Current research has shown that children hold stereotyped views of scientists, and suggests that television and films build the main source of those images (Steinke et al. 2007, p.50). However, we know little about how do mass media contents addressed to children portray science and scientists. In Germany, despite an increasing Internet usage, television remains the most used medium among children (Feierabend et al. 2013, p.147), and cartoons, one of the first contents with which children come into contact, continue to be the most dominant media genre in children’s television (Krüger 2009, p.420). Since the origins of the genre, science has been a recurrent topic in animated series, and the fictional worlds of cartoons have given life to well-known scientists characters, such as Gyro Gearloose, Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz or Dexter. Together with prominent researchers in mass media, such as Carl Sagan or Jane Goodall, fictional scientists have become part of popular culture and contribute to shape the public image of science. The paper presents the results of a qualitative analysis on scientists’ representation in the worldwide popular series Disney’s Kim Possible. The study examines the depiction of scientists, scientific work, impacts of scientific products, and the overall image of science transmitted to children through the series. It focuses on two main characters, Dr. Drakken and Dr. James Possible, who play a significant role in the overall plot of the series. The analysis shows that these two researchers present stereotypical and counter-stereotypical features respectively (“mad scientist” vs. a scientist as a common person). By contrasting these characters and their contexts, the series convey a clearly demarcated image of what constitutes good and bad science: an institutional, professionalized, ethical and useful science vs. an individual, amateur, unethical and dangerous science. Scientific products are, through the lens of the series, technological developments, thus mainly portraying science as applied science. Additionally, the analysis illustrates how popular images of scientists, particularly those of Frankenstein, Rotwang and Wernher von Braun, constitute an essential source of science images for animated cartoons, which emerge in the series symbolic structure. Finally, the study shows that Dr. Drakken’s stereotypical portrayal is explicitly employed as a device to reflect on stereotypes about science in mass media.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Between genius and dummy, good and evil, rotwang, frankenstein and wernher von braun
The portrayal of scientists in the TV-cartoon kim possible

Luz María Hernández Nieto   University of Bielefeld, Germany

Current research has shown that children hold stereotyped views of scientists, and suggests that television and films build the main source of those images (Steinke et al. 2007, p.50). However, we know little about how do mass media contents addressed to children portray science and scientists. In Germany, despite an increasing Internet usage, television remains the most used medium among children (Feierabend et al. 2013, p.147), and cartoons, one of the first contents with which children come into contact, continue to be the most dominant media genre in children’s television (Krüger 2009, p.420). Since the origins of the genre, science has been a recurrent topic in animated series, and the fictional worlds of cartoons have given life to well-known scientists characters, such as Gyro Gearloose, Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz or Dexter. Together with prominent researchers in mass media, such as Carl Sagan or Jane Goodall, fictional scientists have become part of popular culture and contribute to shape the public image of science. The paper presents the results of a qualitative analysis on scientists’ representation in the worldwide popular series Disney’s Kim Possible. The study examines the depiction of scientists, scientific work, impacts of scientific products, and the overall image of science transmitted to children through the series. It focuses on two main characters, Dr. Drakken and Dr. James Possible, who play a significant role in the overall plot of the series. The analysis shows that these two researchers present stereotypical and counter-stereotypical features respectively (“mad scientist” vs. a scientist as a common person). By contrasting these characters and their contexts, the series convey a clearly demarcated image of what constitutes good and bad science: an institutional, professionalized, ethical and useful science vs. an individual, amateur, unethical and dangerous science. Scientific products are, through the lens of the series, technological developments, thus mainly portraying science as applied science. Additionally, the analysis illustrates how popular images of scientists, particularly those of Frankenstein, Rotwang and Wernher von Braun, constitute an essential source of science images for animated cartoons, which emerge in the series symbolic structure. Finally, the study shows that Dr. Drakken’s stereotypical portrayal is explicitly employed as a device to reflect on stereotypes about science in mass media.

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