The ‘Scully Effect’ Is Real: Female X-Files Fans More Likely to Go Into STEM

Fox
Fox

FBI agent Dana Scully is more than just a role model for remaining professional when a colleague won't stop talking about his vast governmental conspiracy theories. The skeptical doctor played by Gillian Anderson on The X-Files helped inspire women to go into STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) careers, according to a new report [PDF] from the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, which we spotted at Fast Company.

“In the world of entertainment media, where scientists are often portrayed as white men wearing white coats and working alone in labs, Scully stood out in the 1990s as the only female STEM character in a prominent, prime-time television role,” the report explains. Previously, anecdotal evidence has pointed to the existence of a “Scully effect,” in which the measured TV scientist—with her detailed note-taking, evidence-based approach, and desire to autopsy everything—inspired women to seek out their own science careers. This report provides the hard data.

The Geena Davis Institute surveyed more than 2000 women in the U.S. above the age of 25, a significant portion of whom were viewers of The X-Files (68 percent) and women who had studied for or were in STEM careers (49 percent). While the survey didn’t ask women whether watching Dana Scully on The X-Files directly influenced their decision to be a scientist, the results hint that seeing a character like her on TV regularly did affect them. Women who watched more of the show were more likely to say they were interested in STEM, more likely to have studied a STEM field in college, and more likely to have worked in a STEM field after college.

While it’s hard to draw a direct line of causation there—women who are interested in science might just be more inclined to watch a sci-fi show like The X-Files than women who grow up to be historians—viewers also tended to say Scully gave them positive impressions of women in science. More than half of respondents who were familiar with Scully’s character said she increased their confidence in succeeding in a male-dominated profession. More than 60 percent of the respondents said she increased their belief in the importance of STEM. And when asked to describe her, they were most likely to say she was “smart” and “intelligent” before any other adjective.

STEM fields are still overwhelmingly male, and governments, nonprofits, schools, activists, and some tech companies have been pushing to make the field more diverse by recruiting and retaining more female talent. While the desire to become a doctor or an engineer isn’t the only thing keeping STEM a boy’s club, women also need more role models in the fields whose success and accomplishments they can look up to. Even if some of those role models are fictional.

Now that The X-Files has returned to Fox, perhaps Dana Scully will have an opportunity to shepherd a whole new generation of women into the sciences.

[h/t Fast Company]

10 Things You Might Not Know About She-Ra, Princess of Power

At the height of He-Man's popularity in the early 1980s, Mattel and cartoon studio Filmation discovered an interesting demographic detail about the series: 30 percent of its audience consisted of girls. To help satisfy the unpredicted demand for a female fantasy character, the companies conceived of She-Ra, twin sister of the massively-muscled swordsman and sworn protector of Grayskull’s honor. In honor of the new Netflix series She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, here are 10 little-known facts about the warrior princess of Etheria.

1. TOY STORES DIDN'T KNOW WHERE TO STOCK SHE-RA.

Despite being an offshoot of the hyper-masculine He-Man line, She-Ra was officially described as a “fashion action doll” by Mattel, a strange amalgamation of sword fighting and hair-combing. That left stores with the dilemma of whether to place her near her Barbie brethren or among the testosterone-laced aisles of action figures. While some stores situated her adjacent to He-Man, Sears put her next to dolls in their catalog; others split the difference and stocked her in both departments.

2. SHE-RA GAVE BARBIE A BOOST.

In the toy world, “flanker” lines are created to help support a main toy product by expanding a category and raising interest. In She-Ra’s case, Mattel saw her as a way of boosting attention for their high-profile Barbie line, which had grown stale. In an interview with He-Man.org, Janice Varney-Hamlin said, “Barbie sales had flattened out at the time, so introducing a competitive fashion doll line that we owned should expand the size of the entire category and allow the Barbie business to grow.” In 1986, after surviving an onslaught from rival Jem and the Holograms, Barbie posted $350 million in sales.

3. SHE WAS VOTED MOST LIKELY TO "HOLD BACK TEARS."

A late 1980s study arranged by the Institute for the Study of Women and Men at the University of Southern California graded different lines based on what girls thought their toys were most or least likely to do. Barbie was expected to be “out on a date”; She-Ra was thought to be less apt to cry. She was also preferred as a mentor over Barbie, with one girl remarking, "I like her because she knows what she wants and how to get it.” (A boy who was asked his opinion said, “She-Ra's strong and really smart. All Barbie is worried about is wearing her clothes and living in her dream house.")

