Bonus: A Pop Culture Gabfest!

Bonus: A Pop Culture Gabfest!


Hosts: Anna Reser, Leila McNeill, and Rebecca Ortenberg

Producer: Leila McNeill

Music: Careful! by Zombie Dandies

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In this bonus episode, the hosts talk about their favorite and least favorite women scientists in popular culture! This episode is also part of the Lady Science Spring Pledge Drive! To learn more about our pledge drive, which runs May 20-27, and how you can become a Lady Science patron, visit

Show Notes

List of listener suggested best and worst representations of women in science


Rebecca: Welcome to this special bonus episode of the Lady Science Podcast. Most of the time, this podcast is a monthly deep dive on topics centered on women and gender in the history and popular culture of science. But this month you are getting two for one. This is our special bonus episode, though we've got the same group of us here. With you every month are the editors of Lady Science Magazine.

Anna: I'm Anna Reser, co-founder and co-editor-in-chief of Lady Science. I am a writer, editor and historian of technology and I study 20th wentury American culture and the history of the American space program in the 1960's.

Leila: I'm Leila McNeill, the other founder and editor-in-chief of Lady Science. I'm a historian of science and freelance writer with words in various places on the internet, and I am currently a regular writer on Women and the history of science at

Rebecca: And I'm Rebecca Ortenberg, Lady Science's managing editor. When I'm not working with the Lady Science team, I can be found writing about museums and public history around the internet, and managing social media for the Science History Institute in Philadelphia.

Speaker 1: So as anyone who follows us on social media has already figured out, we're ... and I guess if you listened to the last episode in which I said we were going to do this, we're in the middle of our pledge drive. Our goal for this week-long drive is to increase our monthly Patreon donations to $1000 a month. That's about a $350 increase from our current pre-pledge drive amount. So, there's a few things we'd like to do with the money that we raise from this pledge drive, but the most important of them is that we would like to raise our rates for writers. Lady Science is dedicated to paying our amazing writers and, honestly, we just don't pay them as much as we wish that we could. Raising our rates will help us attract even more great writers from a wide variety of fields, and will also honor the time and thoughtfulness and the expertise of writers who regularly contribute.

Leila: The media landscape is still dominated by white, male voices and we really want to be a platform where marginalized people can write about their history and share their experiences and be heard. And the best way that we can show that we value those histories, and those voices. is to pay writers a fair and competitive rate.

Leila: So, why are we focusing on raising our monthly pledges in particular instead of one-time donations? So, our recurring monthly donations help us plan ahead and let us know what kinds of operating costs we can cover, which means that we can grow in a sustainable way. So, it's not a surprise every month if we're worrying where money's coming from and how we're going to get it. We also think that it's pretty for all of you out there. All you need to do is go to our Patreon page, set a monthly donation amount, and let Patreon do the rest. Even five bucks a month goes a really long way, so please chip in a few bucks. And our Patreon page is just

Leila: All right, so I promise we're not going to spend this whole episode begging you for your money. We do have some fun discussion up ahead. But first we are going to ask for your money just one more time.

Leila: We wanted to share some words from some of our long-time supporters and favorite contributors about why they think that you should give to Lady Science.

Jordan Bimm: Hi. This is Jordan Bimm, speaking in support of the Lady Science fundraising drive.

H.Moses Mohaupt: Hi there. This is Hilary Moses Mohaupt.

E. Eisen: Hi, this is Erica Eisen recording for the Lady Science fundraiser.

J. Bimm: I'm a post-doctoral fellow at Princeton University, and I was interviewed on episode 12 of the Lady Science Podcast, Gender in the American Space Program. I've been a regular reader and listener of Lady Science since the very beginning, and as a historian of science, technology, and medicine, I deeply value the critical feminist perspective their hardworking team of writers, producers, and interviewers consistently deliver.

H.Moses Mohaupt: And there are so many wonderful things that I can say about Lady Science, but for me, the main thing is that Lady Science makes space for all kinds of serious discussions about gender, sexuality, science, and technology, and how they've changed over time.

E. Eisen: So I remember the first Lady Science article that I read. It was Let the Working Be the Work about maintenance and feminism in art making, and I remember reading it through, and then sending it to a bunch of my friends. It was one of those articles that I felt, you know, a spark in my brain and I thought other people have to see this.

