Sep 11, 2013

Gravity movie making STEM sexy?

Photo by Richard Goldschmidt, via
I was just told by a friend that there is a new sci-fi movie coming out in October called Gravity, starring Sandra Bullock as an aerospace engineer and George Clooney as an astronaut. Besides reminding me that motherhood keeps me so busy that I'm out of the know, I was also reminded of a past blog post I wrote about STEM women being too beautiful (It's my thing: A new approach to girls and STEM).

Don't get me wrong; I love Sandra Bullock. She was a computer expert in the first movie I saw her in, The Net. I remember it well because I vowed not to buy any movies that didn't have strong female characters in it that year (my movie purchases were significantly curbed); The Net was one of the few movies that met my criteria. According to the research, she may be have been acceptable to girls because, though she is beautiful, she was stereotypically shy and awkward (a key part of the movie) so she didn't break too many barriers. It will be interesting to see what her character must keep in the way of stereotypes. I hope that the final product succeeds in girls seeing themselves as engineers as Iridescent Learning, a non-profit who partnered with Warner Brothers hopes.

Though I applaud a new movie about STEM, I wish we had a TV show about it. There is nothing like a show to create the real dimension and everyday drama of a profession. For as many movies there are about lawyers and doctors, why can't we have one about engineers that doesn't have all its characters falling into the stereotypical realm. Then you can have an ensemble cast and portray different walks of the profession. Imagine:engineers struggling with ethical issues regarding their work or their company; engineers dealing with bullying by bosses or colleagues; or engineers just dealing with being a dual career family. How about engineers who give up their lucrative corporate job to help communities in Africa get clean water? Engineers who take temporary part time work to help with global crises? As I discussed in Start Seeing Engineers, engineers make appearances every so often as regulars on TV, but not always as a centerpiece. Heck, there could be a miniseries about the 60s, with a character being NASA engineer working on the mission to the moon and another working on atomic weapons.

Aren't viewers sophisticated enough to start seeing engineers as part of their everyday lives rather than oddities like on The Big Bang Theory?