Philosophy and Pop Culture
Although it is commonly thought that Philosophy and Pop Culture have nothing to do with one another, this is a myth. A recent movement in academia has broken down the barrier between these two subjects like never before.
Philosophy is a heady and esoteric subject that has sometimes been accused of being too far removed from everyday life. So it is understandable that philosophy departments throughout North America (and to some extent Europe) have faced decreased student enrollment rates in recent years. During 2005, the CPA (Canadian Philosophical Association) and APA (American Philosophical Association) decided that, in order to renew interest in their dying subject, they would need to take drastic and decisive action. The lives of millions of potential budding philosophers were at stake. Moreover, many professors had recently become deeply self-conscious through the constant berating by students on Ratemyprofessor.com. Surely, they reasoned, they had become out of touch with The Youth(s).
Their first impulse was to create a series of publications that linked Pop Culture topics to philosophy. So, for instance, books titled "South Park and Philosophy" and "Jackass and Philosophy" rolled off the presses. Sadly, these efforts proved to be fruitless once it was understood that neither South Park nor Jackass were remotely interesting on the printed page. So, instead of bringing Pop Culture to Philosophy, the Associations began Project So-Crates, where they hired leading philosophers to take part in Pop Culture.
Sitcom: "That's Our Fodor"[edit | edit source]
Philosopher, cognitive scientist, and resident Rutgers University yuckster Jerry A. Fodor was put into the limelight as the central character of his own sitcom, "That's Our Fodor". While in character, Fodor played a down-and-out curmudgeonly and misunderstood salesman. One of the hallmarks of his character was a penchant for his making bizarre, unfounded claims, often jumping to hilarious conclusions. "Part of the delight of watching Fodor in his role," remarked critic Ramathy Tillemson on the then-unaired pilot, "is that he makes the rest of the characters feel intensely uncomfortable, but only gets away with it because of his disarming witty one-liners. It is quite natural to fall in love with that because it doesn't really happen in real life."
Noam Chomsky was a very special guest star on the show for the entirety of its two-season run. Chomsky played a recurring character: Fodor's mentor, a chain-smoking motorcycle-riding rebel straight out of hell! "Most of the plots revolved around Fodor's character hilariously twisting something that Chomsky's character says, and then taking it to unbelievable extremes," Tillemson wrote in his TV Guide review. "You know that show, 'Tom Goes to the Mayor'? Like that, except funny."
Two other recurring characters, the archetypal "nosy neighbors", were played by Paul and Patricia Churchland. Like all of the characters on "That's Our Fodor", they had their fantastic quirks. Perhaps the most memorable quirk was that, whenever they talked about the thoughts or feelings they were having, they would put their fingers up and pantomime scare quotes. Their eccentric behavior inevitably created all kinds of hilarious misunderstandings, as almost everyone mistook them for being sarcastic even when they weren't! For example, when the Churchlands found themselves the judges of the local church bake-off, Pat would say, "We "think" this cake is "great"!"
"The introduction of the Churchlands into the show was a great move on the producer's part," Tillemson explained. "Talk about rolling on the floor with laughter! They have me in stitches from the word ""Go""!!"
Kids Show: "Triangle Power"[edit | edit source]
Before his untimely death, Donald Davidson was recruited as a star in a Saturday morning children's show. During his tenure, Davidson played the role of a benevolent superhuman overlord (left). Davidson's character provided guidance and power to a group of misfit teenage action-heroes, the Massive Mutant Triangle Rangers. One of the bizarre quirks of his character was that he was oblivious to the fact that his head was floating and trapped in a vat.
For all its dazzling special effects, Triangle Power was formulaic and contrived. In every episode, the Triangle Rangers would use the power of triangulation to defeat a medley of monsters, no matter how unlikely the victory. "There was always a smell of Deus Ex Machina to the wins," noted the fan Jimbo Falzbergton. "But in this day and age, sometimes you just need to be able to cheer for somebody. I guess the Triangle Rangers fit the bill."
Perhaps the most beloved monster that the Rangers defeated was The Swampman, who showed up in the last season of the show. The monsters were invariably sent by the main antagonist (played by Richard Rorty, pictured right).
Institutional impacts[edit | edit source]
After the onslaught of philosophy in the mainstream, academia itself began to change in subtle ways. First, Wikipedia was officially recognized as the best "go-to" source for information. Second, first-year philosophy classes were replaced by repeating showings of films like "The Matrix". Third, and perhaps most importantly, Media and Cultural Studies became the flagship program in university curricula. Finally, marijuana became legalized on school campuses, and on many prominent campuses (Yale and Princeton, and eventually MIT), bong-smoking was deemed mandatory before exams. With these bold new movements afoot, the ranks of philosophy undergraduates swelled, and a crisis was solved.
Critical reception[edit | edit source]
The move was not without its critics, however. Entrenched ivory tower intellectuals were in an uproar. In an interview with Magesterium Magazine at a Gentleman's Club, the monocled professor of Epistemology at Cornell University, Bernard S. Teakettle, said:
"...Huff huff huff. This whole droll endeavor [Project So-Crates] was concocted by fancy and fancy alone. People now are stupider than they ever were. Just examine, if you will, the inchoate sermons of my first-year studentry. It is what it is!" These words were followed by muffled agreement. "Now see here. My position as professor is entirely vacuous and without any merit whatever. My curriculum could be reduced down to a few slogans, and so my lectures are mostly fluff. Everything you need to know about epistemology could be summarized in a powerpoint presentation. So I get by through pomp and pomp alone. So what have I to say when my tenured position is being replaced by the watching of films?" He blinked profusely, sticking his tongue out to wet his lips every other second, reminding this reporter of a snake.
His colleagues were eager to agree. "I'm a women's studies professor and teacher of invitational rhetoric," said the only woman in the room, sitting meekly in the back. "My job is basically to teach young women how to be good liberals. But the media is already so liberal that it makes my job obsolete."
When this reporter asked whether or not the cause of increasing alienation of the youth from intellectuals might have something to do with an underfunded public school system that inadequately prepared the students to make the transition to professional life, the link between the underfunded school system and its ensuing sense of anxious gangsterism, a relaxation of incoming student inhibitions (corresponding to the prolongation of youth associated with an age-tiered economy) that are necessary for scholarly discipline, the increased credentialization of the value of education (corresponding to the rise of bureaucratization of the workforce due to corporatization and outsourcing) leading to a decreased emphasis upon learning meaningful skill-sets, and the crass demonization of education by moral entrepreneurs on talk radio, there was little agreement.
"Those are nice stories to tell, but who's to say?" said Teakettle. "Stop overthinking things! The fact is that not even the bell curve can save this new crop from getting gonged out!" The room exploded into a thunderclap of brief and well-measured guffaws.
References[edit | edit source]
- Tillemson, Ramathy. "Philosophy is Phun Phor All!" TV Guide.
- Falzbergton, Jimbo. "Our Children are Beautiful Butterflies." 
- Sizzleton, Rigel. "Interviews and Prospects in the Forecoming Future: Re-examining a Postneomodern Crisis." Magesterium Magazine.