In my last year of grad school, I listened to this NY Academy of Sciences Science & the City Podcast called “Celluloid Science: Humanizing Life in the Lab.” I’ve taken increased note of scientists in television and movies since then, and honestly – it’s hard to find a cool scientist on TV. I think the winner right now may be Lanie Parrish on ABC’s Castle, as a sassy, sensual, confident medical examiner who is seen inside and outside of the morgue and enjoys really normal interactions with the other characters. She has romantic relationships, she puts on dresses to go to social events and parties, she wears a classy suit on the scene. She’s insightful and good at her job. In the earlier seasons, there was a male medical examiner who was awkward and odd, that the other characters were uncomfortable around. The friendly ME is a much-welcome breath of fresh air for scientists on television.
The Sci & the City podcast pointed out there have been no scientific screwball comedies. There have been days in the lab where I felt my life was headed that way. The fact that David in Bringing Up Baby is a paleontologist is a key plot point (and Cary Grant is quite the dashing awkward scientist) in that classic, but I’m still mulling over the potential for a great scientific screwball comedy.
More recently, I finally got around to watching Losing Control, a movie I had been meaning to see for a while. It focuses on a graduate student who has become mired in the attempt to finish graduate work, and she feels it is holding her back from all the other parts of her life. It was a cute romantic comedy, a little predictable in some ways but I think that’s almost to be expected of the genre. If anything, the great thing is that science is accepted as a normal default mode – even if a bit obsessive and quirky – the way most other movies treat being any other profession.