J. Bimm: Through rigorous research, sharp writing, and engaging commentary, Lady Science puts some much-needed spotlight on the many, many ways that women and gender figure in science, technology, and medicine.

H.Moses Mohaupt: Lady Science is, I think, a unique publication that helps writers find their voices, tell their stories, and also amplify the sort of historically underrepresented communities.

E. Eisen: Why I've returned to Lady Science again and again, both as a reader and as a writer, is because I feel that it provides an outlet for deeply researched, politically engaged, thoughtful, unique, and often very generous or caring, pieces that probably wouldn't a home in a lot of other publications.

J. Bimm: I loved being interviewed on the Lady Science Podcast because the hosts prepared fascinating questions that cut to the core of my research on astronauts. The conversation was so much fun, and it gave me a platform to reach beyond academia which I'm very thankful for.

E. Eisen: I'm very grateful to have been a contributor to Lady Science several times now, and I feel very grateful that they took a chance on me as a writer when I was really starting out with just a couple of months of freelancing experience, and they sort of, I guess, took a chance on me, and since then, I feel like I've built a relationship with them as a publication, and their generous editorial comments have helped me grow as a writer, as a researcher. I've honed my own editorial eye. And so I really feel like it's a really special place on the internet.

J. Bimm: Lady Science is made possible through support from listeners like you. If you're already a donor, please consider bumping up your contribution. And if you're not already on board, I wholeheartedly encourage you to help fund this crucial work. Thank you, Lady Science.

H.Moses Mohaupt: It's a publication that we all benefit in supporting.

E. Eisen: So, I hope that anybody listening to this will agree with me and continue to support this magazine.

Rebecca: So, this podcast is a little different from our usual episodes. Instead of doing a deep dive into a topic that interests us, we've decided to ask you, our readers and social media followers, to help us put this episode together. A few weeks ago, we put a call out on Twitter, asking for your favorite and least favorite representations of women scientists in popular culture. And, oh boy, we hit a nerve. We got dozens of amazing responses. So many that we could do. A ton of different episodes like this, probably, with all of your different responses.

Rebecca: But, then, we wouldn't have had to do anything else with our live, unfortunately. So, to narrow things down a bit, we each just chose ... we've chosen just a couple of our favorite of the selection. They were of the best women scientists, and of those worst women scientists to share today. So, Leila, you want to get us started with your pick?

Leila: Yes. And I will say, I also was only going to choose ones off of the list of things I had seen and knew about.

Anna: Yeah.

Rebecca: Yes.

Anna: Yeah.

Leila: And, I thought that I knew about a lot more pop culture, until I saw the suggestions that everybody Tweeted at us, and I was like, "I don't know shit."

Anna: Yeah. We should ... maybe we should just post the list, too, so that if people are looking for some lady scientists, something to watch and consume, they could check that out.

Leila: Yeah.

Rebecca: Yeah.

Anna: Because there were so many things, like most of the things on the list I've never seen. I guess I just watch Star Trek reruns.

Leila: And think that you've seen it all?

Anna: Yeah. I don't, apparently, watch anything else. But, I also ... I can't watch The X-Files because I'm scared of it. So, you know, there are limitations.

Leila: I chose Shuri, from Black Panther, and she was also suggested by @sisterSTEM and @chal_pang on Twitter. So, Shuri made her film debut in 2018 in Black Panther. And she reprised her role in Avengers: Infinity War. And, spoiler alert, this is about Endgame. So, I'm telling you right now to not listen for the next five seconds. She reprises her role at the very end of Endgame.

Leila: Okay. You can start listening again. So, she is the 16-year-old sister of T'Challa, and she's the mastermind behind Wakanda's inventions with vibranium, the fictional, magical, alien metal that gives the African country its power. And, one of the things I really love about Shuri is that she's not derivative of a male character. I've seen a lot of people refer to her as the girl, or the female, or the woman Tony Stark. Other than the fact that they both invent things that glow, I don't really see a whole lot of connection there.

Anna: Also, isn't there a character who is ... like, is an Iron ...

Leila: Ironheart?

Anna: Yeah.

Leila: Yeah. It's Riri.

Anna: So, there's another ... Okay. Whatever.

Leila: Yup. Exactly.

