Do you ever wonder where some of your favorite TV shows get their "professional" talking-heads? Or why certain "experts" or "doctors" would put their reputations on the line for seemingly bizarre claims?
The new documentary "Science Friction" (now available on TUBI and Amazon Prime Video) pulls back the curtain on some of the common practices of TV shows from "Ancient Aliens" to "Oprah," and how willing participants are often times misrepresented, or used out-of-context against their intended purposes.
You can tell that "Science Friction" is a low-budget documentary, and from the list of financial-backers in the end credits, it appears to have been crowd-funded in some way. This is to take nothing away from its overriding message, which is that TV producers often manipulate their interview subjects to serve their stories or shows, rather than to serve the truth of the public. It's a concept that we all would sort of agree with...I mean, in today's day-and-age we all have some understanding of how clever editing can completely distort video and audio content. But this documentary takes a specific look at how the practice is used for in the "info-tainment" industry.
We meet different scientists and experts across a range of subjects and genres, all whom tell their experiences with being manipulated by beloved TV shows out to make a buck or to get viewers. In some cases, words were taken out of context, or in worse cases, producers would try to dictate what the person should say on camera.
In one story for example, a scientist is unsuccessfully coaxed into saying that the lost city of Atlantis was a real place, which was the opposite of what he knows from his years and years of research and expertise on the subject. In another, a shark expert is misrepresented and ends up looking like an extreme quack, on a show called "Voodoo Sharks," a topic that was not even addressed to the man during his interview.
"Science Friction" becomes rhythmic, with one misrepresented person after another appearing and telling their story, how they were mistreated, and in some cases, how it impacted their careers outside of the show. It's clear that they took part in this documentary on some faith that they'd be able to talk about their original experiences on their own terms, yet it does come across as somewhat ironic when you see their new interviews being edited for the sake of this very documentary.
I kept hoping that "Science Friction" would expand its scope - manipulation and so-called "experts" are a rampant part of the news media, for example - but it seemed content staying in the realm of shows like "Ancient Aliens." It does go after Dr. Oz a bit - and rightly so - on some of his unproven medical advice and how he would twist the purpose of some of his guests brought on his show to provide counter-points...with Dr. Oz running for a Congressional seat in real-life, this is the closest "Science Friction" comes to making any sort of real socio-political commentary.
And let's face it: Many of us don't watch "Ancient Aliens" or "Voodoo Sharks" thinking that it's real. Right? But we'd all agree that people should not have their lives and their careers ruined, because a TV producer wants to create provocative infotainment.
"Science Friction" just skims the surface on the issues it focuses on, but is an enjoyable diversion and worth checking out.
Run Time: 1 hour 26 minutes.
Directed by Emery Emery ("Play Dead," "The Aristocrats").
"Science Friction" is now available to stream on TUBI and Amazon Prime Video.
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