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Rock stars: Geologists on the silver screen

Magazine article
Authors Erik Sturkell
Axel S.L. Sjöqvist
Lennart Björklund
Andreas Johnsson
Published in Earth. The science behind the headlines
Volume 60
Issue 6
Pages 24-33
ISSN 1943-345X
Publication year 2015
Published at Department of Earth Sciences
Pages 24-33
Language en
Keywords silver screen, geologists, portrait, movies, Dante's Peak, rock stars
Subject categories Earth and Related Environmental Sciences, Geology, Studies on Film


When geologists gather for a beer after work or around a campfire after a long day in the field, the conversation sometimes turns to how our profession is portrayed on film. Are geologists heroes or villains? Do they appear only in supporting roles — their parts limited to entering an office, uttering “Drill here,” and promptly leaving the scene — or are they main characters? Michael Easton of the Ontario Geological Survey and colleagues addressed some of these points in a 1990 article, “Hollywood’s Portrayal of Geologists: Earth Scientists on Celluloid,” in the pages of this magazine, then called Geotimes. The writers concluded that geologists are usually pictured as “good guys” — and they are most often guys — who work outdoors and love to seek out the local bar for a beer (or two). This stands in stark contrast to the customary film portrayals of physicists and chemists. In a 1988 study, “The Physicist as Mad Scientist,” science historian Spencer Weart, now retired from the American Institute of Physics, found that physicists and chemists are very often described as mad scientists striving for world domination or the total destruction of Earth. Even in cases where they were not portrayed as wholly evil, Weart found they were still often depicted as absent-minded or misunderstood geniuses. Much has changed in the last few decades, however, so we decided to reexamine the question of how geologists are portrayed on film, incorporating movies released since 1990.

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