Mental Health Champions Changing the Coversation

MMHM Patrick Kennedy PicAs you may already be aware, May was Mental Health Awareness Month and to keep the celebration of changing the conversation going, EIC is honoring a few superstars who are working hard to increase awareness and understanding surrounding mental health. The efforts of these, and others, whom we will profile over the coming weeks, will change the conversation and promote acceptance for individuals living with Mental Health Challenges. Each of these individuals has been affected differently by these issues and is taking a stand to rally everyone when it comes to awareness. Read on to learn their stories and join the conversation by tweeting @TEAMUP using #MentalHealth.

What this superstar is doing:

Patrick Kennedy is co-founder of One Mind for Research. This independent, non-profit organization, is working towards a national scientific campaign to understand brain disorders and to reduce suffering and burden on the U.S. economy before the decade is out by reducing stigma, promoting new research, and establishing standards of fair treatment for those living with these conditions.

As stated on their website, “By changing the way scientists, health care professionals, NGO and government partners think about and conduct scientific and translational research, One Mind – which has been called a “moonshot to the mind” – has presented the challenge to Americans to come together to create a unified effort to advance mental health-related public policy within ten years’ time.”

How you can engage:

Accurate and entertaining storytelling about mental health is a key component of changing attitudes and behaviors. I strongly believe that mental and physical health is interconnected. When you put these issues into content and programming, we are able to reach people with this valuable information in a comfortable, but personal way. I encourage you to support mental health awareness by teaming up with us @TEAMUP on twitter.

Posted by Skylar on Tuesday, June 4th, 2013 at 7:32 pm under PRISM Awards. Follow responses through the RSS 2.0 feed.

Inspiring Future Innovators Through Entertainment and News Media

This month is high tech month and EIC is proud to join in the celebration by Spotlighting a young lady who recently won the National Center for Women in Technology (NCWIT) Award for Aspirations in Computing. Allison Collier fell in love with computer science during her first C++ class and has followed her passion ever since. Now, a senior at Massaponax High School in Fredericksburg, VA, she has also been engaged in EIC activities to inspire the next generation of creative problem solvers and innovators. We sat down with Allison to talk about her award, her love of technology, and why she thinks the media can play a key role in inspiring more young people to get involved!

Brian: Tell us a little bit about how it felt to win this prestigious award?

Allison: “When I read the email I literally fell out of my chair. It was such a surprise for me! I honestly did not think that I would even be considered because there are so many other girls out there working on extraordinary projects. For me to have been picked out of 1800 applicants makes me feel extremely honored and humbled.”

Brian: What first inspired your interest in technology?

Allison: “When I was a little kid, I was really into playing games on my computer like Freddi the Fish, Math Blaster, and Nancy Drew and I was always interested in figuring out how in the world the computer could actually display the games. Was it magic? Were there little people inside of the computer running all of the programs? I wanted to know exactly how computers functioned.”

Brian: What do you think holds students back from taking an interest in science, engineering, technology and math, like you did?

Allison: “I think each field has a different problem. Many students automatically have a stigma against mathematics and science because it can be extremely challenging at times. When it comes to engineering, many students automatically jump to thinking about trains because they don’t know anything about it. As for technology, I think students are more interested in using it than creating it because they don’t understand the level of creativity and amount of imagination it takes to build a program or to craft a piece of hardware. They just assume they’ll spend their days endlessly typing on a keyboard and staring at a computer screen.”

Brian: What would you say to someone that thinks that science, technology, and/or math is too hard or uninteresting?

Allison: “To those who think that science, technology, and math are uninteresting, try all of it first, and then decide. It’s never a good thing to discredit the whole field of technology just because one aspect of it may be boring to you. For those who think that science, technology, and math are too hard, don’t go down without a fight! There are going to be times in science, technology, and math when you can’t figure out an equation or maybe a program just won’t compile and you can’t seem to figure out what’s wrong with it, but don’t give up. Stay after school with teachers to get extra help if you don’t understand something or ask a friend or a parent for assistance. There are plenty of people out there that would be happy to help you succeed.”

Brian: Are there still stereotypes surrounding kids who are into science, engineering and technology? What do they mean to you?

