that comediennes are now beginning to get access to the high profile success their male counterparts have had since whenever one male caveman first hit the other in a face with a custard pie. Yet instead, it spent most of the time talking about male comics.

The premise was thus; comediennes such as Sarah Millican and Miranda (both hilariously funny, clever and talented women, in my opinion) are becoming very popular, with Miranda soon to be the first comedienne to play the O2 arena.

Except that the article wasn’t 2,000 words on why this is a good thing, and what it shows. It didn’t celebrate the fact that women are finally being given the opportunity to prove that society doesn’t have a problem on the whole with women being funny, and that we are happy to flock in droves to see comediennes, just as we are with comedians. Nope, the article had to take the supposedly empowering angle of ‘The women are taking over’, based on the fact that men are no longer funny.

There are three reasons why this article was, to use the correct Latin, pissing annoying.

It really doesn’t help anything

The article’s claim that men are no longer funny centred upon the assertion that all man-humour is toilet humour, and most of it is about our genitals. The idea of a man who doesn’t spend all day cupping himself is as fantastical as Gandalf handing out dragon eggs from the back of his hippogriff. Except that Gandalf, as a man, would also be cupping himself, so he’d have to bring a woman along to hand out the eggs for him.

It’s ironic that, considering one of the main battles faced by feminism is the fact that perceptions of women are shaped a lot of the time by unjust and untrue stereotypes, that certain feminists seem to operate on the basis that all male stereotypes actually are true. Stereotypes and ill-informed gender perceptions are what got us all in this mess in the first place. As a tactic for solving the problems of gender equality, it’s akin to being trapped in a burning wooden house and deciding to set fire to the wall in an attempt to burn yourself a hole through which to escape.

It’s obviously not true

The article used three examples, one of which was Ben Elton’s allegedly awful new sitcom as an example of how men have fallen from grace as far as comedy is concerned. I can’t remember the other two, but they certainly weren’t examples of comedians in their prime. In fact, while mentioning popular comedienne Sarah Millican, you’d think the article would have mentioned some of the male stand ups working the circuit, such as Michael McIntyre, Eddie Izzard, Rhod Gilbert, Bill Bailey, Jimmy Carr and Dara O’ Briain.

I’m not going to bother doing an exhaustive list because there’s no point. Everyone has male comedians that they like. Saying men aren’t funny is so obviously untrue (rather like saying women aren’t funny), the writer may as well have said ‘Nobody’s driving cars anymore’.

It’s incredibly patronising

Even an article about how women are breaking the glass ceiling ended up being about men’s failure rather than women’s success. The article was meant to be saying ‘Look, see, women can be as funny (or more so) than men, they’ve just been held back by negative gender perceptions and misogyny in general’, but instead its main message was ‘See, now that men are crap, women can have a go!’

Sarah Millican (or insert the name of a comedienne you like, if you don’t like her) is no less funny as a woman because Rhod Gilbert (again, insert own comedian here) is a funny man. We don’t need to devalue Rhod Gilbert in order to make Sarah Millican better; she’s arrived on the scene, made a name for herself, and is now doing better than a lot of the male comics who turned up at the same time. Not because she’s a woman, just because she’s funny. Funny enough to break through the barriers.

The women aren’t taking over

It seems that every time one woman becomes successful in a male dominated field, the women are taking over. It’s used both as a hysterical cry for help by those who don’t like or value women, and simultaneously as a rousing battle cry by those on their side: look how far we’ve come, we’re taking over.

I can’t stand either of those attitudes. There are several books on the market at the moment, not to mention plenty of articles, about how women can do everything, and so men aren’t needed any more. Our time is up, etc etc. I can’t see the point in these. All they do is reinforce what the people who hold those views already think, and justify the fears of all the men who don’t want equality because they are secretly terrified that a woman will replace them. Society still holds masculinity up as an ideal that all men should strive for; being usurped by a woman is perceived (even by plenty of women, it must be said) to be incredibly emasculating. A book telling these types of men, who we really need to win around, that they are useless, isn’t going to help.

It’s patronising and it’s rubbish. The women aren’t taking over, they’re not going to, and society/the species/people in general needs both genders in order to function properly. We each balance out the flaws in the other.

Most women just want to be able to feel safe, not feel like their gender is a burden, be able to make their own choices, and get the same opportunities as men. They don’t want to rule the world, they just want to be.

