Dangerous Stereotypes: Scientists

I’m going to tackle some stereotypes present in modern fiction that I think are dangerous when used irresponsibly.  Any entries part of this series will be labeled as “Dangerous Stereotypes.”  The next entry on this topic is about the Bad Boys stereotype, which can be read here.

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Professor Hojo (via Final Fantasy Wikia)

There is a nasty and detrimental stereotype in fiction:  the depiction of scientists.

In most instances, scientists are portrayed as too smart for their own good, too naive for their own good, or outright diabolical.  The threat in the story often arises from the hubris of scientists messing with something they either don’t fully understand or think they can control.  In such cases they are often called “mad” or “obsessed,” driven to complete their work, no matter the cost to themselves or to others.

Or, if the scientists aren’t deliberately malicious, they end up being naive to the extreme, not understanding how their research or experiments could be used to malicious ends.  Even if the scientist realizes his mistake (for they are almost always male), he tends to keep going “in the name of science” or is totally ineffectual at stopping the misuse of his work.  And if the scientist himself is absent from the story, the technology he created, often a robot with artificial intelligence, remains a danger, such as Superman’s foe Brainiac or HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The examples of the evil/mad scientist stereotype are myriad:  Hojo from the video game Final Fantasy VII.  Rotwang from the movie Metropolis.  Victor Frankenstein, creator of the quintessential monster in Mary Shelley’s masterpiece.  Almost any antagonist in superhero comics.  Pick a 1940s or 1950s horror or science fiction film and you’ll find that the monster or threat is, more often than not, the result of science gone wrong.

Even real people, including teens and children, who are not certified scientists, but who have an interest in that direction are often stereotyped as strange, anti-social, unattractive, and ultimately dangerous individuals.  They are often marginalized or bullied until, in a fit of childish pique (or well-planned retribution), they fight back the only way they know how:  with science and technology.  And in the end it’s up to the handsome, charming, muscle-bound male hero to save the day by blowing things up.  Seems like a bit of a cheap shot to me.  But why haven’t we moved beyond this rather lazy piece of character creation?

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Quick Update (and placeholder)

Sorry everyone; there isn’t going to be a more substantial update this week because I’m finally indulging in a vacation.  However, I wanted to give a quick update (which will hopefully post on Monday automatically like it’s supposed to) on some things that are going on:

1)  On Friday, August 8, 2014, my first autonomous article for the online magazine Scoop was published!  It’s called “A Brief History of Steampunk” and I had a blast writing it.  Steampunk is such a rich and fairly new genre, and I hope I managed to interest both newcomers and experts alike.  Many thanks go to Mark and Jeff for giving me this opportunity.

2)  Since “Okami Amaterasu” is complete, I’ve chosen a new fanfic project to work on.  My Final Fantasy VII story, “Hidden Light,” has been languishing for several years while I puttered around with other projects.  But now I’m ready to get back to it and complete the story.  (The rest of it was already mapped out back in 2009…I just needed to write it!)  It features Vincent Valentine, one of my first bishonen crushes, and my FC Hikari, who was originally designed as a prototype for my Mariner Sequence character, Marella.  Thankfully Hikari and Marella have evolved into different people, but they share a lot of traits, and was my first experiment with writing a mentally damaged character.  Chapter 10 is already up, and you can expect Chapter 11 to be posted Monday, August 18!

3)  I’m hoping to feel more relaxed and recharged from my vacation.  The last few weeks have been a bit of a struggle.  Time to regain some equilibrium.