Allison: “Yes! There are tons of stereotypes! Most of them revolve around the assumption that students who are into [science, technology, engineering and math] have no lives, spend all of their time on the internet, and have horrible physical appearances and that simply isn’t the case. In my AP Java class, we have a variety of people spanning different colors, sizes, backgrounds, genders, and interests. We have basketball, soccer, softball, and tennis players, violinists, singers, National Honors Society, Spanish Club, DECA and FBLA club members etc. Even the stereotype that there are no women taking STEM courses is becoming irrelevant considering that last year there were no women taking AP Java at my school and this year there are four of us.”

Brian: How do you think the media can get more involved in promoting science, engineering, technology and math to younger generations? What types of role models can help to get kids involved?

Allison: “I think the media should make actors and actresses that portray people working in [these fields] more relatable. As kids and teenagers grow up, we look for people and stories that we can identify with-something that can show us what we have the potential to become. Most of us are concerned with fitting in and, in the media, typically people interested in [science, technology, engineering and math] don’t tend to do that very well. I think role models that are shown to be competent in their field of interest and are shown hanging out with their friends and going on neat adventures are going to help kids get involved more. They don’t have to be popular, but I don’t think that the other extreme is a good route either.”

Now, with Allison’s comments in mind, we must ask ourselves: How do we reach future generations? What steps must we, as entertainment and news media, take to inform and inspire a 9-year-old outside of the classroom? How can we bring the schoolhouse lessons of 4th grade real-world context through accurate depictions and storytelling? How can we create multi-generational influence, extending from grandparent, to parent and on, and learning to encourage the pursuit of these important fields? I look forward to hearing your thoughts and answers. Leave them as comments on this blog and get the discussion started so we, as influencers of attitude and behavior, can work together to change the future of innovation.

Posted by Skylar on Tuesday, January 15th, 2013 at 10:00 am under PRISM Awards. Follow responses through the RSS 2.0 feed.

Happy Holidays! Highlights from 2012

By: Brian Dyak

What a great year of progress, growth and impact! In 2012, EIC has utilized the power and influence of our industry to inform audiences about important health and social issues and communicate, in many instances life changing information. We are especially grateful to over 200, (yes over 200) advisors, consultants, experts, executives, writers, producers, directors, actors, and volunteers who rolled up their sleeves to work with us to reinforce the spirit of the ART of making a difference. All of you are the magic of our success to creatively engage our industry to serve others. We greatly appreciate the over 4500 people who directly attended our forums and special awards programs and other activities we participated in, taking time to learn more about the ways the entertainment industry proactively influences our popular culture for the good of society and the future. I’m pleased to share with you some highlights from the year!

 

Our efforts to promote Science, Engineering and Technology to audiences through our Ready on the S.E.T. and… ACTION! initiative, including a special forum with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and key entertainment organizations, put in motion a special emphasis on girls and women in these fields. We also experienced phenomenal growth in allied relationships with other industries and support from The Boeing Company, Lockheed Martin, aero-engine maker Rolls Royce, Northup Grumman, National Science Foundation, NASA, and media partner US News & World Report that value the entertainment industry as a key resource to spread the word and positively influence attitudes and behaviors. The 2nd Annual S.E.T. Awards was a smashing success with the likes of Bill Nye the Science Guy, Shia LaBeouf, Dolph Lundgren (our chemical engineer in residence), Bob Gurr (legendary Disney theme park ride designer), directors Alex Singer and Michael Bay, performer Sarah Brightman and a host of others as recipients and presenters. The crowd doubled and we were excited to share the event with over 50 students aspiring to be our next generation of scientists, engineers and technologists who taught us a few things through their really dynamic exhibits.

 

EIC’s PRISM Awards celebrated 16 years of the ART of making a difference by honoring accurate portrayals of mental health and substance abuse in television, movies, and comic book entertainment. The PRISM TV Showcase has enjoyed broader distribution than any other year due to our partnership with FX, cable carriers, cable networks, broadcasters, and a strong “on demand” presence. Again we were able to hit key demographics from MTV to Retirement Living. In fact, the show will continue to be available to the public through spring 2013…so if you haven’t seen it yet, you still have a chance to catch Dr. Drew as our host presenting powerful entertainment from the networks, and studios.