Rebecca: Also, like, I feel like comic books are full of people who invent things that glow. That's like 75% of comic book characters. So, that's all they have in common.

Leila: Yeah. Glowing and capes are kind of like hallmark figures in the Marvel universe.

Leila: So, I love that she's not derivative. No matter what men on the internet say. And that she isn't just a strong female character trope. She has a unique personality, and I think she's witty, I think that she's funny, and she's the only one that gets T'Challa to crack up.

Anna: He's very serious.

Leila: His stiff upper lip. And I like that she's also so young. Having her be so young gives her a interesting insight into why she's able to see Wakanda and the technology that she creates the way that she does. So, I really like that that gives her a keen eye to manipulate the vibranium in really inventive ways.

Leila: So aside from these reasons for me liking the character, I know there have been many writers that have highlighted the importance of seeing a young, black woman in such a significant role. There was a piece that I really liked that talked about Shuri in the context of maker culture, which I thought was interesting, because I've seen her in the context of tech and ... you know, tech proper.

Leila: But, I really like this idea of putting her in the context of maker culture, and the writer for SyFy, Nettrice Gaskins, says that maker culture is often linked to issues of access and opportunity, and so about Shuri in this context, she writes, "As the princess with an innovative mind who designs the new technology for Wakanda, Shuri shows us what young women and men of color could become in the not too distance future. Shuri’s adeptness at merging her cultural knowledge and skills into innovative science and technology projects makes this part of a new wave of Afrofuturism — the cultural practice that navigates past, present and future — or what I call Afrofuturism 3.0."

Leila: And for anyone who is also a Shuri fan and wants to see more of her, she now has her own stand-alone comic in the Marvel universe, and it was a series that came out in the fall of 2018. And then, also, she is getting her own animated special and it's called Marvel Rising: Operation Shuri.

Rebecca: I love Shuri. She's great.

Rebecca: Yeah. I liked your point about her youth being part of who she is, and ... Because, yeah, there's a lightness and there's an optimism to her that is part of a lot of the things that she invents and kind of ... Yeah, like she ... She has a point of view for the things that she invents, and so yeah, like, not only is she a woman inventor, or a girl inventor, and a black girl inventor, but she has a point of view in the same way that a lot of male scientists are often portrayed, but female scientists aren't always. And that's really cool.

Leila: And I like ... So, I think, part of her youth also reminds me of robotics teams, like high school robotics teams.

Rebecca: Yes!

Leila: And how they take regular, every day stuff and just soup it up big time. And they're like, "See? Better now." And it just, like ... It brings a different perspective to something that maybe is already there. And I think there actually is ... she tells T'Challa at one point that just because it's good, doesn't mean it can't be improved. Or something ... something along those lines about improvement. Which, I think, gets to what you were saying, Rebecca, about how she has a particular point of view that comes through in the way that she does her inventing.

Anna: She has like a very specific focus for her work. It just, like ... her sort of ... in the film, at least, it's sort of omnipotence in terms of what she's capable of is sort of similar to Tony Stark, or to like Bruce Banner. But, I feel like her work and the things that she's interested in and the stuff she makes is all within the context of making Wakanda better, making Wakanda safe, or that she's got a reason for doing all the stuff she does. Where, like, Bruce Banner just has seven PhDs because he just has seven PhDs.

Leila: Because his brain is so big. What else is he going to do with it?

Anna: Yeah, it's just so big. And then you can chunk him into any situation where you, like, need a smart dude to do something, but he just ... I don't know. She's got this kind of grounded approach to her work, and she invents things for a reason, instead of just, like, being like an overpowered brain in a jar that you could insert into any situation for whatever reason, you know?

Leila: Yeah.

Rebecca: Yeah. There's ... I feel like I've read and seen criticisms of different recurring characters. Often, honestly, women scientists who are really there just to move the plot forward at a certain point. Or to, like, be someone who solves a problem. So, while I love Willow from Buffy, there are times when she just gets used as, "We need a someone who knows how to solve problems." Insert Willow.

Rebecca: Cosima from ... oh god, it was one of our suggestions. And then I forgot the name of the show.

Leila: Orphan Black?

