Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Antigravity Gene

Ever since LOST hit the air back in my freshman year, I've been sucked into the character-driven serial drama shows like 24, Prison Break, Jericho, and most recently, Heroes. Unfortunately.

I can forgive Heroes the terrible wrap-up of their second season due to the Hollywood Writers' Strike, and even the lousy start to season 3 so far (Does any character ever stay dead?!?). What I have a much harder time letting slip by is the abominable attempts of the show to explain the superhero phenomena in the show through science.

I have no problem to watching a show that deals with paranormal effects and accepting the weird stuff that happens there, as I routinely do watching LOST. The time-travelling and craziness, while it messes with my head, is ok too. I can even let slide the concept of a "mutant gene" that supposedly gives wildly different results in every individual who carries it (I allowed it with X-Men, so I have to let it go here too).

Where I do draw the line, however, is the use real scientific terminology and imagery, in distorted fashion, to try and describe obviously fictional effects. Perhaps the show's creators hope to make the Heroes world seem plausible, but to anyone who knows much about science, their attempts just end up ridiculous.

When Mohinder, the scientist who narrates the show, points at a computer screen with what looks like bacteria tumbling around in solution in HD, and says "there's the gene!", it makes me confused. When he spouts off incoherence about enzymes and the bloodstream and adrenaline and genes, I get annoyed. When he works for 20 minutes and completes what would be 2 years of lab work in the real world, I get angry.

The icing on the cake is the perfectly arranged rainbow-coloured solutions that sit atop his bench. I wish my lab benches were ever that nicely decorated.

While I suspend my disbelief about superhero powers and the like that is central to the show, I have a very hard time stomaching their complete misrepresentation of what science is, and how it works. If they want to make it mad science, the scientist should be a mad scientist, and not the more-or-less rational individual Mohinder is. It's fine to have him sit there and mumble on in some incoherence about something the viewer can't grasp, but when the character talks about things you actually find in the textbooks, the writers of the show start actually lying by making fake connections between real things. It's the same as introducing Bill Gates to the show as a character and giving him a super-geek-ray power or placing the Eiffel tower in the middle of New York. Make something fictional, even take inspiration from the real world, but don't make lies about things from the real world.

The writers of Heroes obviously know nothing about how science works, and that is fine. They just need to stop pretending they do. Or at least do some homework, and find out what a double helix really looks like.

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