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PseudoSkeptic Alert – Fox’s new show “Fringe”

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on October 22, 2008

Now I am not a big fan of FOX, and I don’t turn to them for level headed journalism or reporting. Nevertheless, they did earn a tiny little bit of respect from me with “House“, one of my favorite shows. Even though I am sure it was not their intention to promote skepticism, and most likely they wanted to create a character which people loved for his medical genius, but hated for everything else, such as his rationality and atheism, I am still glad that at least we’re having some skeptical main characters that are being portrayed not quite completely as cynical, no-good, know-nothing, deny-everything, nay-sayers that most of the public thinks we are. You see at the end of the day House is always (almost) right. Even though he at times acts like a jerk, at the end his logic and rationality seem to prevail. That must have been unintended by the show’s producers. Either that or they were really slick how they presented the show when they first sold the idea to FOX.

Nevertheless, that tiny bit of respect has been, quite expectantly, completely lost with the introduction of the new show “Fringe“, as in fringe science, science too far advanced for most scientists, except a select few of course. In this show, Joshua Jackson plays what has to be the worst caricature of a skeptic I’ve seen in my few years on this planet (you see in my previous life there was no television!). He’s portrayed as everything the public thinks is wrong with skeptics, and in that regard this character will be accepted quite willingly by the public. He’s arrogant, always denying his father’s “science”, always saying this cannot work, that is not science, this is ridiculous etc etc. Which is all fine.

Nevertheless, in the show he’s always portrayed as being shown wrong. Episode after episode he keeps repeating the mantra that this particular idea can’t work, then he’s proven wrong by his genius father, just to come back next episode and start ridiculing his always right father all over again. Now to be fair, he never says that “I’m a skeptic and I don’t believe that”, but I think it’s quite clear who this person is supposed to be, just like his father is meant to represent the geniuses that are suppressed by big companies and the government who don’t want their revolutionary work to be know. Why, he could very well write one of those “Blah blah blah…they don’t want you to know” books.

Bottom line

Show is quite entertaining, I won’t deny that. But it does feed into the peoples imaginations and it reinforces wrong stereotypes about skeptics and science in general. If someone had made a show about catholic priests and showing them taking little boys in their rooms every episode, that show would have never made it in the air, unless HBO picked it up. Fringe is tantamount to that except that instead of the priests they have a skeptic and instead of the little boys, is rapes reality. Go watch “The Mentalist” instead (even though I haven’t seen anything beyond the pilot and I hope that they haven’t bastardized it or don’t plan to do so in the future)

2 Responses

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  1. Dawson said, on May 7, 2009 at 2:42 PM

    I’m afraid you don’t understand the show.

    Contrast Fringe with The X-files, which capitalized on pseudo-science the public actually believes in – flying saucers, government conspiracies, and so forth. It was dark, humorless, and appealed to a desire to see those beliefs brought to life in a serious manner.

    Fringe, on the other hand, riffs on modernized B-movie science fiction in a very comedic way. Dr. Bishop, the show’s most important character, is obviously inspired by the mad scientists of classic horror, like Dr. Frankenstein. The scenarios are blatantly absurd. (An episode I just watched, for instance, involved a video sent over the internet that would liquefy the brains of whomever watched it.) Dr. Bishop’s techno-babble explanations for them are often intentionally made humorous by the writers. To take Fringe seriously would be missing the point.

    • Skepdude said, on May 8, 2009 at 9:11 AM

      Nothing you’ve said goes against what my intial comments were, although I would argue with you on your statement that “Dr. Bishop’s techno-babble explanations for them are often intentionally made humorous by the writers” as I don’t see in what sense they are made humorous. The way I see it he’s always right which lends credence to the nonsense his character spews.

      As I said the show is entertaining, but my previous statements about it’s shortcomings stand.


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