My desk is covered in bobblehead dolls of famous scientists. This week I put out a video where they joined me for Thanksgiving Dinner.
Many people have contacted me on Twitter in the past day to say they are offended by that video. To you, and others, I am deeply sorry.
The criticism directed at the video (and much of it at me personally) centers around Albert Einstein’s advances toward Marie Curie. I should mention that Madame Curie is the only female science doll at the table for the simple reason she is the only female science doll available for purchase in bobblehead form.
Ok so I watched the video. I’d read the post first, so I was primed to look for stuff to object to, if not to be offended by, but I watched it anyway.
I dunno. I like the goofy conceit of having a party with the bobblehead dolls, but the resulting video not so much. It needed better dialogue all around.
In producing this video, we guided improv voice actors to create caricatures of dead scientists so we could lampoon the most extreme aspects of their personalities. Then we made dolls act out those extremes, flaws and all. We tried to present the way in which these characters might actually act, in their own time. Galileo doesn’t get evolution. Tesla is obsessed with Edison. And Einstein reflects the dark reality that many men in his time acted inappropriately toward women.
This video makes a joke to call attention to the sexual harassment that many women still today experience, often from wannabe Einsteins. The joke is uncomfortable because these issues are uncomfortable. To be very clear: that joke is not an endorsement of sexism in science. We aimed to ridicule miscues of science in society, past and present, using dolls, and we failed.
Well, yes. They needed a much better script, at the very least. (And, to be picky but then again this kind of thing does matter, notice that he calls Marie Curie “Marie” but he calls Charles Darwin “Darwin” and Nikola Tesla “Tesla.”)