If a woman gets a successful job, telling her ‘Well done, you’re leading the exodus’ is pointless. You might as well give her a reassuring slap on the ass and pin her CV to the fridge so everyone can see that you’re proud of it.


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Is it a problem that we all speak in absolutes?

There seems to be an awful lot of ‘vanilla’ conflict in the world. By that I mean people arguing (sometimes even coming to blows) over the most minor of occurrences, such as a difference of opinion, as opposed to people dying in horrible conditions and struggling to survive in war torn or disaster ravaged places.

I’ve just been reading some critics’ reviews of the sitcom Vicious, which premiered on ITV last night. It starred Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Derek Jacobi as an elderly gay couple, whose relationship has descended to the point of misery and bickering. Personally, I loved it. I thought it was very funny (although I found a few lines, such as McKellen’s opening ‘joke’ that were to comedy what a face punch is to a witty retort), and I enjoyed the fact that a show about a gay couple was given a primetime slot and so heavily promoted.

The critics from The Guardian and The Independent hated it. They were put off by what they were sure was canned laughter, thought the jokes were cheap and lacked intelligence, and that the two leads were very over the top. I can certainly agree that there was an element of theatre acting involved, with lots of wild gesticulation and projected voices, but I rather enjoyed that. The two characters were overly camp, but then again it’s a sitcom (for understated, the also excellent The Job Lot fitted the bill perfectly, and was shown directly after Vicious).

Anyway, the shows aren’t really important. It got me thinking about the way in which we voice our thoughts. The comments’ sections underneath both articles were full of people agreeing with the critic, but of course there were the inevitable arguments.

What was interesting about each of these disagreements was that they were started by someone stating their opinion as fact ‘Vicious wasn’t funny’, for example. Well, if the internet has taught us anything, it’s that everyone is entitled to their opinion, as long as their opinion is the same as yours.

We’re all very protective of our opinions, and of the things we like. What we like, love and hate are small examples of the person we are. They say something about us, and we’ve now skipped out a few logical steps on the bridge between someone having a different opinion to us and making a personal attack. If someone makes a comment that clashes with our own views, we must defend our honour, like medieval knights jousting to protect the honour of a woman who probably couldn’t care less about her honour what men thought her ‘honour’ actually was.

Could this be the case because most of us speak in absolutes? Comedies we don’t like ‘aren’t funny’, books we hated had ‘terrible plots’, your best friend’s gorilla is ‘the wrong colour’.

When you remove phrases such as ‘I think’, or ‘In my opinion’, you change the face value of the sentence. Your opinion is being stated as fact. And where people confuse opinion with fact, there are always going to be arguments and disagreements, because everyone has a different world view. It’s true of the world in general that some of the worst people in it are those who hate the fact that we are all individual.

So someone who comments on the review of Vicious and says ‘It was really funny’ is stating a fact, as are the people who said ‘It wasn’t funny in the slightest’. No wonder we argue about these things, because their syntax and lexicon suggests a fact. Clearly, you cannot categorise a sitcom as either ‘funny’ or ‘unfunny’ because there are bound to be some people who find it amusing. Humour is not a universal constant.

But do we need to preface everything with ‘I think’, or ‘In my opinion’? Would that not become overly tiring? Although, how much effort does it take to say ‘Thank you’, as an example. Still too much for some people, but for the polite amongst us, it’s automatic. Do we need to train ourselves up again to categorise our thoughts as mere opinions?

Or is the problem actually that we are losing the ability to read subtext? Once upon a time if someone made a comment such as ‘Vicious isn’t funny’, we all had the ability to deduce from the context that this was someone’s personal opinion. Now, however, we have a tendency not to bother. We take everything at face value, which is why people have to be warned that coffee is hot so they don’t burn themselves and then sue. People can’t be bothered to do that extra brain work.

Perhaps it’s not opinions we are fighting against, but simply the misinterpretation of statements as facts and not thoughts. If someone tells you a fact that you know is wrong, you will likely correct them. So when opinions become facts, they are going to be wrong for someone, who will then try and correct them. Then arguments ensue, and everyone marches off to get their death rays.

As a writer, it concerns me that the idea of subtext could be disappearing, that subtlety is being dropped in favour of blunt observation. A huge part of any art form is the things you don’t say, or don’t show.