 

We have also been fortunate to partner with media and mental health organizations to promote Mental Health Stigma and Discrimination Reduction through our TEAM Up project with support from the California Mental Health Services Administration (CalMHSA) funded by Proposition 63. We continue to be excited about our launch of a powerful Picture This Forum with Univision directly targeting Spanish language audiences, through entertainment programming and journalism. EIC also partnered with the Staunton Farm Foundation to further establish an adaptation of the PRISM model to increase awareness about mental health services in Southwestern Pennsylvania and this year host our 2nd Annual Media and Mental Health Awards, that included a special evening with U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin, honoring excellence in broadcasting and print journalism. We even produced a groundbreaking local production of the PRISM Awards with special local experts and local airing on suicide prevention, bullying and returning veterans. We rounded out our 2012 work in Pittsburg with a unique forum on the needs of returning veterans, their community reintegration, health needs and support for their employment with the U.S. Dept. of Labor VETs program also geared to how the local media can accurately report on returning veteran concerns and build community support.

 

On the veteran front we are very proud of our work with Veteran Affairs to produce a Picture This forum that presented real stories and depiction briefing for writers. The writer’s resource publication created has been widely distributed to the creative community and has received wonderful accolades. Our First Draft services gained momentum on numerous topics and our work in Diabetes racked up literally tens of millions of exposures nationally on television and through special placement in Times Square, CenturyLink field (home of the Seattle Seahawks), and Walmart.

 

There is even more on the website. I just wanted to share with you some highlights that made 2012 an exemplary year for the entertainment industry making a difference in the lives of our audiences and the public. Again have a wonderful holiday, enjoy family and friends and Happy New Year.

Posted by Skylar on Tuesday, December 18th, 2012 at 10:00 am under PRISM Awards. Follow responses through the RSS 2.0 feed.

HIV and AIDS: A Timely and Necessary Discussion

By: Brian Dyak

The HIV and AIDS conversation is often a difficult one to have, but necessary. Now is a good time to remind people that June 27this National HIV Testing Day.

The prevalence of HIV and AIDS in the disabled community is, basically, left out of the mainstream discussion of the disease.  Obviously, when the scope of analysis of such a critical disease has blind spots, there is a problem.  In this particular incident, the problem can truly be solved with the direct help of the entertainment media industry and its partners.

There are two basic causes for the disabled community being left out of the HIV and AIDS discussion.  First, there is a lack of specific data relating to the prevalence in this population.  Second, generally, it is assumed that the disabled community is sexually inactive.  Ultimately, this is a cyclical issue in many ways.  There is a lack of specific research because there is no awareness of the problem, and there is no awareness because scientific research has yet to shed light on the issues.  Furthermore, traditional proliferation of information regarding HIV and AIDS is often ineffective at reaching this audience.  For example, the blind cannot read brochures, the deaf cannot hear radio PSAs, and mentally disabled people may misunderstand vague metaphors often used in discussing sexually transmitted infections.  Similarly, it is a simple lack of awareness resulting in the assumption that disabled people are sexually inactive.  (Sidenote: Some studies even suggest this is true for transmission via intravenous drug use, too.  The disabled community is just as likely to have drug abusers.)

These two causes manifest into one major effect:  Inadequate education of HIV and AIDS.  Obviously, the lack of research and attention in this field means that the scope of HIV and AIDS has blind spots, which carry through into the education of the disease.  Additionally, this problematizes the education of the disabled community.  When the overall assumption is that disabled persons are sexually inactive, they remain uneducated about simple safe sex practices.  It’s that simple.

And this is where we come in.  The entertainment media industry can break the cycle by raising awareness of the issue.  This will have amazing repercussions in scientific fields of study, help educate both disabled and nondisabled people, and even combat sexual stigmas of this large population.  By attacking this issue on multiple media fronts, we can spread this message.  Besides, is this a character you’ve seen on television yet?

Creative storytelling can engage the heart, soul, and mind. I encourage an eye to reaching all people through some level of communication…radio and TV would be a great start.

