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Your Daily Read: Interstellar; and Women Scientists in Movies

Why cinema needs more women scientists

How Jessica Chastain and Sonam Kapoor can inspire more little girls to take an interest in science

Whether you liked Interstellar or not (we were oddly underwhelmed), there’s no denying that it provided its female protagonists with two of the juiciest roles in recent times.

Anne Hathaway played an astronaut, and Jessica Chastain played a brilliant scientist in a role that was originally written for a man (Apparently Christopher Nolan changed it at least in part due to the relationship he shares with his daughter).

This article at the US News explains just why this is such a big deal.  The film not only shows women enjoying careers in science ( an unfortunate rarity), but also portrays a family environment where their love for science is encouraged.

While science writers are already poking holes in the logic behind the film’s intricate plot twists, few would quibble with one essential narrative detail: as a child, Murph, played by Mackenzie Foy, is encouraged by those around her to explore her interest in science and math (her father, an ex-pilot played by Matthew McConaughy, even named her after Murphy’s Law.)

Interestingly, the women scientists were not just characters on the screen, but also played crucial roles behind the scenes.

Behind the scenes, female rocket scientists played crucial roles in “Interstellar” as well, including retired NASA astronaut Marsha Ivins, a veteran of five Space Shuttle missions  

Closer home we’ve had Sonam Kapoor portray a physiotherapist in Khoobsurat just a couple of months ago, while Parineeti Chopra was a scientist in one of our favourite performances of the year in Hasee to Phasee.  And-  even in what was a standard rom-com in so many ways- she found a champion in her father who looked upon her experiments and accomplishments with pride.

Yes, one may quibble that these movies don’t exactly set benchmarks in realism. Or even complain that  whether a woman plays a scientist or an aerobics instructor-her happiness ultimately lies in finding someone to love.

But these baby steps in popular cinema create an environment where little girls could grow up thinking that it’s OK to be interested in Science. Instead of dismissing STEM disciplines as ‘nerdy’ and ‘undesirable’, they may just be swayed by pop culture into believing that these disciplines can be glamorous and fashionable.

If we can’t stop them from wanting to be princesses, perhaps we can start portraying a few princesses with test tubes and rivets?

More on Interstellar here


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