Why you should be watching The Brain Scoop

Author's note: For some reason I posted this in a weird place on my blog and it wasn't on the main page. If I move it I'll destroy the old link (which is probably where you came from) so I just made a new one. It's got some photos and one extra link but it's pretty much the same. Click here if you want to go to that one.

Even though I can remember when internet celebrity Hank Green said that The Brain Scoop was starting I had never watched more than an episode or two. It wasn't that it wasn't good, it was great. But after binging 168 episodes during the last 36 hours or so I think I understand why I took so long to come around. Now that I've taken the plunge, I have some advice on how you too can jump into the show and be a part of one of the most amazing programs available.

What I was doing wrong

If you watch a random episode of The Brain Scoop it can seem disjointed. There's great info but it's hard to get a sense of continuity. That's not a fault of the show, it's just that Emily covers a lot of diverse topics and it was hard for me to feel connected without some background and a sense of the show's goals.

To fix that, I suggest watching a few episodes in a row. I would begin at the beginning but you can start anywhere, just make sure you watch a few in a row. Here's a link to the full playlist. It opens in a new tab so you can keep reading. Or just keep watching because my work here will be done.

The beauty of The Brain Scoop is that it's open to new things; there are field trips, interviews, dissections and one big relocation. At the start of 2017 they announced that they're changing again after reviewing viewer feedback and reconsidering their goals. That said, no matter how much they've changed there are some things that have always remained the same. The show has some of the best production I've seen, especially when you consider the budget constraints and the type of projects they take on. The sound is great, the lighting is great and the editing is great—IT'S ALL GREAT.

So that's all you need to know about why you should watch The Brain Scoop. Go watch it. Don't even bother reading the rest of this. Bye!

In-depth personal babble

What are you still doing here? I told you to go watch the show. This section is really for me anyway. After 168 amazing episodes I have a ton of feels and I have to do something with them so here we are. Proceed at your own risk.

Things I love about The Brain Scoop

Emily f***ing Graslie. Just wow. Graslie is a classic case of someone who is so good at something that she makes it look easy. It's easy to overlook her talents because she puts education first in every sense. She is super smart but asks questions she knows the answer to because the audience doesn't know. Then she asks questions we wouldn't think to ask.  Her interviews are relaxed and informative without the interruptions and mini-ego battles that can often erupt between clever people. She is charming and silly but can be serious without, like, bringing you down maaaan. This is a human that is making the world a better, more-informed place.

The production is Uhhh-maze-ing

I mentioned this above but I have to go into more detail. The first time I considered this was in the Ask Emily #2 episode—linkage. In response to a viewer question they cut to a scene with a stuffed animal (and I don't mean a teddy bear) that would come to be known as “Soon Raccoon”. It was a playful moment that answered the viewer's question in a way that embodied the spirit of the show—educational and fun. These things don't happen by accident. It takes time to plan and time to film and it takes guts to mix lighthearted stuff with serious topics. It's hard to do well. These moments are an essential part of the experience for me. They make it easy to watch and prove that smart people can be funny too. Despite being underfunded—more on that in a bit—The Brain Scoop makes up for a lack of budget with hard work. 

The content is incredible

I never thought I'd want to watch someone dissect a wolf but dammit if I wasn't transfixed. There's no telling what you're going to learn, only that it will be interesting. The Brain Scoop is at the forefront of a changing entertainment landscape in so many ways. It's online and free which means you can watch at your own pace—I recommend Mach Five but to each their own. Instead of a carefully curated and polished facade it opts for sincerity and openness. One of the best parts of good YouTube content is the relatability and an acknowledgement of mistakes. Emily is confident and humble enough to admit her errors and they only add to a rich experience. In the episode before she joined the team at The Field Museum in Chicago (link), we get an intimate look at Emily's challenges. It's a day in the life of a struggling scientist, a creator, and a young person doing their best to work hard at something they love. It's moving and informative and I'm so grateful she chose to share so much with us. 

Aaaaand back to the content. Dealing with scientific topics can be tough—what do you leave out, what's the right way to word a complex concept, how do you choose what parts of an hour-long interview to cut? The Brain Scoop addresses these with aplomb and isn't afraid to take another whack at it if they need to. Whether they're cutting apart a zebra head (don't worry, you'll get a grossometer warning), trekking through the rainforest of Peru or looking at transparent fish, you get a first-class viewing experience.

There are no ads

This is a mixed blessing but let's enjoy the good for a minute. If you've ever binged a playlist you know that it's not long before YouTube is shoving a crappy, irrelevant ad in-between every single video. It wasn't until I got past the 100th video of The Brain Scoop that I realized I hadn't seen a single one. Because of potential donor conflict and potential moral conflicts, The Brain Scoop is not monetized, which tells you a lot about the integrity of the show. This leads to some problems—apart from the loss in revenue it means YouTube has no reason to promote the show. This might explain why The Brain Scoop almost never shows up in my recommended list despite the fact that I watch a ton of related content—including a lot of stuff made by the team that helped Emily start the show. For a better explanation from Graslie herself read her frank blog post on the topic.

A final note

One of the first episodes of The Brain Scoop I watched was this one called Where My Ladies At?

It was an eye-opening look into the challenges of a popular female presenter and the notorious sexism in the YouTube comments section. I used to avoid the comments section because it's a terrible user interface that's often full of vapid babble but now I avoid it because when there's a woman presenting you'll find an endless stream of sexist drivel. For a creator trying to connect with viewers I can only imagine the nightmare it is to claw through the web of negativity.

As a heterosexual, semi-white male I can't put myself in Graslie's shoes but I can listen and empathize. She features lots of exceptional scientists and role models and lots of them are women. Her show and success is an example of the way hard work and a great attitude can make dreams come true. In the blog post I linked to above, Graslie says, “Network executives want to have a male host because their primary audience is male, so in order to be relatable to their male audience they want to have a male host and so they further reinforce the maleness of their audiences and the male prerequisite of the host”. While I'm certain that she's right about that I reject the idea that I can only relate to someone with the same genitals. I enjoy watching her because she's smart and passionate and funny as hell. Graslie is an exceptional educator and a driven producer and her body of work deserves a place on every educational playlist.

If you're still reading this then it's time to start watching. Subscribe, buy a t-shirt, leave a positive comment, donate (under 'Designation,' put 'The Brain Scoop'). Watch The Brain Scoop with your kids or your siblings or your parents or your students. Or watch it by yourself. It's a helluva ride and it's only getting better.