Rebecca: From Orphan Black. Yeah. Cosima from Orphan Black, who I adore but also sometimes gets used that way. So there can sometimes be a little bit of, like, "Have problem. Insert science. Solve problem." But, yeah, but the idea that she has specific interests and abilities makes that feel like more fuller and more real.

Anna: Yeah. She has a research agenda, right? Where Bruce Banner just, like, if someone needs him to do a science, he could do it. But, he doesn't, like ... That's not what he spends his time doing, you know? That's not his vocation. His vocation is being The Hulk, I guess.

Rebecca: I think his vocation is being sad, actually. But ...

Anna: Well, true.

Leila: I think it's so funny, because I saw Endgame and I was thinking this exact thing about Bruce Banner and Tony Stark in there. Like, okay ... So, they don't have a focus, they can just do all of the science, and now they've invented time travel. Like, it was just amazing to me. I was like, "Just because they're smart doesn't mean they can build time machines. What is happening?"

Anna: And, the way that that happens is Tony is just ... He's literally just, like, futzing around with his fancy holographic notebook or whatever. Like, he's not even trying. He stumbles on the solution to time travel. That's how amazing Tony Stark is. Like, I kind of guffawed at that scene. Like, oh really? Come on, man.

Leila: Yeah. I mean, I guess the movie was three hours, so they really had to figure out a way to get the science down real fast.

Anna: Yeah. There's no possible way they could've really worked through that.

Rebecca: So, we're going to go from one of the, I think objectively, one of the best movies in the last couple years, to some very standard, mediocre television that I happen to deeply love. So, this was also recommended by Abby Norman, who is @abbynorman ... @abbymnorman, and Kay Quinn, who on Twitter is @AlephsMom. And the suggestion was the TV show Bones, and Dr. Temperance Brennan, and the rest of the women scientists that populate that show.

Rebecca: So, Bones ran from 2005 to 2017. I looked it up. It was on for a goddamn long time. Like many mediocre procedurals, it is really, in it's structure, like your basic forensic-y crime procedural in the spirit of something like CSI. But, the setup for it is that Dr. Temperance Brennan is a brilliant but, quote, socially inept, forensic anthropologist, who teams up with this much more emotional, smart alecky FBI agent Seeley Booth, and they solve crime.

Leila: Angel from Buffy for everyone else.

Rebecca: Yes. Who's also Angel from Buffy. Which is hilarious. And ... But he's like a giant ... I mean, Angel's a giant goober, but Booth is a giant goober.

Leila: Yeah.

Rebecca: This setup could be terrible. I feel like the uptight woman and emotional goes-with-his-gut man often shows up as like a trope that is obnoxious. And then the man teaches the woman how to feel and how to be like a real woman, and it's awful. But, the nice thing about Bones is that Temperance Brennan, who's nickname is Bones, hence the show, never really has to be fixed. And I also think, like, I put socially inept came from a description of the show that I found, but I feel like it doesn't quite do her justice. She just doesn't give a shit. And she's not aware of social cues, but that's fine. And, while she needs help from the people around her to understand things like emotional intelligence and empathy and things, it's fine.

Rebecca: And she does awesome science and ...

Leila: Constantly. In every episode.

Rebecca: Con ... In every episode. Yeah. This show also takes place in a universe where there is a fake version of the Smithsonian that has enough money to solve high-profile forensic crimes on a weekly basis.

Anna: I love it.

Rebecca: Which cracks me up.

Leila: Say what it's called. The name of it. The name of the museum.

Rebecca: It's called The Jeffersonian. Yes. The fake Smithsonian is called The Jeffersonian. Which, honestly, there is an alternate universe where they name The Smithsonian The Jeffersonian, so like fine. But it's terrible. But yeah, once in a while, they need to figure something out, and they go and they steal something from the history collection, or whatever their version of The Smithsonian Air and Space Museum collection is and do shit with it. And there's a part of my soul, as a museum professional, that dies. But, it's hilarious.

Rebecca: The other great thing, though, about Bones is that Temperance Brennan is not the only woman scientist, and so there isn't this need for her to represent every kind of woman scientist. So you don't watch it and get the feeling that lady scientists don't know how to feel, because you also have there ... The pathologist on the show is Camille Saroyan, and she is super driven and really good at her job, but also is very emotionally aware, and personable, and charming.

