This study is a case study centred around the popular television show Orphan Black (2013-2017), with a central aim of exploring the show’s influence upon its audience members in relation to their perception of science and scientists. More specifically, the key elements investigated are how character diversity, complexity and relatability trigger and maintain engagement with both the show and its underlying science content, as well as how characteristics of scientist characters influence the viewers perception of both science and scientists.
The show Orphan Black was chosen for this project due to its diverse and complex characters, and its contrast to the portrayal of scientists in other popular culture (for example, the leading scientist being a queer* woman). The methods used in this project were audience response surveys, which were distributed via several social media platforms. The results confirmed that complexity and diversity help establish and maintain connection between audience members and characters in the show. As a consequence, audience members demonstrated deeper engagement with the show’s underlying themes. In regards to real-life choices and views, future scientists felt encouraged and validated by the complex and diverse scientist character portrayals, while non-scientists showed an increased appreciation for science. Implications regarding positive representation in popular fiction as a factor for influencing diversity in STEM are discussed.
Jodie Smith, Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science, ANU
Brad Tucker, Astrophysicist/Cosmologist, Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science, ANU
When: In Session Wednesday 19th February, 11:00am-12:50pm
Where: Room G01, Learning and Teaching Building, 19 Ancora Imparo Way, Clayton