Posted by Skylar on Friday, June 1st, 2012 at 9:00 am under PRISM Awards. Follow responses through the RSS 2.0 feed.

PRISM Presents a Special Tribute to Veterans

By: Brian Dyak

The 16th Annual PRISM Awards will present a special tribute to salute our veterans. For the past 16 years, the PRISM Awards have recognized depictions of substance use and metal health concerns that are not only entertaining, but also accurate and able to reach and inform vast audiences. In recent years, the PRISM Awards have seen a steady increase in the number of story

lines involving active and returning service members, often facing significant difficulties ranging from physical rehabilitation to reintegration in the workplace and treatment for concerns like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Some of those production writers and actors have gone above and beyond to craft informative characters with which our veterans can identify and, in some cases, even be encouraged to take control of their situations.

A significant number of 2012 PRISM nominees related to health topics and the military, so it seems like the perfect opportunity for the PRISM Awards to pay tribute to our veterans. We are excited to not only thank them for protecting our creative freedom, but also let them know we stand by them as they move forward in their personal and professional lives as civilians.

To honor their bravery and further encourage the creative community to focus on accurate portrayals that reinforce the need to support our veterans, throughout the Beverly Hills Hotel, on April 19th, 2012, we will display signs and banners representing each of the branches of the armed forces to honor the service and memory of these outstanding men and women. We will make this a concerted theme throughout the evening, starting with a Military Honor Guard posting the flag followed by video of the Golden Knights team skydiving with a PRISM Awards banner that will be presented on stage by our first celebrity guest who will then introduce the theme for the evening.

A number of celebrities in the room who have served will present awards during the evening, and their service will be part of their introduction as they take the stage. Confirmed attendees include Jon Huertas of “Castle”who served in the Special Forces for 3 years, becoming a veteran of three conflicts including the first Gulf War. He’s a member on the board of the non-profit Puppies Behind Bars, a program in which prison inmates train service dogs to help returning veterans suffering from PTSD and other ailments.

Some of the veteran celebrities, before presenting awards, will talk about our returning veterans and the importance of reintegrating them back into civilian life – helping them to face the challenges of finding homes, learning new professions, finding jobs, healing from both the physical and psychological wounds of their service and assuring them that we stand with them for the long haul of returning to their dreams and aspirations.

In our interview rooms for the PRISM Awards Showcase TV special, celebrities who have served will each be asked a question regarding the military and these sound bites will be used to craft a tribute to our veterans for the TV show. The show will air in September on FX Network, and a myriad of other national cable outlets plus be provided to local stations for airing after the cable premiere. The PRISM Awards Showcase TV special will also be available on demand by some of the airing partners for an extended period of time.

This year’s PRISM Awards provides us with a unique opportunity celebrate our veterans, and EIC encourages the creative community to keep honoring our veterans with accurate, appropriate, entertaining and beneficial portrayals in 2012 and beyond!

Posted by Skylar on Thursday, April 19th, 2012 at 12:00 pm under PRISM Awards. Follow responses through the RSS 2.0 feed.

Let the Countdown to PRISM Begin!

By: Brian Dyak

As we approach The PRSIM Awards 16TH anniversary, we are reminded of the importance of encouraging the accurate depiction of health issues through one of the strongest communicators: media. Actors, films, and TV shows are honored for accurately depicting addiction: prevention, treatment and recovery from drug, alcohol and tobacco use, and mental health concerns.

Accurate portrayals of substance use and mental health through entertainment and creativity deliver the truth about these critical health issues to a wide audience in an entertaining and compelling way that can, often, encourage viewers to take control of their own situations.  In essence, they are entertaining a difference in our communities. We at the Entertainment Industries Council, refer to this as “Celebrating the ART of Making a Difference!” which is what PRISM is all about.