4. SHE-RA'S HEADDRESS IS AN UPSIDE-DOWN MASK.

The original She-Ra fashion action doll issued in 1985 featured a winged headdress that could be flipped upside-down and worn as a mask, but girls in focus groups disliked this feature. Mattel strayed from the idea, buyers were rarely aware of it, and Filmation had her sporting a more conventional tiara in the animated series.  

5. MATTEL BOUGHT OUT A RIVAL "SHEERA."

Before Mattel launched the line, they took notice of author Barbara Hambly’s fantasy novel, Ladies of Mandrigyn, featuring a character called Sheera. Despite no obvious similarities, Mattel decided to purchase the ancillary rights to the books for $25,000 so no competing toy companies would muddy the waters with a competing Sheera line.

6. SHE-RA HAD A LUST ANIMATION SPECIALIST.

For reaction shots where She-Ra needed to be overly expressive, producers counted on one female animator in particular. According to show writer Bob Forward, the woman in question “threw lust into everything … [the director] used her for everything where he wanted passion.”

7. MATTEL'S BOYS' DEPARTMENT BLAMED SHE-RA FOR HE-MAN'S FALLING SALES.

Despite an aggressive marketing campaign, She-Ra was unable to duplicate the success of her cousin: According to former Mattel employee Roger Sweet, roughly $60 million worth of She-Ra merchandise was sold in 1985, a pittance compared to the $400 million He-Man brought in the following year. But sales subsequently plummeted: According to Hamlin, employees in charge of Mattel’s boy lines were adamant that She-Ra was responsible for their declining sales. (In fact, it was likely over-saturation in the action figure market that led to the character’s demise.)

8. SHE-RA MADE IN STORE APPEARANCES.

Hamlin, who was in charge of marketing for girls' merchandise at Mattel, hired actresses to appear in character as She-Ra for toy stores. She recalls that when she was auditioning women for the part, a sizeable number of male Mattel employees would suddenly appear in hallways.

9. SHE WAS SUPPOSED TO BE IN THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE MOVIE.

Masters of the Universe, the notoriously under-budgeted 1987 feature, was originally intended to include She-Ra; concept art by production designer William Stout was even commissioned. But director Gary Goddard felt it would be best to concentrate on He-Man for the first film. (It would be the only film.)

10. SHE-RA WAS NEARLY IN A ROCK BAND.

Fans bemoaned a statement by onetime cartoon property owners Entertainment Rights in 2006 where it was mentioned She-Ra was being considered for a radical reinvention. “We’ll probably re-launch She-Ra featuring a rock-and-roll band and a girl with long blond hair who will have a guitar instead of a sword,” CEO Michael Heap told World Screen. The idea never went anywhere, however, and She-Ra has yet to be resurrected.

A version of this story ran in 2015.

10 Filling Facts About A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving

Warner Home Video
Warner Home Video

Though it may not be as widely known as It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown or A Charlie Brown Christmas, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving has been a beloved holiday tradition for many families for 45 years now. Even if you've seen it 100 times, there’s still probably a lot you don’t know about this Turkey Day special.

1. IT’S THE FIRST PEANUTS SPECIAL TO FEATURE AN ADULT VOICE.

We all know the trombone “wah wah wah” sound that Charlie Brown’s teacher makes when speaking in a Peanuts special. But A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, which was released in 1973, made history as the first Peanuts special to feature a real, live, human adult voice. But it’s not a speaking voice—it’s heard in the song “Little Birdie.”

2. IT WASN’T JUST ANY ADULT WHO LENT HIS VOICE TO THE SPECIAL.

Being the first adult to lend his or her voice to a Peanuts special was kind of a big deal, so it makes sense that the honor wasn’t bestowed on just any old singer or voice actor. The song was performed by composer Vince Guaraldi, whose memorable compositions have become synonymous with Charlie Brown and the rest of the gang.

