Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Where are the Scientists on Television?

On the eastern blot blog Eva points out that scientist television characters usually fall into one of three categories:
1. Scientists in a show about medical or forensic science. These characters are quite well developed. They’re all different, they are carefully selected to cover different races and genders and attitudes. But they’re always at work, because the show is about their work.

2. The funny “mad scientist” type in any other type of TV show. These are usually stereotypically male and white, and either very old or nerdy little kids.

3. Someone who just happens to be a scientist, but this is otherwise irrelevant to the story line.
While there are lots of characters that fall into categories 1 and 2, very few fall into category 3. The only one that Eva could think of is Ross on the sit-com Friends, who happens to be a paleontology professor.

What about the current TV lineup? I can only think of a couple:
  • The character Jack on Men in Trees is not only Anne Heche's love interest, but also a a ruggedly handsome "fish and game" biologist. I haven't actually seen the show, so I don't know whether his job is important to the plot or not.
  • On Medium, Patricia Arquette's husband is some kind of engineer or physicist. I'm not sure he counts, though, because his scientific background is used to make him the skeptical voice about supernatural powers.
And that's it. (If you know of any others, please leave a comment!)

On science fiction shows, the scientist characters are scientists to help drive the plot. The work of scientists such as Mohinder Suresh on Heroes, Samantha Carter on Stargate, or Gaius Baltar on Battlestar Galactica is not incidental to the story lines of those programs.

I agree with Eva - it would be great if more scientists were shown as just regular people, not just sexy and ultrafashionable CSIs or nerdy and obsessive geeks (or worse, megalomaniacs); scientists who are part of the "real" world and not the science fiction universe.

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1 comment:

WTJ said...

the doctors in the shows are always hot.. but not in reality