Friday, October 26, 2007

The Bionic Woman Meets James Joyce

I'm taking a brief respite (or am I giving my readers a brief respite?) from my reviews of past postings to ask an important mass cultural question. In considering this question, I don't mean to give the impression that I watch this particular television program, or any television other than public broadcasting for that matter.

On this week's Bionic Woman, Jaime Sommers attended "Stanwich College" in order to track down a dealer in "neuro control" chips. Jaime pretended to be a neuroscience major, because, after all, anyone can fake expertise in a complex field like neuroscience if they just read a book or two. But that’s not really what bothered me, after all, even Jaime pointed out the impossibility of this.

Jaime’s dorm roommate, a "science expert," is having a problem writing a paper about James Joyce's short story "The Dead." "Oh, that's easy," Jaime says. Then, explaining what's going on in the story, Jaime continues, "Joyce was saying that the dead are all around us and we can't escape them. Almost exactly the opposite of his book, Ulysses, which is all about life and sex and humor." Say what?

The girls agreed to swap homework assignments to play to their strengths. This is okay because Jaime works for a top secret government agency that has her do things a lot worse than cheat on college work. What I want to know though is if anyone besides me disturbed by the fact that the bionic woman wants to be a Joyce scholar? (Disclaimer: I majored in English Literature in college with a concentration in Herman Melville and a minor in Joyce. My senior paper, "Melville's Quarrel With God," still has them rolling in the aisles back at my alma mater.)

You don't have to channel surf very far to find dubious mass media takes on political science, physics, and biology on the one hand, and time travel, paranormal, and extraterrestrials on the other. It's not bad enough that television shows have co-opted all the real and imaginary sciences, now they have to assimilate English literature as well?

Let’s not have television characters portray scholarly aspirations unless they are hunting vampires, navigating through star gates, or enabling Lex Luther to kill Superboy. Let’s keep our clear demarcation between high and low cultures and between super heroics and scholars in residence.

By the way, Jaime Sommers got an "A" on her Joyce paper. James Joyce, who will always be with us, has decided to take a long sea voyage with Herman Melville.

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