For a generation raised on encyclopaedias and print issues of National Geographic , knowing interesting stuff meant a lot of effort. But it was fun nonetheless.
The advent of mass communication channels like radio, TV and then the internet made knowledge sharing and gaining far more easier than ever before.
‘Explained’ is the Netflix series which is based on the production company Vox Media’s previous Youtube series that was streamed between 2018 and 2021.
Creators: Joe Posner, Ezra Klein
Release Date: 23 May 2018
Available on: Netflix
This series became a hit with both kids and adults alike for its steady narrative, crisp language and lucid presentation of information using visuals. The first season (2018) started with some unusual topics like ‘The Racial Wealth gap’ that spoke starkly about how racial injustice still prevails, leading to a huge wealth gap between the white Americans and the Black Americans. The best part of this series is that it focuses on the question ‘why’ without being judgmental. The next episodes all profound, the series is a must watch for those who thrive on curiosity. Topics like Designer DNA, Monogamy, K-Pop, Why Diets Fail, Cryptocurrency, E-sports, the Stock Market ensured people were glued and came back for more. That’s because books and newspapers provide a whole lot of information but such documentaries gave meaningful insights that one understood easily.
I especially loved episodes that dealt with unusual topics- like the one on punctuation. That people perceive communication containing exclamation point to be professional when sent by a female worker but the same number dropping drastically when sent by a male, which raises eyebrows. Copy editors sharing insights that using these marks is like dope, or using too many makes you appear like an over excited 14 year old, makes for some interesting insights into a mark we use so freely. It also got me introduced to the new symbol, the interrobang (?!). Seriously, look it up.
The first season of ‘Explained’ still remains my favourite for its eclectic mix of topics that one would have thought mundane but were definitely interesting. More continued, like Cricket, Weed, Tattoo, Astrology, Can we live Forever, The female orgasm, Political correctness, Why women are paid less, The world’s water crisis and another of my favourites- Music. In ‘Can we live forever’, the scientists toy with the idea of enhancing human life expectancy, which reminds you of the elixirs of yore.
The world’s water crisis is a real eye opener, which shows how Day Zero could be staring back at you in real. Our lifestyle habits and changing diets are claiming more water than we would need. Excessive commercial crops that guzzle water are also to be blamed.
Season 2 was half of season one with just 10 episodes ranging from a look at ‘Cults’, Animal intelligence, Athleisure, Coding, Pirates, The Next pandemic, the Future of meat, Beauty and Diamonds. The Next pandemic was a revelation and a shock to listen to Bill Gates, Maryn McKenna, and Allan S. Detsky speak about how pandemics can alter the shape of the world in the days to come.
Season 3 included a few soft topics like Sugar, Dogs, Royalty, Fairytales, Flags, Chess, Your Skin and Dogs while also dealing with complex ones like End of Oil, Plastic Surgery, Apologies, Hurricanes, Dance crazies, Time and Country music.
Of special mention would be ‘End of oil’, that deals with a subject that is burning with relevance. Way back in 1959 at the centennial of the start of the oil industry in the US, when they invited physicist Edward Teller, he cautioned that the world would need to look out for alternative energy sources. Soon enough, scientists warned the leaders about the damage caused by Carbon di oxide. Ever since, right upto the Iran-Iraq war and the recent attack on Ukraine, Oil has been a key determinant the in geo political dynamics of the world.
Diamonds was another episode that left me glued. The power of the diamond syndicate, interference of politics and the psychology and cultural norms associated with buying (and gifting) diamonds. But the whole business of diamonds oscillates between extreme exploitation to extreme luxury. What drives this business is the surging demand riding on the back of diamond being a symbol of wealth.
Several episodes of this series have been available free on Youtube, making it accessible to people all over the world, especially children. Endearing is the fact that alongside scientific facts and figures, you meet people who speak on the topic with authority, combined with animation and visuals and you have a catchy piece of knowledge to consume. Science, even to explain topics like Beauty, with its mathematics of ratios and proportions and the working of the brain and eyes, leaves you enriched with knowledge.
You are left behind thinking more of such stuff should be made available for kids so that it enhances their knowledge and kindles their curiosity to know more.
Note: At the time of this writing, Netflix has released three seasons.
Here are the trailer of the three seasons of the brilliantly done series from Netflix: