An ad for a science fiction film festival

An ad for a science fiction film festival

There are little inaccuracies in nearly every film we watch. In fact, some websites are dedicated solely to picking out these small, sometimes amusing mistakes. But what happens when we accept these inaccuracies as fact?

Science in film has always been a tricky business, and oftentimes it’s difficult for the masses to separate science from science fiction. Writers and directors naturally hope that audiences will be able to suspend their disbelief long enough to be entertained by a scientific premise that is not only interesting, but plausible. Although science in film can lead to extremely entertaining plots in addition to focusing our attention on particular policy points, much of the science that is portrayed in film is misleading and can potentially influence audiences to discount the value and validity of the real science that forms the fictional foundation of science-themed films. Godzilla, Jurassic Park, Gattaca, Outbreak, and The Day After Tomorrow represent only a few examples of this tendency.

Be sure not to miss the Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment and Technology Laws upcoming Article, Is It Really Possible to do the Kessel Run in Less than Twelve Parsecs and Should It Matter? Science in Film and its Policy Implications, in the Winter 2009 issue. The abstract of the Article follows.


The entertainment media influences our lives in a myriad of different ways—from the way we dress, to the language we use, to the products we buy. What might be less obvious are its influences on national policies. This Article, an introductory foray into the effects of media on policy, focuses on the effect that movies have on science policies in the United States and around the world. Through an analysis of both classic and recent blockbuster films and concurrent events involving science policies, this Article argues that Hollywood exerts an inordinate amount of influence on national science policies, and even extends beyond that to affect biotechnology markets. Acknowledging this important influence, the Article then examines why this may be the case. While a thorough analysis of related First Amendment jurisprudence suggests that some of the most radical solutions to tamp down Hollywood’s influences, including limited censorship, may not always run afoul of constitutional free speech rights, this Article nevertheless proposes that the scientific community should take proactive measures to either prevent or hamper Hollywood from promoting bad science policies.

Article Author: Dov Greenbaum

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