Science

Skepchick Quickies 4.10

  • Black hole in funding say scientists-  “Astronomy and fundamental physics in the UK are in the midst of their worst funding crisis for decades.”
  • Deception and Ethics in Sectarian Medicine– Bart Farkas shares a tale of deliberate deception on the part of a chiropractor.
  • Horton hears a tale of gender inequality– Peter Sagal of NPR did a beautiful piece on why the new Horton Hears a Who movie made him angry.
  • Clinton and Obama talk religion, not science-  The two candidates will both be taking part in the Compassion Forum which is “billed as a conversation on faith and values.”
  • Expelled exposed for copyright infringement– The animation of the inner workings of the cell that is used in Expelled is clearly a rip off of XVIVO’s work Inner Life.  “It was longer than in any of the promotional material I’ve seen and nearly identical in content to Inner Life of a Cell. Sure the colors were changed and the inspirational music sound track was different, but there’s no mistaking where it came from.”

Amanda

Amanda is a science grad student in Boston whose favorite pastimes are having friendly debates and running amok.

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18 Comments

  1. Peter Sagal of NPR did a beautiful piece on why the new Horton Hears a Who movie made him angry.

    Yeah, I read that and decided not to see the film. :-( Too bad, I was hoping to bring back memories of the old cartoon I saw when I was a kid.

  2. I love Peter Sagal! And he’s dead on.

    At least Harry Potter has Hermione, Ginny and Mrs. Weasley helping him along the way.

    It’s a shame that “The Golden Compass” was panned, which would finally give girls out there a fictional female role model.

  3. Would it therefore be sexist of me if I was to take my child to see Horton Hears a Who? Are all parents increasing the risk that their sons will become misogynists if they see this film? Will their daughters be forever negatively conditioned to lifelong servitude in a fetid sea of patriarchy? Should this film therefore be banned? Shouldn’t folks lighten up instead of equating the flick to Triumph of the Will?

    One of my favorite films is 2001 A Space Odyssey. There were no female role models in that film. Am I therefore sexist for liking this film? Does the film imply that an intelligent woman could never venture into space and discover the role of humanity’s existence? Arthur C. Clarke was a sexist, misogynist bastard!!!!

    And yet he wrote the Rama series which involved an intelligent woman venturing off into space to eventually discover the meaning of life.

    You can interpret any film or written work as being racist or sexist or culturally insensitive if you adopt some rigid moral standards. If everyone thinks this way, then everyone would indeed fall prey to the moral thought police.

  4. “If everyone thinks this way, then everyone would indeed fall prey to the moral thought police.”

    Because that’s exactly what Peter Sagal was saying: sexist people should be arrested by thought police.

    He was upset about the fact that there is inherent sexism in our culture, and it can be seen quite plainly in many sections of popular culture.

    Some of it is intentional. Most of it is probably unconscious. But it’s still there. And there’s nothing wrong with getting a little angry about it.

  5. What morsec0de said.

    And what’s wrong with wanting more children’s movies to feature strong lead female characters? We all benefit from breaking down sexist attitudes.

    It was sweet and touching to hear a piece on a father’s love for his daughter, especially since it wasn’t patronizing. He wants daughters to have adventures and kick ass! I’ll stand behind that any day.

  6. “Because that’s exactly what Peter Sagal was saying: sexist people should be arrested by thought police.”

    Then everybody including you and me should be arrested. And even if every film, novel, work of art, etc.. has an equal dosing of gender, race, religion, class all represented in a positive light, someone is bound to find bigotry of some sort. And if most bigotry is unconscious I am quite skeptical that it is purely the result of social engineering and not at all influenced by our innate evolutionary past. We are a flawed and imperfect species bound to make culturally insensitive mistakes. And we have to live with those flaws as seen in the producers of Horton Hears a Who. Although we should strive towards a better world upholding the ideals of equality, there would never be a utopia free of any bias given our human nature.

    Nonetheless, I fully agree that there’s nothing wrong in getting angry about it.

  7. ““Because that’s exactly what Peter Sagal was saying: sexist people should be arrested by thought police.””

    That statement was meant to be sarcastic, because Peter Sagal didn’t say that and you seemed to suggest it in your last paragraph.

  8. More importantly, he’s making his daughter’s think about those sorts of questions. Maybe it’s ridiculous that the hero in every movie ever made is male, but if someone doesn’t question that, then we’re not going to make any progress.