If we keep on going at this rate, in another hundred years we’ll back be to just pointing at things we want, then hitting someone with a rock.


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3 shows that prove television doesn’t need to dumb down

There’s always an argument going on regarding the media. One of the many points of contention is that some people are concerned that television, books, newspapers and the like need ‘dumbing down’. For example, that newspapers should target their content at the person in their readership with the lowest reading level in order to be understood by all.

From somewhere, the media have this idea that everyone is arrogant, illogical, stupid and touchy. They think that if we see a word in a news piece or book that we don’t understand, we’ll sue everyone within five miles of the place where the book was printed for discrimination. I’ve said before that this world is one in which a misogynist could successfully sue his mother for being a woman; today the media are spending more time and effort on covering their asses than they are on making and writing quality products for us to consume.

The industry now thinks that if any of us reads a word that we don’t understand, we’ll throw down the book/turn off the television in a fit of rage, and presumably go out and do a graffiti, kill a policeman or just drag our Neanderthal knuckles along the floor as we lope around trying to find bananas or a tyre swing.

In reality, I think, most of us would just look up the meaning of the word. Most of us would think reaching for the dictionary is a floccinaucinihilipilification, not a massive insult to our intelligence. By the way, are you still reading, or eating a banana in your tyre swing? Just testing. And by the way I had to look that word up before I put it in. I’m not ashamed to admit it.

House, Bones and The Big Bang Theory are three great examples of why the average television viewer is much more capable of thought that than industry likes to believe.

All the series, medical drama House, crime drama Bones, and science comedy The Big Bang Theory are about very clever people with lots of specific knowledge, doing very technical things. They all feature a ton of terms and concepts that most people, unless they are trained doctors, forensic anthropologists, or experimental physicists, won’t have a clue about.

And the best thing about House, Bones and TBBT? They don’t really bother to explain it to you. They make sure you understand what’s happening, but if the characters use a word the audience doesn’t know, and doesn’t really need to in order to understand the story, they don’t bother stopping in order to do this:

Character 1: I don’t know, I can’t help thinking it’s just a floccinaucinihilipilification.

Character 2: What, you mean some people might think it’s trivial?

Character 1: As I said, a floccinaucinihilipilification.

Of course the difference is that most of the time, House and Bones are talking about medical things (I’m including Bones in this because, and feel free to disagree, I think death counts as a ‘medical thing’; if I was dying I’d much rather go to a hospital than a taxidermist), and TBBT about specific scientific terms. Floccinaucinihilipilification is just a long word that any idiot (like me) could find.

Also worth mentioning (in my mind) are the films of my favourite director, Christopher Nolan. His Batman trilogy, and Inception, Memento, and The Prestige, show that you can have intelligent action films. The Batman films and Inception feature both ‘thinky bits’ and explosions. I think Nolan’s Batman films explore on a much deeper level what being a hero is really about, and the toll it takes on a person. It’s much more than ‘Oh no, I’ve fallen into this magic acid. I should put a leotard on now and save people’, but each film still manages to have big action sequences as well as something for the audience to think about.

The Matrix proves this as well (thank God they didn’t make any other follow ups and wreck the whole thing). It’s packed full of references to art, literature, the Bible, etc. Every time you watch that film, you pick up on something else. It’s an incredible example of thoughtful and intelligent writing, yet still manages to feature incredible action scenes and things being blown up.

House, Bones and The Big Bang Theory all draw you in to an incredibly complex and technical world, in which, by the very premise of the shows, you are unlikely to know anything about. While we may not understand some of the direct scientific ideas and concepts that The Big Bang Theory often bases its jokes around, we know enough from their context in the surrounding sentences to infer the relative meaning and understand the gag.

These shows prove that audiences are fine with being bombarded by terms and ideas they don’t know or understand, and can still identify with characters who are much cleverer than they are.

I like fight scenes, I really do. And I like watching things blow up. It’s great. But I don’t want a film like Avatar that just goes ‘Look, pretty colours, things happening’. I want something that can astound me visually, but engage with me on a deeper level. I want to be provoked, I want to have to question, I want to need to discuss things afterwards with my friends because we’re all unsure of what we’ve just witnessed.

And I think the popularity of shows like House, Bones and The Big Bang Theory proves that, contrary to what some in the industry seem to believe, the people who like a little bit of brainwork with their entertainment aren’t the rare creatures they think them to be.


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