We are proud to congratulate this year’s performance award winners including Craig T. Nelson (Parenthood), Caterina Scorsone (Private Practice), Jon Huertas and Stana Katic (Castle), Emily Osment (Cyberbully), William H. Macy (Shameless) and Jennifer Morrison (Bringing Ashley Home).   Whether it is Stana Katic’s portrayal of Post Traumatic Disorder in Castle or the true-to-life addiction circumstances of Amelia Shepherd played by Caterina Scorsone in Private Practice, the chilling portrayals of alcoholism by William H. Macy in Shameless or the all-to-real effects of teen violence portrayed by Emily Osment in Cyberbully, these actors have displayed unparalleled courage and authenticity, earning them the highest performance honors. Performance awards will be given on April 19,2012 at The Beverly Hills Hotel where winners for outstanding productions will be announced.

Stay tuned to find out which of your favorite stars are winning a PRISM Award this year!

Posted by Skylar on Wednesday, April 18th, 2012 at 7:11 pm under PRISM Awards. Follow responses through the RSS 2.0 feed.

Fashion: The Art of Science & Engineering

By: Brian Dyak

Picture This: You as Iron Man’s Tony Stark – complete with Arc Reactor glowing as you walk down the street with your best buddy sporting an interactive t-shirt that locates a WiFi signal for you. It’s not science fiction anymore.

Although we do not normally associate fashion with science, engineering, and technology (SET), the two seemingly separate entities have always been linked. From the basic development of garments to the creative, often high-tech finesse designers add to clothing and accessories, science, engineering and technology contribute heavily to the clothes we wear. For example, scientific research forced fiber-forming materials into synthetic threads, creating many new options for designers and manufacturers: SpandexTM, nylon, polyester, Gore-Tex ®. Technology can also be credited with streamlining mass production of the collectible fan merchandise that drives viewers to sites dedicated to their favorite productions and characters.

We now live in a world where we can decide if garments properly fit using computer modeling and virtual dressing rooms. Designers strive to produce aesthetically pleasing and original garments “engineering” their visions. As an extreme example, European fashion designer Hussein Chalayan merges fashion and technology using materials most of us would not consider “wearable”. He has designed apparel that also functions as furniture, a series of laser LED dresses, and a dress made from aircraft construction materials capable of changing shape via remote control. Not surprisingly, Chalayan has worked with Lady Gaga, notably her egg costume for the 2011 Grammy Awards and famed bubble dress. Extensive technological and engineering skills proved essential in successfully “launching” such extreme fashion.

Other designers are using “green science.” “Green” clothing includes fabric that’s biodegradable, organic, sustainable (cotton, hemp, Tencel®), or recycled into new apparel or jewelry. Stella McCartney, for example, uses vegan-friendly materials. Patagonia recycles plastic bottles into its polar fleece jackets and pullovers.

Credit: AP

As the line between fashion and science, engineering and technology begins to blur, we can transform stereotypes of scientists as prime fodder for the fashion police to collaborators in expanding the scope and originality of haute couture on and off the preverbal set to encourage more students to learn about SET careers. More importantly, as “extreme” entertainers such as Lady Gaga push the limits of what constitutes clothing (and, arguably, artistic expression), the entertainment industry can highlight and explain to audiences the how and why behind these bold endeavors. After all, wouldn’t we all love to learn how Lady Gaga’s infamous meat dress was designed and, well, “preserved”, so as not to –literally- create a stink? Let your imagination and fashion desires be your guide!

Log on for more information on the Ready on the S.E.T. and…Action! Initiative surrounding Science, Engineering and Technology!

Posted by Skylar on Thursday, March 29th, 2012 at 9:17 pm under S.E.T.. Follow responses through the RSS 2.0 feed.

Ads and Kids…A Weighty Discussion

by Brian Dyak

A study by the Kaiser Family Foundation seems to confirm a long-standing suspicion of many parents:  Many food ads aimed at children are heavily weighted (pun intended) to calorie dense, nutrient poor snack foods, cereals, candies, sodas, and fast foods.  In fact, the researchers for the study of nearly 9000 food ads on child-centric channels say they found NO promotion of fruits, vegetables, and poultry.  What’s more, up to 16% of these food advertisements reportedly utilized celebrities and cartoon characters in their promotions. Of course, this is only one study. Indeed, many have pointed to the collaboration between children’s movies and fast-food toys, or special edition food packaging, but on the other end of the spectrum, many members of the creative community are working hard to encourage kids to “Play 60” and “Pass the Plate” towards healthy alternatives.