Rebecca: And there is Angela Montenegro, who starts out who's an artist who's just hanging around, and turns into a computer programmer. So there's this cool art and science connection with her, and she's kind of this hippie, arty-fartsy person who stumbles into computer stuff, but then becomes really great at it.

Rebecca: There's a rotating crop of guest stars who are the inters who are working in the forensic anthropology lab, and many of them are women. One of the most regularly recurring is Daisy Wick, who is kind of a hot mess, but is good at her job, and gets better at her job as the show goes on.

Rebecca: And so, I think because none of them have to be the representation of a woman scientist, they can all be people and women and scientists, yeah, without having to be everything. And I think that that's something that is super valuable that gets lost when there's one lady, because, yeah, one woman can't ... is going to maybe fall into some kind of stereotype. That, then, is a problem.

Speaker 1: Yeah. It's almost, like, women are ... There are lots of women who are scientists and they're all different.

Rebecca: I know. I know. Yeah. I'm sure ...

Anna: And you can put more than one of them onscreen at the same time and the world won't end.

Leila: Sometimes they're all in one shot together.

Rebecca: It's true. I'm pretty sure that Bones passes a lady scientist Bechdel test. I'm pretty sure there's some scenes where multiple women are talking to each other about science, and there are no men involved. And I feel like ... I feel like the lady science caveat to the Bechdel test should be a thing.

Rebecca: For those of you who aren't familiar with the Bechdel test, it was something that is a reference to a comic by the comic writer and artist Alison Bechdel. It came from her famous comic called Dykes To Watch Out For, and essentially it's the idea that ... A character in it says that she doesn't see a movie unless there are two women in the movie who have a conversation with each other that's not about a man. And so, this has now been called the Bechdel test, and while it is certainly not the end-all and be-all of what makes something feminist, I think Twilight passes the Bechdel test, for example. But, it can be a great way to say, "Are there women who are doing things that aren't just about their life circling around dudes."

Anna: Yeah. It's become kind of like the lowest possible bar for media.

Rebecca: Yeah. [crosstalk 00:26:02]

Anna: I mean, it is [crosstalk 00:26:03]. But ... Yeah.

Rebecca: Yeah.

Anna: So, then the Lady Science Bechdel test would be are there two women scientists and are the talking to each other about science, and there are no men involved in that conversation.

Rebecca: Yes. About science. Yeah.

Leila: I just wanted to see, since we just said that the Bechdel test is the low bar ... I just Googled real quick how many movies actually pass it. So more than 40 percent of just U.S. films fail it.

Rebecca: Yeah.

Anna: That sounds about right.

Anna: Yup.

Anna: I just remember watching a lot of Bones in college. I think that was when I first learned about binge watching, and streaming became available to us for free and stuff. You didn't have to torrent things. Not that I ever did such a thing.

Leila: It's very binge-able.

Anna: It is very binge-able. I remember binging CSI and Bones in maybe the same year. And Bones is just so much better in terms of not having ... First of all, you don't have to watch a whole lot of women getting killed, especially sex workers and stuff, in very brutal ways. CSI is really ... leans heavily on that, and I feel like the crime aspect of Bones is ... It's not like softer or anything, it's just more inventive.

Anna: Yeah. The mystery of it is usually something like really interesting, instead of just, like, oh, a guy got mad at a woman, and so he killed her. Or a serial killer made a bunch of dollhouses and we spent three seasons on it or whatever.

Anna: But I think what you said about there being so many women who are also scientists as part of this sort of ensemble is really important. It's not ... I don't think it's very common, even in the lists that we have of best representations, a lot of those are kind of like the singular women scientists. But, I think there's something really nice about having a team of women scientists, who are all different and who, like you said, all have different sort of emotional ranges.

Leila: And they never, if I recall ... It's been a while since I've seen the show, but they never resort to low-hanging fruit for conflict of just making the women compete with each other and be angry ... like, cat-fighting type of stuff. I don't recall them ever resorting to that type of stuff for drama or conflict.

Rebecca: Yeah. Like, I think the worst thing is that Bones is mean to her interns. But, she's mean to all her interns. So ...

Anna: And I think she learns, as the series goes on, to ... She learns to have empathy for her students and her interns, and she ... She learns, in part, from the women around her, ways to manage her team better. You know, there's good group dynamic there that I really liked.

