In stories featuring a dashing Science Hero protagonist — an Adventurer Archaeologist, Bold Explorer, or heroic Mad Scientist — the male lead is often assisted by a pretty woman with a baffling lack of science knowledge. This assistant knows little about science or adventuring, but is easy on the eyes, a Brainless Beauty or Dumb Blonde. She usually dresses in clothing impractical for the lab or field, and frequently ends up in danger due to the hero's activities. The character may be introduced as a scientist in her own right, but this will always be an Informed Ability. Her presence is especially inexplicable given that science in the setting of these stories was a male-dominated affair.
So why does our hero keep her around, despite her apparent uselessness as an assistant? There are several narrative reasons, some of which may be emphasized more than others depending on the work:
- The Watson: Her lack of knowledge prompts her to ask obvious questions to the lead, allowing him to Infodump technobabble and explain the plot to the audience.
- Damsel in Distress: Her incompetence can lead to her being captured by hostile natives or menaced by whatever monster or invention the characters are studying, prompting a daring rescue.
- Ms. Fanservice: Her looks endear her to a male audience and her male colleagues, motivating them to rescue her. Often, the assistant is a Love Interest for one of the leads.
This trope makes heavy use of Men Act, Women Are and Mother Nature, Father Science. As society changes with regards to women in science and the Science Hero archetype has declined, this is a Discredited Trope. This trope was common in the Pulp genres such as Weird Science, Jungle Opera, and the Two Fisted Tale and their derivatives.
A sister trope to Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter, which dials up the contrast between the beautiful woman and her weird scientist father, as opposed to pairing them romantically. Contrast The Igor, the unattractive (usually) male assistant to a Mad Scientist.
May overlap with Lady of Adventure. Compare Faux Action Girl. Contrast Wrench Wench, another science side character who's more competent and self-assured. Not to be confused with Lovely Assistant, who may share some similar traits but is the assistant to a performing magician, not a scientist.
- In Hungry Joker, Chitose is the clumsy Meganekko assistant of Heidi. She's one of the primary sources of comedy relief because of her Comical Overreacting to Heidi's constant indifference while her lack of special powers tends to make her The Watson.
- MARRIAGETOXIN: Marvellously Subverted. Gero and Kinosaki cerainly fit the type, with the former's abilities derived entirely from his medical skill, with him even having enough knowledge to prescribe medicines to others, while the latter is a fashion-focused seducer whose primary asset is his beauty and sexuality. However, the power dynamic of their partnership is much more complex, with Kinosaki serving as an advisor and mentor to Gero in romantic affairs and Gero's overall attitude meaning they're much closer to friends than simply client and hire. And of course, Kinosaki being male blows this trope up from the outset.
- Ant-Man: Janet VanDyne used to be nothing more than this and a Sidekick to Dr. Hank Pym, genuius inventor, before decades of Character Development got hold of her. She frequently served as Damsel in Distress and target for Hank's Insufferable Genius tendencies.
- Fantastic Four: Sue was basically this for Dr. Reed Richards. While not the only non-scientist on the team, she existed primarily to need rescuing and be ignored by Reed in favor of whatever experiment he was obsessed with at that moment. This was before taking so many levels in badass she's now one of the most powerful characters in the Marvel Universe.
- Kay from Creature from the Black Lagoon, the only woman in the scientific expedition to discover Devonian Man, spends most of her time swimming in a not especially practical tight-fitting swim suit (with plenty of shots of her butt) before being menaced by the titular creature. She's introduced as a scientist but doesn't do anything very scientific in the entire film.
- Inga from Young Frankenstein is the attractive blonde assistant to Dr. Frankenstein, a Mad Scientist. Her misunderstanding of his instructions creates several humorous scenes. Her appearance is a source of sex comedy, and she ends up paired with Dr. Frankenstein.
- Subverted in The Fly (1986), but not its sequel.
- In the first film, Veronica is the movie's Deuteragonist; her personal relationship with Seth — who is an initial subversion of the Mad Scientist — is crucial to how the entire story unfolds. She's a beautiful science journalist who upon Seth showing her his secret teleportation project is eager to write it up for a magazine article but ultimately agrees to become the sole chronicler of the project for a book. Between this and the technology being unprecedented, it makes sense that she would be asking lots of questions, which is what he wants anyway after years of having no one to talk to about his life's work. Upon their falling in love (she's the one who initiates the upgrading of the relationship) she gives him the "Eureka!" Moment he needs to finally program the pods not to mangle living beings. After he teleports himself — the result of a drunken misunderstanding on his part, involving her relationship with her ex-lover/editor — and starts showing odd physical and emotional changes, she is first to realize that the changes are not just strange but bad and that the teleportation went awry somehow, and even has the strange hairs sprouting from a wound on his back examined at a lab (offscreen) to provide backup for her assertions. Later she's Supporting the Monster Loved One, and only becomes a Damsel in Distress in the climax as she learns too late that he intends to put her through Romantic Fusion with him.
