Where the wimmins at?
December 4, 2012 10:29 AM   Subscribe

I am finally all caught up on Fringe having first started watching just a month or two ago. I need some veteran viewers to answer an overarching question I have. Mild spoilers likely.

It didn't take many eps before I was wondering why there were no women among the evil-scientist-of-the-week's. After the first season it almost became like a game, and now that I have seen the latest episode, my count stands at pretty much one*.

At 94 episodes so far, the show is set to have a 1% incidence of women in STEM positions. It's pretty hard to arrive at worse than real life numbers accidentally, so I assume this is a specific thematic choice made by the showrunners, and hopefully some Fringey mefites can clue me in on what's going on.

The mathematician in season 4 episode "Time Slips". Her role is arguably passive, with her engineer husband having 95% of the agency in the episode but it's the closest I can find. There's also a woman in a white coat at one point who calls for her supervisor, but that's a stretch even for me. Astrid and Nina, while scientifically literate and competent are specifically titled as law enforcement agent and manager/administrator respectively.
posted by Iteki to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
My impression is that they're all a series of Walter figures and are meant to mirror his own hubristic overstepping of the bounds of nature and science (how many of them are doing what they do to keep alive a loved one?).

That said, I think they could certainly mirror Walter with a woman, but I think that's the reason for this choice on the show's part.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:36 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think it's because a major theme of the show is how fathers in particular fail to process grief in healthy ways. If you think of every mad scientist (except, perhaps, David Robert Jones) as a thematic counterpoint to Walter, the choice makes some sense.

I have a theory that Fringe is a modern-day commedia dell'arte specifically put on for the benefit of an aged Prospero who is grieving the recent accidental death of Miranda, a death he could have prevented and indeed could undo had he only not drowned his books.
posted by gauche at 10:37 AM on December 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

From a screenwriting perspective, you already have a strong female lead (Olivia) and two strong female supporting characters (Astrid and Nina), not to mention the "alt" versions of those same characters from previous seasons, so the inclination is to bring in more male guest stars every week just for balance.
posted by Oktober at 10:42 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Because people imagine scientists as men and writers are people. I don't think it's some kind of balance -- you have 2 male leads to 1 female, you have a revolving group of male secondary characters who are no less important than Astrid and Nina.
posted by jeather at 10:46 AM on December 4, 2012

For the same reason there's only been one female Bond supervillian. We're more afraid of the evil men do.
posted by roger ackroyd at 11:09 AM on December 4, 2012

I think you mean that the show has about 1% of women in Mad STEM positions.

It depends, I think, on whether you think of it as a show or a world. (Or, you know, two worlds.) The mathematician in Time Slips was the creator of the events that attracted the Fringe Division; she didn't make the crossover into madness that her husband and, in another episode, Peter Weller's character did. Both men were made their choices based on a selfish grief over the loss of their wives.

I'm with gauche and shakespearean, that the villians' backstories are meant to reflect on those of the heroes.

That said, there's no reason they couldn't have a female Walter, either as a foil or foe.
posted by Sunburnt at 1:28 PM on December 4, 2012

The numbers are low for STEM, but most of the mad scientists of the week are violent criminals (sap story reasons in tact, still criminals) and in the US men are something like 9 or ten times more likely to commit murder than women, depending on the year. It would be nice if some of the other STEM characters were women, but the upside is that Fringe has not fallen into the "The criminal is a lady! What a twist!" Law and Order derivative format.
posted by itsonreserve at 5:30 AM on December 5, 2012

Response by poster: I was kinda hoping someone would have some links for me where the creators discuss it, but I appreciate the inputs. I can see these points of view, but I don't really buy it. It's not even only about the criminal-of-the-week; there's plenty of STEM positions that aren't evil, if that's a sticking point. There's scientists, historians, doctors, and they seem to be all guys. There's that one nurse during the pregnancy ep. Which leaves the rather sour-tasting alternative that already having a main character and two recurring characters be women is already pushing it and I should be glad for what I get.
posted by Iteki at 3:07 PM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

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