Arts Review: RejecTED Talks

Debates Chamber, GUU, 19th March 2019

They told you you’d regret it.

They told you not to come.

Yet on Tuesday evening, the people flocked in their droves to witness the first ever RejecTED Talks in all their chaotic glory. Due to popular demand, the venue had been upgraded from the Reading Room to GUU’s very own Debates Chamber, and the sense of expectation from the night was palpable: we were here for ‘ideas not worth sharing’.

Upon entrance, the tone was set by two charming gentlemen at the door throwing insults to those who dare cross the threshold. My personal condemnation came in the form of “You look terrible”, and “Make sure you drink plenty”. While I’m still working on the former, it seemed as though everyone had taken to the latter advice, with liquid excitement threatening to overspill before the first speaker had even graced the stage.

Further inspection revealed that the esteemed Debates Chamber had been kitted out with multicoloured balloons and Minions decorations, giving the whole space a surreal children’s party vibe. I sat down facing a sign that read ‘Anime is valid’.

The RejecTED collective commenced proceedings in much of the usual fashion, informing us of snacks on sale (popcorn sold per piece of popcorn), and reminding us all that proceeds from the evening would be going towards the Scottish Book Trust. It was then that they read out our ‘rights’, which included the rights to buy interjections during talks, buy the speakers drinks, or even buy their silence. That’s right, for just £5 you could crush any speaker’s dreams of hitting it big. It was also at this point that we were informed of why everyone had been given a raffle ticket: this was to choose our designated MC. After several unanswered numbers were called, it was finally Anna who took up the mantle of master of ceremonies for the evening.

With this, we launched into our first talk of the night: Stuart Little – Gay Icon? Despite having not seen the film since she was five, Claire Gould presented us with the perfect case for why everyone’s favourite 1999 rodent protagonist was, in fact, homosexual. Claire posed this luridly dubbed, “gay slut”, with research into characterisation, script analysis, and even the biology of mice. With this, it was indeed concluded that Stuart Little is a gay bottom; and that is the sentence that encapsulates the energy of the entire event.

Rapturous laughter and applause marked the end of her talk, and we moved on to Joseph Hutchison’s ‘Bad News Australia! You’re not real’. Despite a few minor tech difficulties, Joseph suitably demonstrated how – and why – Australia’s animals, people, and culture are all fake. This brought us to talk número tres: Why Nicki Minaj is the greatest writer/poet of a generation. With complete deadpan sincerity, Lewis Curtis-Thomas talked us through why the Super Bass singer is actually the leading voice of our times: a champion of tackling tough topics, such as philosophy, capitalism, and sexism, Nicki uses her platform to ignite and encourage social reform. If the in-depth lyric analyses weren’t enough from Lewis to convince you, his passionate dance breakdown probably was.

Following this were talks covering the topics of humans equalling meaty doughnuts, and the epic love story between big pharma and anti-vaxxers, before the arrival at a particular highlight of the evening. From “The Big Bitch Herself, Mark Ross”, came a talk born of a failed dissertation proposal, an exposé so illuminating the CIA were shaking: The Muppets Ended the Cold War [Not Clickbait]. After explaining “Whomst tf is the cold war”, Mark launched into a remarkably well researched timeline of events, placing the muppets close to virtually every major event of the conflict. It was also during this talk that a crowd member exercised the first right of the evening. The question posed: why were we focusing on The Muppets’ involvement in the Cold War, when we should in fact be discussing their involvement with the disappearance of Madeline McCann? Ross again composed a perfect answer (involving the British Government, of course), before moving on to swiftly conclude his talk.

While the quality of content presented throughout all thirteen talks was massively consistent, it was clear that the audience was getting somewhat restless as they went on. I don’t believe that this reflected in any way upon the (thoroughly entertaining) speakers, it’s just simply that with so many wacky and wonderful topics being presented, a long timescale was to be expected.

At the end of it, I came away feeling enlightened, perplexed, and perhaps a little weirded out. How does one go back to watching regular TED talks after hearing about Edward Cullen’s yeasty reproduction methods? Nevertheless, the debut of RejecTED talks was a huge success, and with another event looking to be in the pipeline, perhaps we all need a little downtime with ideas not worth sharing.

[Niamh MacPhail]

[Image credit: Jodi Morgan]

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