    Maybe it was a boy who blew up the Death Star, but who was in the command center with a headset in her ear calling the shots?

    Maybe Neo is the chosen one, but how much progress do you suppose he would have made if Trinity wasn’t there to kick some serious ass?

    Maybe it was all Viper jocks blowing up Cylons in the ’70s, but now theres viper jocks, and viper jills too.

    If it weren’t for someone asking those questions, do you think there’d be any progress? 50 years ago, the boys set out on a quest to destroy the One Ring. Less than 10 years ago, Peter Jackson had the balls to say “Oh, by the way, there were girls there too.” He’d probably get raked over the coals by the hardcore fans of the novels if he did more than he did, but the fact that he did what he did is progress.

    All because of people over many generations thinking about these sorts of questions.

    It doesn’t have as much to do with the Thought Police as it has to do with making kids think about these sorts of things. Is the Horton movie a step backwards in a forward moving world? Maybe, maybe not. But Peter Sagal encouraged his daughters to think about it, and that’s a step in the right direction.

  9. morsecode,

    Forgive me for my literary brain fart. My major oops!! On re-reading, of course the statement was sarcastic.

    I agree with the spirit of Sagal’s argument in the broader sociological context until it becomes verbage that sounds like a preacher standing on a pulpit claiming to hold the banner of moral righteousness. It is an argument from a guy who had dinner with porn stars and attending a shooting of a porn flick (as per his book The Book of Vice). Arguably, he may be no different in his unconscious sexist motives as are the makers of Horton Hears a Who. Anyone who tries to sit on the moral high horse is bound to be knocked down.

  10. My daughter has adventures and kicks ass. My son is a bit of a home body and plays WoW (does not qualify as an adventure) and hangs with his friends. I really appreciate Sagal’s sentiment regarding his daughters however. Perhaps he will encourage them to become authors and screen writers.

    And Neo seemed like he could have been trans-gendered at times so what the problem there??

  11. Well I watched Horton and it wasn’t that bad. Considering the amount of crap I’ve had to sit through for my child, this one was better than most.

    But for the most part, the kangaroo was a female and a skeptic. I would think that would be seen as a positive here at least :)

    The bigger questions is why did the filmmakers make the theme “faith” rather than Seuss’ original intent, which was equality. Rather than it being about a person’s a person no matter how small and Horton fighting for their rights, it was about the skeptic not believing in Pixies and Unicorns, while Horton heard a sound and “believed” there was something on that speck.

    In a dubious attempt to be righteous, Sagal missed the flipping obvious.

    For me, I was hoping Carol Burnette boiled those freaking whos. They had it coming because of their lack of contraception.

  12. I’m wondering if Peter would also have complained it it had been 96 sons and one sullen daughter, with the focus on the daughter?

    Certainly, if there were no other children and just the father/son thing, then I think we could more easily gripe about male/female leads, but that it was 1 male/96 females seems to be Peter’s tipping point, and I am wondering how it might have faired the other way (alternative, if Peter himself had sons vs daughters…).

  13. Oh Jimmney Cricket. My wife and I took my two daughters (4 and 2 1/2) to Horton hears a Who. Halfway through the movie, my wife leans over and says “Yeah, the son inherits the job of mayor, right!”

    I asked “Would you rather have them watch one of the Disney Princess movies again?” My wife didn’t have a reply.

    Normally, I’d say Peter Sagal was worth listening to, but condemning Horton or Harry Potter for thought crimes when I attend Halloween parties where almost every girl is a princess is silliness.

    PS Take your daughters to see the film and point out that Whoville’s smartest person, the chief scientist and the only person who supports the mayor’s claims that there is a universe beyond Whoville is a woman.

  14. I’m wondering if Peter would also have complained it it had been 96 sons and one sullen daughter, with the focus on the daughter?

    Perhaps if 50,000 movies with that imbalance had been produced there would be something to complain about.

  15. Honestly, he hasn’t a leg to stand on with Star Wars, anyway. Skywalker isn’t a character, it’s a generic no-one. Nobody’s favorite character is Luke, Hell, no one cares about Luke. The two main heroic characters are Han and Leia with assorted sidekicks and peripherals. Action, great lines, and character development is split pretty much evenly between them. Luke is just the null-space into which a fan can either self-insert or ignore.

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