Anna: I really like the Angela character. What you were saying about highlighting this kind of intersection of art and science. She's, like ... she does some forensic reconstructions and things like that for the team, and she ... there are ... her character is like a trope in forensic shows, I think. Well, maybe it's just her and Abby from NCIS. But she's so much more interesting and fun to watch than Abby, because Abby is just like, I think, a really insulting caricature of a goth weirdo, who's also very weirdly hyper-sexualized, too. NCIS is a terrible show.

Rebecca: If you want a forensic procedural, Bones is your best bet.

Leila: I think Angela is also bi, as well.

Rebecca: I think that's right.

Leila: I think so.

Leila: Yeah, she has ... She dates what's-his-name, who is like a three and she's a ten. And they break up, and then between she dates, I think, and ex-girlfriend. She gets back together with the three. But ...

Anna: Yeah.

Rebecca: Yes. That's right.

Anna: I'm looking at her Wikipedia.

Rebecca: And, Angela is biracial and Camille Saroyan is black, and so there's also just ... And ends up married to a middle-eastern dude, and there's ... Yeah, there's a lot of awareness of not having a totally white space, too, which is great.

Anna: And, I always thought that ... I really always like Camille's character, too, because she ... She's wrangling all of these academics and weirdos, and try ... I would think of her analog is like Cuddy from House, just being like, "You guys have to do..." Like, "You have to do paperwork. You have to show up to work on time. You have to ... I need you to help me out, here." Like, trying to manage all of this, but I always thought of her as like, she's also very ... She's plugged in and aware of ... And she's sympathetic with Bones and isn't ... She doesn't push her too hard on stuff. I don't know, I just thought she was a really good character, as like the high-powered woman in charge, but she's not shrill, you know?

Anna: Okay. Well, we ... Obviously we would not have time to talk about everybody's suggestions. Like we said, we'll post the list. There are a lot. So if you're looking for some good representation of woman scientists, we'll post that list so you can pick out something to watch. Something to binge.

Anna: So, now, even though we said we weren't going to ask you for money for the whole episode, we're going to ask you for money again. But actually, we're going to have some of our pals do it for us.

Leila: And they did this under their own free will.

Anna: They did. We did not extort them in any way.

Rebecca: We're not bribing them or anything.

M. Hicks: Hi. I'm Mar Hicks, and I'm a professor of history at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. I work on the history of computing, and the history of labor and gender.

D. Day: I'm Dina Day, a writer and a historian in Los Angeles.

M. Hicks: I've done work with Lady Science before, for both their print edition and their podcast. And one of the things that I really like about Lady Science is that they make really rigorous, up-to-the-minute, historical research accessible to a wide audience.

D. Day: I'm a regular reader of Lady Science and listener to the podcast, and one of the things I like most is the way that Lady Science continually expands my sense of what the history of science is, in terms of content and [inaudible 00:33:35] subjects, and what the history of science can be looking forward. Not only as an academic discipline, but also as a live concern, a set of questions that we can ask about every single thing we go through.

M. Hicks: I like how they deconstruct what's going on in history, and with overlapping categories of oppression, that combine to hide certain stories, certain people's stories, at the expense of others. One of the recent episodes of the Lady Science Podcast that I really liked talked about trans issues, and how to rehabilitate stories of gender queerness in the past. And, they made the point that for a long time, historians really have had no problem projecting a very modern sort of idea of cisnormativity into the past, in a way that really isn't historically objective. And then they started delving into some of the ways that we can start to change that.

D. Day: I've also had the luck to write for Lady Science. They've been a home for pieces that I probably couldn't have published anywhere else. Essays that combine the history of science with media studies, and queer theory, and exactly the right amount feminist rage. Lady Science's editors have also worked closely and generously on drafts, and have hugely improved both my essays for them, and my work going forward. No other outlet has been more professional and responsible with logistics, like expectations or payments.

M. Hicks: And I really appreciate that Lady Science does this sort of work, that they do it for a popular audience, both in writing and in audio form, because these are really important issues, not just for historians, but for anybody who has to live in the world that we live in, that's built on the ruins of the past. So I think the work that they're doing is really important to all of us.

