Friends and colleagues: Don't believe everything you see on TV!
Archaeologists increasingly are concerned with depictions of their
discipline on television and how this affects public understanding.
A personal (and light-hearted) reflection of this concern by an
archaeologist is the subject of Excavating Television, the latest
video feature on our nonprofit streaming-media Web site, The
Archaeology Channel (http://www.archaeologychannel.org).
In this personal-voice and very witty short film by University of
Southern California student Amy Ramsey, the archaeologist/filmmaker
explores what the public knows, and often misconstrues, about her
field of study. She interviews people and finds out that they often
have inaccurate perceptions about archaeology. She concludes that
the media are largely responsible for misleading people about
archaeology and urges her audience to be a bit skeptical about
archaeology stories they see and hear through media sources.
I admit I have some difficulty getting worked up over the whole "media representation" issue. It's just a fact of life that What's On TV isn't a whole lot like real life. The latest group getting the attention is the forensics people who are all agog that CSI is just getting it all wrong and are Not Portraying Them Realistically. Of course, not real life is either too boring or far too coarse and exciting for short periods to be interesting viewing. I've worked with ER docs and spent many an enjoyable hour watching the actual real life ER shows on Discovery and the like, seeing them make truly heroic efforts to save lives, with humor, sensitivity, and a certain amount of nonchalance borne of repetition. I'd thought, for example, that putting in a chest tube was an interesting and certainly useful technique; but then I turned on NBC's ER for the first time and learned that it was actually quite a heroic and risky procedure that should only be attempted by George Clooney ("Okay, stand back. . . .I'm going to. . . .put in a chest tube!").
So enjoy them, and if anyone asks, just say no, aliens didn't build the pyramids.