Science documentary : a case for collapsing the distance
Lain, Kathryn Morgan.
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This paper looks at conventional science documentary, placing it within trends of documentary, science, and science representation, all traditions with perceived connections to objectivity and authority. Bringing together documentary film theory, science studies, and my own experiences in an academic program dedicated to science filmmaking, I deconstruct conventional science documentary, highlighting why I find inadequate the current questions, assumptions, and methods that guide the making of these films. I demonstrate how such questions, assumptions, and methods reinforce a gulf between science and the general public, and celebrate science as being an objective, all-knowing, extrahuman authority. My case study of 'The Science of Sex Appeal' is an attempt to call attention to that gulf (and related celebration of science) and provide an example of a more active and critical approach to viewing these science documentaries. I conclude that there is a need for makers of science documentaries to venture beyond the problematic conventions that guide these films, to work toward a new type of science film that can help reconstruct the relationships between science, science film, and the general public.