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Girls Just Wanna Be Smart? The Function of Women Scientists in Contemporary Crime Fiction

Kerstin Bergman


Portrayals of fictional scientists influence how the public perceive real scientists, and fictional scientists might serve as role models as well as inspire career choices. Crime fiction is probably the most popular fiction genre today, and fictional scientists are an important presence in the genre. This article sheds particular light on the role and function of women scientists in contemporary crime fiction by analyzing three well-known examples taken from the mediums of literature, television, and film. The examples examined here are compared and contrasted to previous studies of women scientists in fiction more generally, as well as, more specifically, studies of women investigators in crime fiction. Women scientists in crime fiction are found to be skilled experts in their fields, appreciated and respected by their peers, and making essential contributions to the solving of crimes. Nevertheless, they are simultaneously treated like children, as well as objects of sexual desire, by their co-workers. Which is also most likely to be the case by the actual consumers—the viewers and readers—of this fiction themselves. Although these fictional women scientists might be ideal role models in many senses, their infantilization and sexualization signifies that the world of science is still far from gender equal.


women scientists; crime fiction; gender issues; science; infantilization; sexualization; role model; NCIS; Abby Sciuto; Kathy Reichs; Devil Bones; Temperance Brennan; The World Is Not Enough; Christmas Jones

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