Created By: Rainbow on June 7, 2011

Evil Scientists Do Lab Work

Scientists whose work involves creating or building things are more likely to be portrayed as evil than purely theoretical scientists.

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I was thinking about how some forms of science are more likely to be portrayed as evil than others, thinking that chemists really get a bad rap while astronomers are usually portrayed as good or neutral scientists. And then I thought, it seems to be that evil scientists are usually ones who make things or work with actual objects/people/animals. That's not to say that there aren't heroic scientists who do those types of things, as there often are, but I can't think of any evil scientists in fiction who are portrayed as doing merely theoretical work outside of someone whose theories are used to build something or create a substance (as in someone else does the grunt work). This is probably because of both the fear of "playing God" and also simply because a villain who can't do something concrete with his/her research (like creating poisons or machines) is harder to work into a plot unless the science is an incidental part of his/her character (like a villain who happens to like star-gazing). This would also be because exploding, bubbling poisons and doomsday machines are more visually exciting than a villain who does all his/her work on paper. Not to mention star-gazing is probably considered to be a humbling activity rather than something that would make someone do an Evil Laugh out of pride for his/her creations.
Community Feedback Replies: 8
  • June 7, 2011
    I don't think this is quite tropeable - it's essentially saying that if someone is evil in a scientific manner, it requires evil scientific acts rather than evil scientific pondering. It doesn't add much to any discussion of a work, or, I believe, reflect any inherent bias against engineers versus theorists.
  • June 7, 2011
    Dunno, Evil scientists tend to mix bubbly nasty stuff while cackling, good ones tend to attack chalkboards with furious equations (or, more recently, impractical clear perspex dry-marker boards that would make it difficult to read).

    I note they never do any working out on paper or anything! It's just straight to the board with the final equations!
  • June 7, 2011
    So this is basically that writers show us that scientists are evil rather than tell us?
  • June 7, 2011
    I guess what might more be a trope would be something like a "sliding scale of scientific evilness," like that certain types of science are portrayed as being more moral than others.
  • June 7, 2011
    ^ I agree. And as has been said, portraying your evil scientist in a lab is usually going to be justified because you can't really take over the world by doing evil equations. You have to actually make or do something.
  • June 7, 2011
    This sounds like the science edition of Slobs Versus Snobs (Techniction vrs reasercher?) if it isn't it needs to be fixed.
  • June 8, 2011
    Notable exception: Professor James Moriarty's field is theoretical mathematics, and he runs a criminal empire.
  • June 11, 2011
    Would this be because some disciplines (biology, medicine) have more close contact with people? Or because their products (chemistry) can have a concrete, material effect on people? Those things hit loser to home than the astronomer watching the skies or the mathematician doing equations, and they're easier for lay audiences to grasp than theories.