D. Day: I really love Lady Science and they deserve your support.

Anna: One thing that really, I think, surprised all of us when we did this sort of call on Twitter for suggestions was that most of the responses we got were about positive representation of women scientists in popular culture. I think we were all expecting a torrent of, "This is the worst thing I've ever seen." I don't know if that means that we're just really cynical. I mean, we are. But, we're the ... Our followers and our listeners are just ... they're much better at finding the good in the world than we are, and we commend them for that.

Anna: In any case, we do want to talk about some representations of women scientists that are, to put it mildly, really disappointing. So, Leila, you had a pick for this.

Leila: I did. I picked ... This was a real toss-up between Charlie from Top Gun, and Christmas Jones from The World is Not Enough. That was real hard for me to choose which one I hated more. So I just, I went ahead and went with Top Gun. So, Charlie ... And this was also suggested by Misty Bentz at @Astronomisty on Twitter.

Leila: And, Charlie is played by Kelly McGillis, and in the show, she is an astrophysicist, which I don't know if you'd really know that just from watching the show. And she plays a civilian instructor, and there are so many trope-y things going on with her introduction into the movie. She ... they have like a ... her and Tom Cruise have a meeting at a bar, and they don't know that she's going to be his teacher the next day. And then they do a little naughty-naughty ...

Anna: Okay, mom.

Leila: And then, they, the next day, at the base, she is his teacher. And, he is the student. So, that's pretty trope-y. And then, also, just the whole student-teacher romance trope. So, she's a bad scientist because she screws her student. And that ... I mean, there's probably like ten minutes where she does science. But really, what she's there to do is screw Tom Cruise. And that's pretty much it. That's her character arc.

Anna: Boo.

Rebecca: You know, I have never seen Top Gun. It's just one of those that just never happened in my life. Yeah.

Anna: I haven't seen it in a while.

Leila: I mean, you're probably fine without it.

Rebecca: I mean, yeah, it's like of the things in culture that I have missed. I don't have strong feelings about missing this one.

Anna: There's, maybe, so much to say and also so little to stay about such a film. Right?

Leila: Yeah. That's why I was ... Because I would have had the same, like, nothing to say about Christmas Jones, because they're so bad, there's hardly much to really comment on.

Anna: Yeah. I think we can reiterate that ... If you are a scientist, and you sleep with your students, you are bad.

Leila: I also recall that every time they're having a moment, her and Tom Cruise, they play Take My Breath Away. And don't they play Danger Zone, like ...

Rebecca: That's unfortunate.

Leila: A thousand times. This wasn't a very good score for the movie.

Leila: All right, Rebecca. What do you have?

Rebecca: Okay. My turn. So I have to admit that I was not familiar, or at least familiar-enough, with any of the suggestions that we were given, so I come with my own, which is Claire Dearing from Jurassic World, and also whatever the latest Jurassic whatever movie was. But basically, the latest iteration of the Jurassic Park franchise. And, Claire Dearing is played by Bryce Dallas Howard, who, like, I have a soft spot for. So, which makes it even more disappointing.

Rebecca: And, she is the operations manager at the reboot of Jurassic Park, because, I guess, they keep thinking that locking up dinosaurs and having people come visit them is a good idea, even though it goes badly every single time. And, she ... I tried to look to see if she's actually a, like, named as a scientist in any way in any specific place. She isn't. But I feel like the fact that she's managing, essentially, a dinosaur zoo kind of puts her in the scientist category.

Rebecca: So, there were many jokes on the internet after this movie came out about how this character runs around the jungle in high heels for three quarters of this movie, and it doesn't make any sense. She also has a ... the kind of icy bob that says, "This is a career woman, who is a terrible person." She also has an entire arc that's about how she doesn't want kids, and then she learns to like taking care of kids. It is so bad.

Rebecca: I got ... I found an amazing description from a Quartz article by Noah Berlatsky, who writing about this movie said, "The park’s operation manager, Claire (played by Bryce Dallas Howard) is a brittle control-freak who has no time for family or for maternal instincts. She is supposed to be watching her two nephews for a few days while they enjoy the park, but instead she foists the duty off on her assistant while she does her workaholic thing, which in this case means working to obtain sponsorships tied to the new genetically enhanced Indominus Rex. She is wedded to her job and will not be a mother, and so she creates monsters."

Leila: That is great.

