7 forms of media that illuminate STEM

July 1, 2014

Ever feel like the media portrays people who wish to grow up and participate in STEM as geeks and nerds? Here's a list of television shows, films and books that put STEM in a good light and give people a renewed fascination for the world and the future.

I often feel like I grew up hating math and science because the media put it in a bad light. Plenty of television shows, films and books forced me to think they were boring subjects. I did alright in those courses during my time at school, but not nearly as good as I was in English and history. What made math and science so difficult for me? Was it merely because I was no good at it, or perhaps I was simply not engaged enough as a child?

The problem is, whenever there's a student who is good at math and science in the media, he or she is portrayed as a geek, nerd, dork, loser or weirdo. They are always pushing glasses father up on their noses, flipping greasy hair and straightening their bowties on buttonup plaid shirts supported by suspenders. Not to mention their lisps and the buckteeth that make them look like they've never been to a dentist in their life. Or worse, the braces that ensure middle school nightmares.

But there have been exceptions. Here are some films, television shows and books that portray STEM research in a good light, giving the minority here a few heroes to look up to.

Mean Girls, starring Lindsey Lohan, is about a girl who moved from Africa to a public school in the United States. She's a math geek, but absolutely gorgeous. However, she dumbs herself down for a guy that she likes so they can spend time together while he 'tutors' her. At the end of the film, she tells him the truth; she is actually very good at math and joins the Mathletes, winning the final competition and wearing her Mathletes jacket to the prom. Lohan's performance gives the mathematical prodigies a chance to think better about what they are good at and understand that STEM fields are the future of our world.

Back to the Future is a classic with Michael J. Fox starring as Marty. As everyone probably knows, the film is about an inventor who creates a time machine and sends Marty back to 1955 to meet his parents. Though the film does not focus on the time machine so much as what happens in the past, the idea of a time machine has appealed to many people, allowing them to imagine the possibilities that could come out of controlling time. Inventing a machine like that ties in with the engineering portion of STEM, and the film actively engages people into the world of science.

Doctor Who is ultimate nerdy hero, traveling through time and space, redefining the name of science. His endeavors allow people to see the galaxies and those that could exist beyond our own. Watching the show, the Doctor pulls at the attention of his audience, captivating people in his love of the universe. On a more realistic note, Bill Nye the Science Guy had his own creatively interactive show where kids could learn about science in a cool way. Nye never let his audience grow bored, much like the Doctor, and introduced new ways to discover the intrigue science allows.

The Fractal Murders by Mark Cohen follows a private detective discovering the murderer whose victims are all experts in fractal geometry. This detective is forced to use his brain to link the cases teogether using geometry. In order to get inside the mind of the killer, he has to be a mathematical expert himself.

If you have ever seen Gattaca, they know what I mean when I say that it is probably one of the weirder films on this list. In this futuristic world, people's genes determine their careers and lifestyle from the moment they are born. Ethan Hawke's character, Vincent Freeman wishes to be an astronaut, but unfortunately, his genetics will not allow him to apply. Seeking the help of a brilliant but crippled Jude Law, he is given a new set of genes and sneaks his way into the space program. The technology involved in the film gives us an idea of what science can actually accomplish. Though these standards have not yet been reached, we are not far from acheiving these goals. Freeman's longing to travel through space gives us all a heartwarming desire to learn more about the universe beyond.

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card portrays a boy genius named Ender Wiggen who is trained in a battle school to fight off the alien Buggers with whom they have long been at war. Ender's brilliance allows him to strategize and use mathematics to understand combat. Since they are in space, Ender manipulates gravity in order to battle his enemies. This series takes top priority when it comes to learning about the worlds beyond and thinking logically.

Just because John Bender from the Breakfast Club thinks people like Brian Johnson are dorks, there are people in the media who find STEM fields fascinating and are attempting to enlighten the world with them. 

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