Recent Find: The PBS Idea Channel

I know, I just recommended a new YouTube show on Monday, but I am having trouble getting past the outlining phase on anything else. Maybe because what I’d really like to be doing right now is watching the PBS Idea Channel.

I think that we found this one just on the YouTube home page, as a currently popular channel – I think the video on Frozen. What we found was a clever channel asking clever questions. Cleverly. For instance, on spoilers.

I love the way that a question is approached – I think in part, because it’s the sort of stuff we’re doing occasionally, in some of our more serious posts. Especially, it reminds me of some of the Wicked Problems we approach in posts like Science Fiction Today. Not presenting an answer, necessarily, but presenting the question pretty solidly.

I’m toying with how to do more Science Fiction Today, and I think that, between some of these videos and John Oliver’s new show, I have a place to turn for an outside explanation of the problems. Which could be a fun way to start the discussion. For instance, they both did videos on Net Neutrality, and we did some posts on that too.

But I really liked something small that came up in the video on Ms. Marvel. Oh, sorry, this video on Ms. Marvel:

He makes a point that, while we are trained to identify fictional characters and settings when we see them, we’re not necessarily trained or taught to spot fictional interpersonal relationships.

So that, perpetuating a stereotyped or non-existent relationship in fiction… you might make people believe that’s what’s “really going on.” In other words, everything you see on TV is wrong. Or it often feels that way. But then you’re like, maybe I just haven’t experienced that… or maybe, no, everything being presented is wrong.

Anyway, having seen that small, powerful point, we watched Anita Sarkeesian’s new video, and yeah, it’s kind of like that. Fictional interpersonal relationships, fictional representation of power dynamics… but are they being presented to make the world feel more “real” because it’s what we “expect” to see in those spaces?

As you can tell, these videos have really made me think after watching them, and, since that seems to be the point… well done, sir. Well done indeed!

I am slowly working my way through the video archives of the PBS Idea Channel – so tell me what you think in the comments below!

8 responses to “Recent Find: The PBS Idea Channel

  1. I’ve seen these videos around here and there but never actually delved into the channel… I’ll have to remedy that!


    • They’re so good! What’d you think of the Ms. Marvel video?


      • Very interesting — I loved that he mentioned the letters column, because that’s one of the highlights of every issue. That observation about not being told relationships and roles aren’t real was also kind of a lightbulb moment, that’s gonna be crazy useful in future conversations. I’m not entirely sure about what direction he was pointing in though — do we need representation because people aren’t told those relationships and ratios are fictional, so they need to be realistic since we can’t tell the difference? Or should we start telling people that relationships may be fictional? Probably a bit of both.


        • Maybe both. I’m not sure he necessarily points to answers in his videos, more just pointing to questions and problems.

          Glad you liked it 🙂


          • Oh yeah, I don’t know that he *should’ve* had a more definitive answer, it’s just interesting to think about. I wonder how life, especially as a nerd, would change if we had that kind of emphasis on fiction’s depiction of the “real world” not actually being real, the same way we always hear “You know superheroes aren’t real, right?”



          • We hear a lot more of “Super heroes aren’t real” and not nearly enough of “romantic comedies aren’t real” or “police procedurals aren’t real,” that’s for sure!

            But that’s the thing – genre stuff gets put into a box as the “fake” stuff, and the more real-world stuff is the “real” stuff. Even though it’s fiction, or, at its best, it’s how a writer (or a few writers) understand the world. And where there’s gaps in that knowledge, you get cliches and stereotypes and archetypes and reused elements!

            Kind of depressing to think about as a writer… or something to strive to do better at!


  2. Pingback: Three Types of Stories | Comparative Geeks

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