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标题:Idealized Scientists, Idealized Science

  Madame Curie tells a most “standard” version of the Curie legend. From a student in Paris to a coworker in Pierre’s lab, falling in love, Becquerel’s appearance (although in wrong place and wrong time), work on extraction, deserted shed with terrible conditions, radioactive burns, thrill of the “eureka” moment, ultimate success and Pierre’s tragic death all these are really familiar to us, a generation brought up in a scientist-hero education. Despite (among others) its compressed timeline, its neglect of Marie’s family and Poland (and Polonium), its downplaying of women’s difficulty, and its dramatized moments, the whole image is nevertheless consistent with a stereotype scientist in our minds: hard work, full commitment to science, love combined with scientific investigation. And every toil, tear and sweat eventually pays off as achievement and glory in the end. Alas, every hero will be ruined by a little extra reading. Copernicus was actually supported by the pope and wasn’t forbidden until Galileo stepped in Bruno was a heretic, a mystic, and far from a science martyr Newton was very mean to his enemies and fascinated by astrology & alchemy Einstein was a rather bad violin player. In the same way, anything unpleasant or unimportant (for science at least) about Marie is omitted. Sometimes a part of truth is still truth sometimes not. I’m not sure which one it belongs to. Admittedly, a movie is got to be a movie. Today’s Hollywood would do even worse (just look at A Beautiful Mind). Audiences go to cinema to escape from the complexity of real life, after all such modification is acceptable and accepted so far. However, it is not quite the same thing from a history of science angle, as the movie portrays an ideal scientist who is also a lovely lady, rather than a female scientist and she is mostly gender-neutral when science is concerned. Throughout the movie, what impress us most is how Marie fight valiantly for nature’s secrets as a scientist, rather than how she fight against a community dominated by white males as a woman. The gender significance is lost. Surely the movie spends quite a few shots on her role as a woman, but they are generally unrelated with her scientific investigation. The first connection comes when Pierre complained about her gender to David, but David clearly thought otherwise even Pierre himself changed mind later. Therefore this part of the movie falls into the category of Cinderella tales, with the prince realizing her virtue and switching his own idea the whole society with its discrimination is dissolved and forgotten in our laughter. So what about the committee meeting on a new lab? It could have been an accusation towards the social unfairness, but it turns out to be a praise on Pierre and Marie’s virtues. Pierre’s defense was not “science abhor gender discrimination”, but “she has a gentleman’s guarantee”. His focus on “she’s a most unusual woman” makes him a loyal and loving husband rather than a feminist fighter and her suit-pulling displays a submissive virtue “typical” of women. Indeed we audiences feel that the committee was ridiculed, but mostly because they didn’t see her talent (“You know you were refusing a future NP laureate?”). The feminist angle is easily ignored by audiences since no one ever speak for it – even the victims. And what does the community do besides giving out funds? A lot. The scientific community in the movie mostly appear as good old gentlemen, tolerate and considering, and view the world without bias. Not exactly so in the real world. Take Lord Kelvin for example: when he appears on the screen, none of us even stirred, and I guess few know his status as a supreme leader in physical science, and as science impersonated for common people. Sort of like Einstein today. The movie makes him a harmless old fellow paying an informal visit, omitting his role in helping Pierre get his position and later opposing the couple’s hypothesis of new element. The total effect looks as if Mr. & Mrs. Curie simply closed their doors, worked in the lab until they figured it out, and then showed it to everyone, making scientific investigation a private pursuit. If such a view still has a grain of truth in 1903, in 1943 it is nowhere near it, let alone today. By isolating their work from their community, the movie also lost its chance to investigate the community pressure on female scientists. Nevertheless, I’m not suggesting the movie-makers are hopeless male chauvinists I think they were just trying to display an idealized science through two idealized scientists. They talk about progress, about reaching the stars, about revolutionizing the way we look at the world, about the divine knowledge that could purge the evil from world, could bring peace and prosperity to all and they hide everything embarrassing away to create this story. Not many of us will buy it after Mustard gas in WW1, A-bombs in WW2, DDT and the silent spring, thalidomide, photochemical smog, and global warming. They (or better, we) have overdrawn the confidence in science and progress, leaving us bankrupt and desperate. Still, that was a nice dream and when we finally realize it’s a dream, we may start to build something similar to it, as near as we could.
  • I forgot... its actually a homework. Several hours?
  • oh, its much more interesting than my guess. btw, have you read about the biography of Barbara McClintock, A Feeling for the Organism? Im sure youll find it be informative.
  • Women in Science... which include a movie for Madame Curie (who else?).3x~
  • wow..homework for what course? Movie appreciation? Anyway, this essay deserves an A+ :-)
  • Nice review. Im wondering how much time do you spend in writing this essay?
  • 文章还是要改一下……我一度被满篇的语法错误搞得读不下去(= =|||职业病)。不过排除这个的话,内容和主旨我还挺赞同的(虽然电影没有看过),女权电影视角真的不容易,导演LeRoy是男人,私以为他是拍不出也体会不到女科学家的艰辛的(我知道这句话有很多拍砖点)。题目是不是叫Idolized Scientist, Idealized Science更好呢……
  • 看到这一大片英文完全不想看......
  • 几个小时就写出来了?我觉得你英文真不错的说。
  • 你叫我看的该不是这一篇东西吧恩特君……?
  • ------作者:(豆瓣网友)Ent