Researchers say the average child sees 1 PSA promoting healthy eating or physical activity for every 26-130 of food advertising.  Not surprisingly, then, children and teens tend to retain the messaging in food advertisements which, according to the National Institute of Health’s Institute of Medicine (IOM), significantly influence their food choices and purchasing behaviors.  What’s more, repeated exposure to ads for unhealthy foods is said to be associated with increased rates of obesity in U.S. children and teens.

Fortunately, key players in advertising and members of the entertainment community are stepping up to the (dinner) plate.  The ten top food industries have initiated the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, pledging to devote at least 50% of their advertisements to healthier foods.  Additionally, celebrity and cartoon endorsements and packaging are leaning toward healthier fare, such as baby carrots and whole grain foods.  Indeed, on occasion baby carrots with Sponge Bob or Dora the Explorer have ended up in the fridge.

Cartoon characters and celebrities can play a crucial role in changing eating and health behaviors. Let’s face it,  their involvement does one absolutely essential thing….they attract the audience’s attention.   A study funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation noted that the food industry spends approximately $208 million annually on character licensing.  The same study demonstrated that children are significantly more likely to choose foods – even healthy foods – with cartoon characters appearing on the packaging, compared to the same foods without the image of popular characters.

Simply put, cartoon characters and popular children’s characters can go a long way to helping our children make healthy eating choices.  It is a service to our audience, as members of the vitally influential entertainment industry, that we support and encourage healthier licensing initiatives, and incorporate the importance of healthy food choices and physical activity into the story lines of popular children’s entertainment.

Eat well and Be well!

Posted by Skylar on Friday, February 3rd, 2012 at 10:28 pm under Diabetes. Follow responses through the RSS 2.0 feed.

Salute to our Returning Heroes

By Brian Dyak

Today’s news is tomorrow’s future.  NEWS FLASH – THE WAR IS OVER! American flags waving in the breeze, troops reuniting with families, children holding posters, and teddy bears standing on the air strips. As our troops return from overseas, we’re flooded with emotions. Many are proud and grateful for their service to our country, yet we are legitimately concerned for them, their families, and their children.  We have so much to be thankful for as their service to our country protects the freedoms we have been so accustomed to; creative freedom is at the top of the list. Our industry is indebted to these brave men and women who have given so much.

Hollywood rallied to sell war bonds during WW II. We must again rally to not let military service go unrecognized or silent. Stories and characters about our military and veterans will abound in the coming months. Our accuracy to present creative treatments of their bravery, their “real life” challenges related to housing, jobs, education, mental and physical health should be real and motivational so all can truly support and appreciate their service to our country.

Uniquely, some Hollywood headway has been made with treatment of important topics. For instance, consider Kevin McKidd’s (Grey’s Anatomy) character, Dr. Hunt, who was able to foster the understanding of millions of Americans about a very real threat to our military men and women. Not only could the country identify with him as a character on our television screen, but suddenly, Dr. Hunt became the face of our loved ones fighting for our safety and sacrificing their personal health and well-being for our own security. McKidd’s performance as Dr. Hunt returning from the Middle East, suffering from severe PTSD, previously earned him the PRISM Award for “Performance in a Drama Series Multi-Episode Storyline” for his authentic portrayal. Currently, Kevin continues to support veteran mental health and other veteran issues affecting their return to our communities.

Kevin McKidd is not the only actor working to bring accurate portrayals to the small screen: actor Jon Huertas is a Veteran of the U.S. Air Force and active supporter of the Wounded Warriors Project. Many of his well-known television and movie credits also feature characters with Armed Forces experience. He’s played a Marine Recon Sniper Spotter in JAG; Recon Marine Sergeant in Generation Kill; Homicide NYPD Detective, Javier Esposito, in Castle; retired Marine Sergeant, Jack Kale, in NCIS; among others. It was a real eye-opener to have him moderate our recent Veteran Mental Health Challenges For Storytellers: A First Draft Creative Briefing in Los Angeles, held at the Writers Guild.  We learned about personal stories and the challenges many veterans face when they return from a theatre of war. We heard generational perspectives from the Vietnam War, Gulf War, and the recent Iraq War. Hopefully these perspectives can serve to inform future entertainment stories.

