Bill Nye and Sex Junk: Why It Doesn’t Work
Now the dust has settled, let's look back on the worst decision Bill Nye ever made with his, erm, sex junk.
By now, everyone is aware of the fallout over a recent Netflix episode of Bill Nye Saves the World. In the ninth episode of its first season, Bill Nye “The Science Guy” examines the science behind the “sexual spectrum” in human beings and other organisms. Nye follows the usual formula of introducing us to theories, experiments, and other venues to show us how the gender-sexual experience is more diverse than binary.
While the initial idea was noble, this particular episode will be remembered for two unusual skits which kind of overshadowed all good intentions – the first involving an animated short about talking ice cream (in a not-so-subtle parody of white racism), and the other consisting of a rather over-the-top performance by Rachel Bloom and her song, ‘My Sex Junk’.
I heard of this particular segment from a friend of mine (Thanks a lot, Doug. No, seriously! Thanks a lot!) and after watching it, my initial reaction was instant confusion. I couldn’t tell whether I was watching a parody or a cheap stunt to garner ratings. Only after doing a little research and browsing through tons of cyber-outrage did I realize it was, indeed, real.
The segment was easily engaging with its colorful lyrics including “My vagina has its own voice,” “Cause my sex junk is so oh, oh, oh,” and “It’s your goddamn right.” This display, coupled with a highly polarizing subject, most definitely gave the episode the controversy it was looking for – and this controversy will likely be the root of the show’s downfall.
Bill Nye came onto the scene in the 1990’s with the program Bill Nye the Science Guy, which fused education with entertainment almost in the same light as Reading Rainbow. Since the last episode aired in 1998, Nye has been seen engaging opponents in the enviro-political sphere. His debates with Creationists such as Ken Hamm and climate change deniers such as S.E. Cupp went viral almost right after they happened. Whether you love him or hate him, there’s no denying his passion or commitment to his work.
In his return to television, Bill Nye seeks to inform his audience on popular scientific subjects of today while taking aim at nay-sayers of said subjects. Since it’s airing in April of 2017, Bill Nye Saves The World has largely received mixed reviews. In a “Fox’ified” and “Jersey Shore’d”-out world, even Bill Nye has much stacked against him when it comes to ratings. Without controversy, it seems there’s little to no reason to watch anything nowadays. Nye and the producers of his new show are clearly aware of this and appear to have acted on it with mixed results, as we shall see.
The 90’s program, Bill Nye the Science Guy, was often known for music video segments where a fictitious band would lace their lyrics with scientific facts. The song, ‘Rocks Rock Harder’ by the “Sedimentary Fools” goes something like this:
Heat and pressure get their kicks
Making rocks called metamorphic
Goes down deep inside the Earth
A hot, hot place to have your birth
Sedimentary rocks are made from dust
Like sandstone colored grey and rust
Wind and water break ’em down
Cut big canyons in the ground
Made from pressure, heat, and water
We rock hard, but rocks rock harder
But rocks rock harder
When I was young, I was neither a fan nor a hater of these segments. A lot of facts and too much silliness for my taste, but nevertheless, I remember the facts presented in these segments far more than anything I ever learned in a science class. I guess you could say that should be the general idea behind “edu-tainment” and a good one at that.
Bill Nye Saves the World clearly attempts to replicate this formula with “My Sex Junk,” but the differences between this one and ‘Rock Harder’ are striking:
This world of ours is full of choice
But must I choose between
Only John or Joyce?
Are my options only hard or moist?
My vagina has its own voice
Not vocal cords, a metaphorical voice
Sometimes, I do a voice for my vagina
Please, don’t tell me
I’m the only one who does that
Cause my sex junk
Is so, oh, oh, oh
Much more than
Either-or, or or
Where one lays out scientific facts in the form of a music video parody, the other is clearly a socio-political message in the guise of a pseudo-hip rap song. There’s plenty of passion and emotion, but little when it comes to truly educating their audience about the subject being examined here.
