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  1. A Beautiful Movie?

2. Math mysteries maintained

3. Science movies on the move

4. Should we care?


Courtesy Paramount.







Jurassic Park 3 movie poster
Courtesy Universal Pictures.

  It's just a film...
Movies are fiction. Does it matter how they show scientists?Does it matter how scientists and science are shown in films? People don't actually get information from them, do they? It's hard to say exactly. Weingart, for example, admits that "Films probably never portray scientists (or any other characters) entirely realistically, as they are a form of art with its own rules of dramatization and representation."

Harrison Ford looking macho.Still, he feels that movies do affect attitudes. "Films are just entertainment and not supposed to be accurate, but that does not mean that they do not have their own impact."

Diane Waldman, associate professor in the department of mass communications, teaches media history and criticism at the University of Denver. While she does not study science movies, she insists that films do inform attitudes: "The only thing that I can say definitively is that no films are 'just entertainment.' Even if they're entertaining they're still helping to construct ideas about science and scientists, particularly for people who have no direct experience with the subject."

The point is your point of view
The film may confirm the preconception, says University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of journalism Sharon Dunwoody. Like other communications researchers, she tries to pin down how media affect beliefs. "When the original Jurassic Park came out," she says, "some scientists reacted with horror. spider trapped in amber, as seen on a film stripTheir perception was that the movie painted science as a force indifferent to social good; here's some guy who just wanted to have dinosaurs, without any thought to the larger social issues, he just does it. I saw it the minute it came out, I loved it, it made science seem exciting and creative. Wow! The idea that you could get dinosaur DNA out of insects entombed in amber, maybe it's not possible, but it's plausible; it made science seem like a fabulous adventure."

Dunwoody, who does research on how people use The Why Files, says communications researchers and audience members alike are "biased by their own beliefs.... If you walk into Jurassic Park thinking that genetic research is a sinister idea, you'll walk out thinking it's even worse. Media messages basically reinforce existing beliefs."

Read our medium-cool science-movie bibliography.



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