With this being said, let’s be mindful of the fact that the majority of our returning soldiers are adjusting to life smoothly. Our dedication to accurate depictions should not lead us to over- or under-diagnose. It is important to emphasize that, despite the serious nature of integration to civilian life, every service man and woman is not destined to experience posttraumatic stress.

When creatively taking on the issue, I encourage the creative community to ask: Is my portrayal of an individual creating a stereotype about our armed forces members? Am I contributing to the harmful nature of stigma? Can I do better and not compromise my creative integrity? These accurate portrayals within storytelling add a dimension of truth and ultimately bring genuine information to our communities. Ask yourself: Can I tell these stories in a way that can provide our heroes with the respect they deserve? Can I better serve those who have served us?

Posted by Skylar on Friday, January 20th, 2012 at 8:53 pm under Mental Health. Follow responses through the RSS 2.0 feed.

BIG BANG THEORY…ASSET OR LIABILITY?

By Brian Dyak

As we roll out our “Ready on the SET…ACTION!” campaign to encourage youth to explore education and career paths in science, engineering and technology (SET), I keep running into science, engineering and technology professionals who either despise the hit CBS show Big Bang Theory or, alternatively, are devoted aficionados. This begs the question; does the hit television show The Big Bang Theory act as a liability for the science, engineering, and technology fields?

One might easily criticize the program perpetuating stereotypes associated with science nerds, but this may constitute an unfair generalization. In fact, while the Big Bang characters are not the most well-rounded individuals, they more than compensate for their lack of social and athletic skills with their pure, unadulterated love of science and engineering.

Granted, the screenwriters do not paint the physicists, the mechanical engineer, and the astrophysicist in the most flattering shade of “nerd”. Howard (the mechanical engineer) shares an apartment with his mother.  Sheldon (one of the two physicists) seems incapable of bonding with another human being, preferring to play “Klingon Boggle” until early hours of the day or hole himself in his room studying the minutia of string theory.

So yes, the writers and producers do allow for a bit of unique character development. Many first-time viewers will realize that these characters are pretty normal or, dare one say it, kind of cool. Leonard has dated the beautiful blonde aspiring actress who lives next door, and Howard has designed a satellite that is currently orbiting one of Jupiter’s moons and taking high-resolution photos. These situations are far from “lame.”

More importantly, however, than Big Bang Theory‘s endearing characters and storyline, the show prominently places these careers on the television screen, successfully weaving the themes of math and science throughout thirty minutes of mainstream, primetime programming every week and now in successful re-runs. It is inarguably unique to see a network successfully commit airtime to characters discussing theoretical physics, or the intricacies of engineering.  Howard and his peers flaunt their degrees like keys to an exclusive, members-only nightclub, and that’s part of what makes this show so special.  This show glamorizes education – particularly science, engineering, technology and mathematics education – in a quirky and enjoyable manner.  There is nothing wrong with reaching millions – yes, millions – of viewers, to the intricacies and beauty of science and technology.

By taking these idiosyncratic characters and portraying them in rather hilarious situations, this program keeps science and math on the radar “screen” while still engendering interest in its characters. Viewers grow to love Howard, Leonard, and Raj.  Although Sheldon remains an enigma of sorts, we can’t help but feel affection for him as well. These characters demonstrate a dedication to mathematical formulas and metaphysical theorems that most reserve for their firstborn or soul mate. It’s refreshing to see so much love and respect for math and science in a program that still makes us laugh.

Let’s face it the beauty of entertainment is that quality is in the eye of the beholder. The late actor John Spencer once stated in his acceptance at the PRISM Awards, “It is wonderful when a show can also inform or educate, that is the icing on the cake!” Big Bang Theory, in its own quirky way, may be the sugar coating that subtly informs the viewer. As such, could it be that this show is an asset to the fields of science, engineering, and technology?

Posted by Skylar on Friday, October 28th, 2011 at 9:23 pm under PRISM Awards. Follow responses through the RSS 2.0 feed.