Where We're Going, We Don't Need Clichéd Scientists

Astronomer wants real portrayal of scientists

LOS ANGELES -- Despite Hollywood's fast-and-loose attitude toward science, one astronomer just wants filmmakers to stop portraying scientists as total nerds.

Seth Shostak of the SETI Institute is willing to let bad science in fiction slide, as long as we get the occasional closer-to-real-life scientist.

The astronomer says the clichéd number-crunching, lab-coat-wearing, four-eyed geeks often found in movies can deter young viewers from pursuing careers in science.

Compared to other major countries, our students struggle with math and science. Don't you think today's youth could occasionally use a cool scientist to look up to?

Seriously, what kid wants to grow up and become Dr. Bunsen Honeydew?

One of Shostak's biggest complaints is dialogue. He was bit miffed about some of the dialogue found in the remake of "The Day the Earth Stood Still," a movie he consulted on.

Looking back at the film, Shostak noted that no scientist would ever say, "That object is approaching the earth at 3x10(7th) m/sec." In reality, today's scientist would be more likely to say, "There's a freaking rock heading towards the Earth."

Jonathan M. Gitlin of arstechnica.com reported that:

"As it turns out, Shostak repeatedly tried to get the actors to say just that, but each time he redlined the script, the filmmakers would change it back."

So, it looks like the clichés may be around for a while, but Hollywood, if you're listening, would it kill you dial down the Daniel Faraday schtick and throw in a few more Tony Starks?

Forget Tony Stark. We'd settle for a few more Peter Venkmans, a legend in the fictional science community who once said, "Back off, man. I'm a scientist."

Words to live by.

So Hollywood, don't add cooler scientists for Shostak. Do it for the children.

Won't someone please think of the children?

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