- In The Fly II Beth is a pretty computer technician who gets a Meet Cute with Martin (the Spin-Offspring of Seth and Veronica) at the Research, Inc. they both work at and becomes his lab assistant and lover almost simultaneously. She contributes little to the story aside from Supporting the Monster Loved One when he begins to mutate, to the point that she could easily be written out of the script — her only meaningful contribution to the climax is pressing a button for Martinfly to initiate a teleportation sequence.
- A Memoir by Lady Trent: Suhail is a gender-flipped version. While he's a science hero himself, depending on what you think of archaeology, and his Shirtless Scene intro firmly establishes him as eye candy, in Voyage of the Basilisk he is more of a facilitator of the plot than the driver himself. He even acts as a notetaker for some of Isabella's musing. Later books let him showcase his specialties more.
- Walt Disney Presents: The 1955 special "Mars and Beyond" has a segment describing the stock plot in contemporary sci-fi comics and pulp stories, of a brilliant scientist hero who must rescue his Sexy Secretary from an extraterrestrial menace. Of course, Disney's version quickly turns into a complete parody: the brilliant scientist is so caught up in his calculations, he doesn't even notice when the Martian robot abducts the secretary. And the secretary screams for several minutes but eventually dons a superhero costume and rescues herself.
- Doctor Who: Jo Grant, Companion to the 3rd Doctor (a time-travelling Gadgeteer Genius), is a cute ditzy blonde who doesn't know much about science and is frequently captured. She is sometimes known to exhibit Obfuscating Stupidity, and is adept at escaping once captured (she was trained as a spy, though she has no experience). This then became the stereotype of the show in pop culture, although many of the Doctor's female companions were more knowledgeable and/or resourceful then the stereotype gives them credit for, and the ones who tended more to total uselessness are generally unpopular with fans. The trope is lampshaded when Jo first arrives on the scene—the Doctor demands to know what happened to his previous companion, scientist Liz Shaw, only to be told she's resigned as the Doctor just wants someone to "pass you your test tubes and tell you how brilliant you are."
- Parodied in several sketches in Monty Python's Flying Circus, such as the "Science Fiction Sketch", which feature a male scientist (played by Graham Chapman) explaining science concepts/delivering exposition to his ditzy, provocatively-dressed blonde assistant, played by Donna Reading. Reading hams it up, directing so much of her attention toward the audience she knows is watching her that she repeatedly comically forgets her cues and has to be reminded to stay in character.
- Star Trek: Voyager. Parodied in the Show Within a Show The Adventures of Captain Proton (a holodeck program based on 1930's sci-fi serials) with Captain Proton's secretary Constance Goodheart, a busty blonde babe whose only role is a Damsel in Distress for Proton to rescue, with her only dialogue being an ear-splitting scream.
- Larna, Prof. Edward's daughter in Moon Over Africa who accompanies him through Africa to search for Atlantis, doesn't seem to know anything about Africa or archeology, and often asks basic questions to her father that allow him to deliver exposition about the area they're in or their short-term goals. Many of the plotlines involve rescuing Larna when she gets possessed by demons, Captured by Cannibals, or menaced by lions. While it's hard to have fanservice in a radio serial, Larna is a love interest for Jack, Prof. Edward's other, more competent assistant.
- El Goonish Shive: Sarah becomes Tedd's lab assistant/guinea pig (only occasionally literally) for his magical experimentation. While she isn't as scientifically inept as some other examples her lack of familiarity with the specifics of Tedd's experiments is crucial to her role as a scientific control especially in the early experiments. That said when Sarah first suggested it Tedd's mind immediately pictured her and Grace as typical examples of this trope complete with Stripperiffic clothing before revising the mental image to be more appropriate (Grace remaining scantily clad because she's Grace).
- Dr. Germahn's assistant, Amanda, also fits this trope early on.
- Despite initially coming off as a Brainless Beauty, Amy Wong is a subversion in the revived series. She's Farnsworth's engineering student, but is highly competent in her own right and even gets her PhD.
- Parodied in "A Big Piece of Garbage" when the expositional instructional film the gang are watching, The Great Garbage Crisis of 2000, turns out to be pornography.
Female "Scientist": (taking off lab coat to reveal bikini) Now that the garbage is in space, Doctor, perhaps you can help me with my sexual inhibitions.Male Scientist: (also disrobing) With gusto.
- Subverted in Kim Possible, where the blonde supermodel was the real expert and the doctor was a fake. Vivian never got credit for her work because everyone assumed she was nothing more than the hot assistant, so she invoked the assistant role by creating a robot named Oliver that could appear to be a scientist, and then posed as his girlfriend. At the end of the episode, she's hired as a scientist under her own name and face.