dalekboy (dalekboy) wrote,

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Readdressing the imbalance

Something that's been bothering me for ages, and I want to see fixed...

First let me state, I don't have a problem with religion. For a quick lowdown on my thoughts regarding religious folk (and skeptics), you can go here.

Now, on with my main issue.

There's an ongoing meme through Hollywood films that has been shitting me more and more over the years, and in its essence it comes down to this idea -

Dyed in the wool science-type discovers that something of a religious nature is real, or finds faith of a type. A variant of this is scientists as immoral bad guys who die horribly, usually directly or indirectly because of their evil science stuff, while the good religious folks are mostly okay and come out alive.

There will be other variants I've missed, no doubt, but lets just assume that I will want them all lumped into the same basket, one labeled, "Scientists are actually dumb people, religious folks know better than them."

It's a big label, but you really don't have to look too hard to find it around in a number of films. In fact, it's actually become a lot more common over the last ten to twenty years.

Now, I don't mind it as a story idea. It hinges on a basic concept that has a lot of scope - a person who believes in certain truths finds there may be more to the world than their belief system allows for. There's certainly a place for it, and you can do some good stuff with it when the trope is handled right.

But I'm a bit fucking over it. Why? Because in recent times we seem to be getting the same version again and again in disaster and other 'big' films. And it's always the scientist who is shown to have the blinkered worldview.

This whole science ain't worth a damn, your life will be sweet even if you're thick, so long as you have faith (or blind patriotism, which is just another form of faith), is getting a bit tiresome. If science is really so worthless to us, why are its benefits everywhere? Why haven't we given up on cars, computers, and artificial heart valves? Why use medicine when prayer is obviously the way, since it doesn't rely on all that evil science stuff?

There was a time, after the Second World War, where lots of films had scientists as the good guys, as well as having some as misguided or bad guys. It was a natural reaction to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end the war - scientists had saved the day where ordinary manpower had been unable - but what was this horrifying new thing they had unleashed? Gradually however the hero aspect of the scientist faded as the American cult of smart = loser was constantly reinforced by their cinema.

Meanwhile, the same American cultural imperialist push has seen the rise of Super God! Able to save believers with a single plot contrivance! Oh He may move in mysterious ways, killing someone near and dear to a main character (usually off-screen and before the point in time when the films starts - we wouldn't want Him to look bad, would we?) so that they have to question their faith before having it reaffirmed by the end of the movie. But He will save the day, directly or indirectly. And He'll play favourites too, as mostly non-believers and those secondary characters who let their faith waver, get culled.

I'm not saying the priest, the ultimate cinema-version of a believer, paying a price because of his blind faith hasn't been done. There have been a few films where the priest puts his faith in God as he faces up to the aliens, Nazis, or whatever, and winds up getting slightly killed. But you know, I can't think of one decent-sized (read Studio) film in recent years where something like this has happened.

One of my least favourite of the more recent anti-scientist memes is the wacky, freaky scientist character. It's like there are only two sorts of scientists - studied, serious types, and brilliant zany fuckwits. And they're usually both seen as mistaken, immoral, or both.

You know what I want?

I want a big budget disaster movie that starts where the priest has an idea of what is going on, something tied in with certain prophecies or some-such. And as he investigates it further, he starts to realise that no, religion doesn't have the answers on this one, that faith can't make things all better. And by the end of the film, while he still has his faith, pure science saves the day, and he's openly acknowledging that science is an important part of our lives, that faith in God can only get one so far. Or that God gave us the brains to reason, so we could actively save ourselves rather than just praying and waiting for a miracle.

I want films where, in the face of all the odds, the people who save the day are the ones who have studied and researched, not prayed. I don't want or need fundamentalists to all be portrayed as fuckwits. I just want scientists to be heroes again!

And there's no reason they can't be. The average Hollywood idea of a scientist is as dated as having every gay character portrayed as a lisping, limp-wristed, comic relief coward constantly flirting with the resolutely macho and hetero lead male.

I'm sick of the cult of the anti-geek, where the worthwhile people are the religious ones, or the good-looking sporty types, and every person with an interest in science is either an alternative type, or a clueless, socially retarded dweeb.

I still remember being at Fresh Science at the Redback a year or two ago, surrounded by young, good-looking scientists doing really interesting work. My favourite was a guy who looked like the classic Aussie surfer dude, right down to the blonde hair, deep tan, and Hawaiian shirt, and then he got up on stage and opened his mouth and described, in an ocker accent, the research he was doing, and blew me away.

I'm not saying every scientist in a film has to be suave and sexy, but it wouldn't hurt to have a couple here and there.

So what about it? Let's have some good-looking, moral, socially capable scientists save the world for a change. But please, let's drop the traditional guy meets hot science girl and says, "Gee, you sure don't look like a scientist..." thing.

That was old by the end of the fifties.

And you know, if the science could be internally consistent, even if it's totally made up, that would be lovely. The sorts of mistakes and liberties taken with science in many films are the equivalent of having Jesus part the Red Sea, while Moses loads up his Ark, and Noah gets crucified by the Russians.
Tags: movies, rants, serious thoughts, unimportant but annoying
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