The Sixth Corridor: The Contextualization of the TV Series Cosmos “A Spacetime Odyssey“

Authors

  • Milan Tomašević The Institute of Ethnography SASA, Belgrade, Serbia

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.21301/eap.v17i1.2

Keywords:

popular science, hegemony, formula, Cosmos, culture war, climate change, creationism

Abstract

The paper provides a framework for understanding the role of popular science in the sphere of the culture war currently being waged in the USA, and also in other places in the West. It focuses on the instrumentalization of the TV series Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey and a reading of the cultural political messages woven into this narrative. It first describes the development of popular science as a means of establishing a modernist worldview which, through popular literature, but above all through TV series, has become an integral part of the upbringing of numerous generations in the West. It points out a number of useful, but also deeply problematic aspects of using popular science in education, and underlines its inherent ambivalences. Particular attention has been paid to the mechanism by which popular science takes on the character of an instrument bringing audiences closer to relevant knowledge akin to truth. In this context the concepts of media, television, genre and formula are described, as means by which popular science is established as the vehicle for a very specific worldview. In this way, the deconstruction of the narrative pattern of the Cosmos series, created by Ann Druyan, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Seth MacFarlane, has been prepared. The key conventions of the series are highlighted, e.g. the specific way of presenting facts, the significant use of special effects, or the presence of speculations about the future, and the inventions of narratives such as the Ship of the Imagination, the Cosmic Calendar or the Halls of Extinction. All this has been done in order to show the utility value of popular science narratives in the context of the culture war that has been waged in the US for decades by, roughly speaking, proponents of liberal humanism versus conservative fundamentalists. Particular attention has been paid to defining the concepts of cultural war and hegemony, as key to understanding long-standing tensions and conflicts between creationists and humanists in the US. The paper shows how the authors and producers of the series consciously engaged in criticism of the creationist refusal to accept a series of facts relating to the process of global warming. At the same time, it looks at criticism of the series from the creationist perspective. An analysis of the culture war shows that scientific topics have been instrumentalized and suggests their profound value for every sociocultural context. The paper looks at the reading of political messages into a popular science narrative, and highlights the importance and value, but also the danger of such acts. The concluding section stresses the fact that the series Cosmos supports a certain way of thinking about the world around us, and emphasizes its utility value in promoting a specific liberal progressivist worldview.

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Published

2022-04-01

How to Cite

Tomašević, Milan. 2022. “The Sixth Corridor: The Contextualization of the TV Series Cosmos “A Spacetime Odyssey“”. Etnoantropološki Problemi / Issues in Ethnology and Anthropology 17 (1):55–90. https://doi.org/10.21301/eap.v17i1.2.