Rebecca: And it's just ... And that is what she is. I mean, like, she learns her lesson. Chris Pratt teaches her how to care for dinosaurs, and also other people. Which is a whole other thing. It's ... This movie is like one of the few places where Chris Pratt is like ... has zero charm whatsoever.

Leila: Oh, yeah.

Rebecca: Which is like ... Says something. Like, that takes work. But, yeah she's just like all of these stereotypes. We were talking earlier, when we were talking about Bones, and Brennan and she's paired up with the cool hot-shot, emotionally aware man, and that often goes wrong, but in the case of Bones it doesn't. And here's one place where, like, everything that could go wrong with that uptight woman and cool dude does.

Rebecca: And it's infuriating, and felt like such a throwback, but also ... It also ... this is the universe that gave us Ellie Sattler, and that also is disappointing because as silly as this franchise is, it has already given us women characters who are much more interesting and complex and not ... they're plot arc isn't about learning to care for kids.

Leila: Yeah. Well, and you know, the moral of the story is what happens to that assistant, who also doesn't like kids. She gets eaten by monsters.

Rebecca: Yup.

Leila: That's your punishment.

Anna: That's true.

Leila: Yeah. If you don't like kids ...

Rebecca: She's bad at taking care of the kids, so she gets eaten by a monster.

Leila: And she gets ... Doesn't she get tossed around by the pterosaurs?

Anna: Yes. It goes on for, like, multiple minutes. Her death is the most brutal death in the whole movie. It's so over the top.

Leila: I totally forgot about this movie. We talked about it just now, because it was that bad. I just cut it out, I guess.

Anna: I didn't see the second one.

Leila: I haven't seen that either.

Rebecca: I didn't either. No. I feel like I've heard the second one is slightly better. But, I no longer care.

Leila: And I think, Rebecca, what you said about kind of comparing this to the original Jurassic Park and how you had such good representation in that one, and I think that comparing it to something earlier, from like, what? The 90s? And it has better representation than something that was made just a couple of years ago. After we've supposedly had all of these periods of learning to do better.

Rebecca: Yeah.

Anna: Yeah.

Leila: You know, multimillion dollar international franchises aren't doing better.

Rebecca: And she's ... And I think, kind of to bring it a little bit back to what makes her a bad representation of a woman in science, is also that she is ... She is a trope in ways that successful women, and successful women in science fields, are specifically pigeon-holed as bad people. And, that's what's super frustrating. Like, she's poorly drawn, and she runs around in high heels, but also she is sketched as a bad person because she cares about her career.

Rebecca: And as a bad person who makes, like ... who so cares about her career that she makes bad moral choices for humanity and also for her nephews. Yeah, the idea that there's ... If you give a driven woman, a driven, smart woman too much power, she will make bad choices is kind of ... feels like goes through her character in this really obnoxious way.

Anna: Yeah. And what you said about those bad choices being, not only for her family, but for humanity at large, is like an incredibly reactionary, regressive message.

Leila: Yeah.

Anna: And it's so ... It's like, it's not even subtle. There's no subtext here, really. It's just like, you know ... Don't get a job, or you will literally unleash monsters onto the world who will kill your family.

Leila: All right. So, I'm just going to do one final ask. One final grovel about our pledge drive. Even just a little bit helps, even two, five dollars really helps us out. If you can, please do. If you can't, we completely understand. None of us are exactly rolling in wealth, so if you are able to at least share the fundraiser through social media, or if you can just spread the word about Lady Science in general, that really helps us out, too.

Leila: So to that end, if you liked our episode today, you can leave us a rating and a review on Apple Podcasts so that new listeners can find us. If you have questions about any of the segments today, Tweet us @ladyxscience, or #ladyscipod. For show notes, episode transcripts, to sign up for a monthly newsletter, read monthly issues, pitch us an idea for an article, and more, visit And until next time, you can find us on Facebook at @ladysciencemag and on Twitter and Instagram at @ladyxscience.

Image credit: @astro_cady in LEGO w/ Chandra X-ray observatory, pixbymaia/Maia Weinstock, 2014. Flickr | CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Episode 20: Romantic Friendship and Queer Marriage in Science

Episode 20: Romantic Friendship and Queer Marriage in Science

Episode 19: "Siri, play me that episode about digital assistants. Please."

Episode 19: "Siri, play me that episode about digital assistants. Please."