Review: Crash Course World Mythology

WARNING! Enjoyment of these videos will cause you to lose hours/days of your life – the mantra of ‘I’ll just watch one more, it’s only twelve minutes long after all’ will become very familiar.

The ‘World Mythology’ series from Crash Course is, as far as I’m concerned, a must-see for everyone (along with everything else they’ve made that I’ve watched), but I’m frothing about it on Church and Circle because I also think that it’s a great watch for Pagans, especially those who work with (for want of a better term) historical deities. Here’s the episode on the Norse pantheon (because Freyja, and I’m biased) to give you a flavour:

The idea behind Crash Course is to ‘create educational content in the hopes it will be useful to people’, and the main brains behind it, John and Hank Green, encourage teachers to use the videos in lessons or at least point their students in the direction of the videos. All of them are at the PG level of censorship, and while they are aimed at the high-school level I’m sitting here with my Masters degree and learning new things, enjoying myself, and also not feeling talked-down to. Granted, the videos aren’t perfect (Extra History has episodes called ‘Lies’ where one of the creators, James, talks about the bits they got wrong and the bits they missed out/simplified) and the presenters of the various Crash Course series will freely admit this – the videos are only ten-twelve minutes long, and even with series reaching to over 40 episodes it’s not possible to fit everything in. Some things are telescoped, some things are omitted, other parts are simplified or skimmed over, and mistakes are occasionally made (and often corrected with the later addition of text boxes). Each of the episodes is presented in the style of a lecture, with the presenter/narrator standing or sitting behind a desk in a studio setting with various artifacts and backgrounds – chalk boards, posters, bookshelves, statues, models of molecules, globes, etc. – as well as full-screen use of photographs and short sections of video, plus an animated section called the Thought Bubble which is usually used to illustrate certain points, such as the myth of Persephone or the Fourth Crusade (referred to as ‘the crazy one’). Thought Cafe’s adorable little animated figures also tend to show up throughout the other parts of the episodes, especially in the World Mythology series where the Egyptian god Thoth shows up as the series’ mascot figure.

I discovered Crash Course through visiting my friend Charlie (of Seams and Stresses) and her boyfriend E, when I told them about Extra History (these are often less than ten minutes long!). In return for me introducing them to this particular educational, amusing, and time-eating video series I was introduced to Crash Course World History. Now at this time I was still signed off work, so I did, in fact, spend several days binge-watching Crash Course’s World History, Literature, World Mythology, and US History series, along with many other episodes. I’ve always loved watching documentaries, which Crash Course definitely counts as, but I love these and Extra History in particular because a) they cover an awful lot of subjects and b) because I will be sitting on my sofa giggling to myself at least once an episode. I am very much a fan of leaning things via the medium of laughter, or at the very least smiles. A case in point, one of my environmental archaeology lectures as an undergraduate – when discussing the fact that the floral and faunal remains in a sample may wildly disagree about what the local environmental conditions were like, the lecturer told us that the reason behind it may well be because ‘insects move, trees don’t. Unless they’re Triffids’.

So yes, go watch. Here’s the World Mythology preview video and the first episode of the World History series. While the chalk illustrations behind John Green are often referred to during the episode, keep an eye on the statues behind Mike Rugnetta – it’s fun seeing who shows up.

 

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