“Guaraldi was one of the main reasons our shows got off to such a great start,” Lee Mendelson, the Emmy-winning producer who worked on many of the Peanuts specials—including A Charlie Brown Thanksgivingwrote for The Huffington Post in 2013. “His ‘Linus and Lucy,’ introduced in A Charlie Brown Christmas, set the bar for the first 16 shows for which he created all the music. For our Thanksgiving show, he told me he wanted to sing a new song he had written for Woodstock. I agreed with much trepidation as I had never heard him sing a note. His singing of ‘Little Birdie’ became a hit."

3. DESPITE THE VOICE, THERE ARE NO ADULTS FEATURED IN THE SPECIAL.

While Peanuts specials are largely populated by children, there’s usually at least an adult or two seen or heard somewhere. That’s not the case with A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. “Charlie Brown Thanksgiving may be the only Thanksgiving special (live or animated) that does not include adults,” Mendelson wrote for HuffPo. “Our first 25 specials honored the convention of the comic strip where no adults ever appeared. (Ironically, our Mayflower special does include adults for the first time.)”

4. LUCY IS MOSTLY M.I.A., TOO.

Though early on in the special, viewers get that staple scene of Lucy pulling a football away from Charlie Brown at the last minute, that’s all we see of Chuck’s quasi-nemesis in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. (Lucy's brother Linus, however, is a main character.)

5. CHARLIE BROWN AND LUCY STILL KEEP IN TOUCH.

Though they only had a single scene together, Todd Barbee, who voiced Charlie Brown, told Noblemania that he and Robin Kohn, who voiced Lucy in the Thanksgiving special, still keep in touch. “We actually went to high school together,” Barbee said. “We still live in Marin County, are Facebook friends, and occasionally see each other.”

6. CHARLIE BROWN HAD SOME TROUBLE WITH HIS SIGNATURE “AAARRRGGH.”

One unique aspect of the Peanuts specials is that the bulk of the characters are voiced by real kids. In the case of A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, 10-year-old newcomer Todd Barbee was tasked with giving a voice to Charlie Brown—and it wasn’t always easy.

“One time they wanted me to voice that ‘AAAAAAARRRRRGGGGG’ when Charlie Brown goes to kick the football and Lucy yanks it away,” Barbee recalled to Noblemania in 2014. “Try as I might, I just couldn’t generate [it as] long [as] they were looking for … so after something like 25 takes, we moved on. I was sweating the whole time. I think they eventually got an adult or a kid with an older voice to do that one take."

7. LINUS STILL GETS AN ENTHUSIASTIC RESPONSE.

While Barbee got a crash course in the downside of celebrity at a very early age—“seeing my name printed in TV Guide made everyone around me go bananas … everybody … just thought I was some big movie star or something,” he told Noblemania—Stephen Shea, who voiced Linus, still gets a pretty big reaction.

"I don't walk around saying 'I'm the voice of Linus,'" Shea told the Los Angeles Times in 2013. "But when people find out one way or another, they scream 'I love Linus. That is my favorite character!'"

8. THANKS TO LINUS, THE THANKSGIVING SPECIAL GOT A SPINOFF.

As is often the case in a Peanuts special, Linus gets to play the role of philosopher in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and remind his friends (and the viewers) about the history and true meaning of the holiday. His speech about the Pilgrims’ first Thanksgiving eventually led to This is America, Charlie Brown: The Mayflower Voyagers, a kind of spinoff adapted from that Thanksgiving Day prayer, which sees the Peanuts gang becoming a part of history.

9. LEE MENDELSON HAD AN ISSUE WITH BIRD CANNIBALISM.

In writing for HuffPo for A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving’s 40th anniversary, Mendelson admitted that one particular scene in the special led to “a rare, minor dispute during the creation of the show. Mr. Schulz insisted that Woodstock join Snoopy in carving and eating a turkey. For some reason I was bothered that Woodstock would eat a turkey. I voiced my concern, which was immediately overruled.”

10. MENDELSON EVENTUALLY GOT HIS WAY ... THOUGH NOT FOR LONG.

Though Mendelson lost his original argument against seeing Woodstock eating another bird, he was eventually able to right that wrong. “Years later, when CBS cut the show from its original 25 minutes to 22 minutes, I sneakily edited out the scene of Woodstock eating,” he wrote. “But when we moved to ABC in 2001, the network (happily) elected to restore all the holiday shows to the original 25 minutes, so I finally have given up.”

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