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Friday, March 22, 2013

Trope-tastic Thursday (Friday): Hot Scientist

Sorry for the late Trope-tastic Thursday! If you're looking to participate in the Spring is in the Air Blog Hop, make sure you leave a comment on this post.

Trope: Hot Scientist

Description: Who says women can't be smart AND sexy? The Hot Scientist is always dressed to impress (with or without white lab coat) with her hair perfectly styled and make-up expertly applied. If the main character hasn't previously met Dr. Hottie, he'll be surprised that she's 1) a woman and 2) so very attractive. Even though she could be strutting her stuff down a runway, she is very capable at her job and will never steer our hero in the wrong direction with whatever information she provides.

Examples: Dr. Brennan from Bones, Dr. Christmas Jones from The World is Not Enough, a number of characters from Doctor Who

Pros: I'll never argue against smart, capable women. This trope sort of counteracts the "geeky/nerdy scientist" or even the "dowdy librarian" stereotype in that a woman can be good at her job while still caring about her physical appearance. Even if she's not actively fighting alongside the hero, whatever assistance she supplies is invaluable in bringing about a victorious ending.

Cons: Realism doesn't get a lot of emphasis here. You're not going to find a lot of women working in laboratories wearing stiletto heels and letting their long hair float in the breeze in the real world. (In fact, many such places explicitly ban such things.) I'm also not crazy about the default assumption being that the scientist is either going to be male or unattractive. Why are smart sexy women still considered to be so shocking or out of the ordinary?

Would/Did I Use It?: I don't think I've used this one; not in any major works, anyway. As the pros and cons lists indicate, I have mixed feelings about this trope. On the one hand, I'm all for beautiful women with a brain inside their pretty little heads, and I don't consider it unrealistic that such women can achieve high levels of education and succeed in science-based careers. On the other hand, there are still some whiffs of misogyny lingering around this trope, and I'm not completely comfortable with that. It could be argued that this trope is not so much about the character herself, but the reaction to her. If that's the case, then I think I'll pass.


  1. I think Scully kind of falls in this category. To me, this is something that appeals more to men. I don't think hot female scientist is far-fetched, it's just that she's always inappropriately dressed for her job. And yeah, can't have your hair flying around in a lab. Why can't she be hot AND dressed right?

    1. I'd back you up when it comes to Scully. I also agree that this is a bit of a fanservice-y trope for the men, but hey, if it helps expand the audience, I guess I shouldn't complain!