When I was a kid, my least favorite subject in school was always science. It’s not because I didn’t like it or because I didn’t understand it. The problem was that I just didn’t feel welcome in science. How could I? We grew up hearing about nothing other than the “discoveries” of straight white males like Isaac Newton, Louis Pasteur, and Charles Darwin. Where were the female voices, the indigenous voices, the LGBTQIA voices? What possible relevance could science have to the broader world with such limited representation?
Bill Nye of course is also a straight white male, so let’s get that out of the way first. Apparently he had a television show in the 1990s called “Bill Nye the Science Guy” that a lot of people from my generation remember fondly, but I never watched it because I always thought it would be just like science in school where non-binary people wouldn’t be able to feel included. But after watching a few episodes of his new Netflix series, “Bill Nye Saves the World,” I wonder if I wasn’t wrong in ignoring Nye as a child. It is by far the most diverse television show dedicated to science that I’ve ever seen and the topics and presentation are perfect for the world we live in.
Two particularly good segments show how the world is more than just cismale and cisfemale. One reveals (through the clever metaphor of ice cream) the hypocrisy of boring, enforced heterosexuality while the other is a fantastic musical number by the highly talented Rachel Bloom that lets the world know there’s more to life than just penises and vaginas. At the end of the second video, Nye says “that’s exactly the right message!” And he’s right! It was very refreshing to see this view of the world legitimized by science for once.
People used to complain about society and culture not being able to keep up with scientific achievement but now we’re in the opposite situation. Science just can’t keep up with society and culture. The priorities of science are completely out of touch with the priorities of women, people of color, and the LGBTQIA community. We came close a few years back when President Obama directed the head of NASA, Charles Bolden, to make outreach to the Muslim community the cornerstone of his mission. But of course we can’t have nice things, so now NASA is back to whatever straight white males feel like doing. At least Bill Nye is helping push the conversation in the right direction.
If science can finally start moving toward an accurate understanding of the world that doesn’t rely on paradigms that are thousands of years old and instead focuses on the real, lived experiences of the people that it affects, why can’t everyone else? Comic books are there. I don’t read comic books, of course, but it’s very encouraging to see companies like Marvel Comics embracing diversity. With a female-presenting Thor, a black Captain America (in opposition to a white Captain America who is a Nazi), a Muslim Ms. Marvel, and proudly feminist/social justice-oriented writing in the vast majority of its titles, it’s surprising that Marvel’s sales are down, but this is almost certainly due to the fact that people are confused by all of the Marvel Comics movies that don’t feature these versions of the characters. If they would just put these characters in the films instead of the older iterations that have long since been thrown onto the ash-heap of history, I’m confident their book sales would pick back up. Hopefully it happens sooner rather than later.
But anyway, the point of this article is about finding metal’s Bill Nye. Whoever that winds up being, it needs to be someone who commands universal respect in metal in the same way that Nye does in the sciences. My first thought was someone who has been in metal forever and who knows the genre inside and out, so I considered Lars Ulrich. Ulrich is vocal, famous, and has real credibility among metalheads. He is, after all, the drummer for Metallica and he has written several of the band’s songs in addition to driving the creative direction of the band. But Ulrich strikes me as someone who might be a little too mainstream for the metal crowd; ignoring the masterpiece that is the Black Album, most of Metallica’s later works have been oriented toward a broader audience. So he probably wouldn’t work.
My next choice is someone universally regarded as an amazing metal vocalist, namely Maynard Keenan James from the progressive metal band Tool. But he might be a little too intellectual for most metalheads. He’s too cerebral to really make an impact.
Finally, after doing some digging, I realized who the perfect candidate is: Robb Flynn, the artistic genius behind the long-lived thrash metal band Machine Head. Machine Head is very well-regarded and has put out a consistently excellent series of albums since the 1990s (or so I’ve heard). He has real social justice credentials, especially when it comes to dealing with people like Phil Anselmo. He has the ear of the metal community as demonstrated by the fact that he made the list of MetalSucks 25 most important people in metal. So what do you say, Robb? Are you ready to step up and tackle the issues? Is it too much to hope for a metal cover of “My Sex Junk”? You can do it! We need you.