And unfortunately, given these ingredients, this segment gave Bill Nye’s political enemies probably more ammunition than they already had.
I hate to go into the politics behind this one, but it’s kind of unavoidable. As a proponent of both evolution and the truth behind climate change, Bill Nye has been viewed as somewhat of a champion of left-of-center causes. There was no shortage of Bill Nye haters beforehand, but the most unfortunate consequence of ‘My Sex Junk’ has been an explosion of tweets and viral videos calling Nye everything from a sex pervert to an agent of a secret Islamo-leftist Illuminati cartel conspiring to turn us all into Democrats somehow. Whatever the case, be it a secret agenda or poor judgment, Bill Nye’s credibility took many direct hits because of this segment – as a scientist, as an environmental advocate, and more importantly, as a children’s entertainer.
Which brings me to my last point. As Jude Brewer observed in his April 26th review of Bill Nye Saves the World, this show is yet another attempt to revitalize popular programs of the 1990’s. That’s fine and dandy. Nothing would make me, a proud Millennial, happier than to return to that Golden Age of entertainment. The problem here is that Bill Nye has been viewed and respected as a children’s entertainer since the start of his career. As someone with a niece under the age of 5, I would have loved to introduce her to Bill Nye and his programs once she was of the proper age. Unfortunately, the ‘Sex Junk’ segment is nothing I want to expose her to and only discourages me, and many others, of doing the same.
What Bill Nye could (and probably should) have done is explore the limited, yet ever present, variety of transgender species in nature. To his credit, Nye explained how the clownfish is a species which is known to change genders. Beyond the clownfish are a number of animals and mammals which are either hermaphroditic or able to alter their gender depending on certain conditions. Let me just say I’m no scientist and don’t pretend to be one. I have a Bachelor of Science degree, yes, but it’s still a Bachelor of Science degree in Theater Performance. So, everything I say should be taken with a gender-neutral grain of salt (if you know of any better examples, or if I have any facts wrong, that’s what the comments below are for).
Said species’ include:
– The Butch Bellbird, a New Zealand bird that exhibits the markings found on the beak of a female and the plumage of a male, along with both male and female mating calls.
– The Spotted Hyena, of which the female is known to have a masculine build and an enlarged clitoris known as a “pseudo-penis” ()
– The Giant Cuttlefish, of which Beta-males pose as females for Alpha-males in order sneak in beneath them and, subsequently, impregnate any female that comes along.
– The Red-Sided Garter Snake, of which weaker and slow-moving males emit a female-pheromone to attract other males during a habitual mating orgy, thereby ensuring their survival from birds-of-prey picking at the outer layer of the orgy.
– The Hawkfish, which either male or female can switch genders under certain conditions – the male in the risk of losing a battle against a stronger male, and the female in case of a male mate being killed.
There’s way more to this and I’m sure I haven’t even scratched anything yet, but as far as I’m concerned, this may have been a more appropriate route for Bill Nye to take in his lecture on the “Sexual Spectrum.” I had a lot of fun researching these creatures and it opened my mind to the possibility of a sexual spectrum, and if we had more of this and less sex junk, Bill Nye might have succeeded in getting his message across. His audience would have been informed and his critics would have been left on the fringe with the usual Ad Hitlerum (“Well, Hitler used nature propaganda too!”) attacks. But unfortunately, the final product was served half-baked, and it seems we’re all reeling from the indigestion.
As someone with close friends in the LGBTQ community, I can say for certain much work needs to be done to ensure the safety and acceptance for this portion of our society. Education is most definitely key and the use of popular media is a vital tool in reaching this goal. Though well-intentioned, Bill Nye’s little experiment flat out failed in bringing us closer to this outcome. It’s one thing to be provocative and outrageous to get your voice heard, but “I have a dream” did far more to shake the world than “I have a goddamn dream and my vagina is talking!”
So if there’s anything we can take away from Bill Nye and Rachel Bloom’s little stunt, it’s this – less sex junk, more education. That’s all you need to change the world in this case.