On this week’s video …
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.
One of the many points I was thinking about when I made this piece was that women are under-represented and don’t receive the respect they deserve in science today, well after Marie Curie’s time. I say this directly in the video and had intended the outrageous behavior of the Einstein doll to speak to this idea, as well. It didn’t come through the way I had hoped and I apologize for that and for the offense we caused.
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.
We tried to reach another layer, another message in this video. But we missed the mark in delivering that message, and for that I am truly sorry.
To anyone curious if I am not aware of, or not committed to preventing this kind of treatment (in whatever way my privileged perspective allows me to do so) I would urge you to check out my past writing and videos … like maybe this video from the week before. This doesn’t excuse us, but I ask that you form your opinion of me, It’s Okay To Be Smart, and PBS Digital Studios from my body of work, and not a piece of it.
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