Media over the past decade has changed drastically not only technologically, but in content as well. Our generation lives in a much more mysterious time than our parents and grandparents. Technology advancements brought our generation comfort and caused us to rely more on what we hear and see rather then what we experience. One of the main aspects of media we experience today is TV ads, movies, and TV shows. Media has taken true identities manipulated them and forced people to reshape their views which affects people’s perception on everyday life. As an engineer I often see how we are portrayed negatively in movies and other forms of media. Despite their intelligence and work, engineers are portrayed as reclusive and isolated causing people to change their perspectives. If we take multiple media sources we can see that they depicted these characteristics about engineers.
Media portrays engineers as socially awkward and reclusive and we see this representation in TV shows such as Prison break. Prison break was created by Paul Scheuring in 2005 and it shows how Michael, the engineer, breaks into prison in order to break out his innocent older brother who was sentenced to death. In the show Michael and his group of inmates experience tragedies and difficult situations as they are constantly on a run. Michael was always the one to get everyone out of trouble and eventually gave his friends freedom. Throughout the show Michael was always the quiet one and often and his friends thought he was crazy because he rarely said anything or had a normal conversation with anyone. To Michael the group’s mentality seemed strange while for the group Michael’s doings were mysterious. In multiple scenes people disagree with what Michaels plan was because it seemed extremely risky, but he was always right and his plans worked. In this show engineers are portrayed socially awkward individuals.
One of the greatest TV shows that has the most practical representations of a reclusive and isolated engineer is Dilbert. Dilbert was created in 1989 by Scott Adams and this show revolves around the engineer Dilbert and his pet dog Dogbert at his work place in Silicon Valley. At his office, Dilbert can never agree with his coworkers. As in Prison Break, everyone in Dilbert’s company seems unable to make smart decisions and to them Dilbert seems crazy because his ideas are not like everyone else’s. The only individual that understands and agrees with Dilbert is his dog. Dilbert is isolated from everyone else and feels that no one understands him and no one wants to be around him because he is seen to be awkward and crazy based on the things he does. In each episode the company faces a problem and when everyone explains their solution Dilbert strictly disagrees and when Dilbert states his solution everyone else disagrees, thinking that his ways are absurd. This shows how engineers are isolated form the rest of the world because no one understands and respects them.
Another representation this show displays is the way engineers dress. Dilbert in Figure 1 is shown to dress nerdy and sloppy. Dilbert is wearing slacks that are short and his tie seems to be deformed; always pointing upwards. Engineers are shown to not care about their external looks. What we see and hear has a significant effect on the way we see things and the choices we make. An article that studies the portrayals of engineers written by Dr. Zbigniew J. Pasek states that “Portrayal of certain professions in the popular media has a deep and lasting effect not only on general public’s understanding of these professions, but also has an impact on future career choices of adolescents” (2012). Dilbert portrays engineers as awkward individuals and shows that they do not cope with the rest of society because they are different. This affects the younger generation and their career choices hence there is a decline in engineering professions. The article continues by stating that modern societies are experiencing a strange paradox. On one hand, to thrive, they continuously increase their dependence on a wide range of technologies, but on the other hand, the scientific and engineering communities responsible for the invention and development of these technologies are in steady decline (Pasek, 2012). As times become more advance society requires more engineers to constantly improve technology but because of how media represents engineers we see a decline in engineering career paths in younger generations. Media portrays engineers as mysterious individuals thus causing people to change their perspectives and avoid a career in engineering.
Engineers have helped our world advance technologically and make our everyday life easier and more convenient. To become an engineer it takes a lot of mental skill and experience to fully understand the field. Real engineers require problem solving, leadership, prioritizing, team work, and communication skills and to be successful. In the real world engineers may have different personalities but all engineers must be able to communicate with their customers and create their design successfully. From personal experience I can say that it’s quite hard to become a skillful engineer. As hard as it is on its own, media makes engineering seem unworthy and complex. The younger generation is most effected by stereotypes. The different stereotypes change the image of a typical engineer and this causes young adults not to choose their career path related to engineering because media portrays them as isolated individuals. An article on “Engineers in Popular Media” states that stereotypes are the cause for much worry among the engineering community because they are strongly believed to be one of the main reasons for the lack students enrolling in college to obtain an engineering degree(Olin, Fabian, & Olin, 2012). The author continues and explains that the solution to these stereotypes is the sources which are movies and TV shows. Shows and movies must portray engineers how they are in real life from their perspective not from other sources and their views.
One of these more recent movies is Iron Man. This film shows a positive portrayal of engineers and I believe will motivate others to choose the engineering path as their career choice. Iron man is based on the Marvel Comic, which was created by Stan Lee, and released in 2008. In the movie the main character, Tony Stark, is an engineer who created the Iron man suit while being held hostage by a terrorist group. After coming home he recreates his suit and improves its abilities. His close friend abused this opportunity and took Tony’s design and created his own suit which he later used to try to kill Tony. Though Tony made a mistake and others used that to their advantage, he fixed his mistake and improved his design again making it better for him and his company. This film also shows Tony as, most would consider, a handsome and well dressed person that. In figure 2, Tony is wearing a decent suit and is dressed very formal. When younger people see a man in a suit it instantly sparks an interest and makes them someone they look up too. Tony stark is a good example of a motivating modern engineer. In order to force interest into the younger generations engineers should be shown to be well dressed and someone who can always solve a problem.
In conclusion, media create stereotypes that damage the image of an engineer. This leads to negative portrayals of an engineer which causes young generations to change their career decision. Even though engineers have helped us by creating all the advanced technologies, society will still see them as awkward and isolated individuals as seen in the shows Dilbert and Prison Break. In order for this to change movies and TV shows should be represent engineers positively. Tony Stark is a great example of engineers and it will motivate others to see engineers as great and powerful people and hopefully cause others to choose their careers around the engineering filed. This will show the true representation of an engineer which would also help build the future.
Adams, Scott. Dilbert. Digital image. SFGATE. Benny Evangelista, 2013. Web. 2015.
Figure 1. Dilbert. Prod. Scott Adams. Perf. Daniel Stem. Columbia TriStar Television, 1998. TV Show.
Figure 2. Tony Stark. Digital image. Pixshark. N.p., n.d. Web. May 2015. <http://pixshark.com/tony-stark-suit.htm>.
Iron Man Armored Adventures 1. Dir. Jon Favreau. Perf. Robert Downey Jr. Marvel Entertainment, 2008. DVD.
Olin, D., Fabian, A., & Olin, F. W. (2012). Engineers in Popular Media : Hollywood as a Recruiting Tool for Engineering Colleges Engineers in Popular Media
Pasek, Z. J. (2012). Reel engineers: Portrayal of engineers and engineering profession in the feature films. 119th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, June 10, 2012 – June 13, 2012.
Prison Break. Prod. Paul Scheuring. Perf. Dominic Purcell, Wentworth Miller. 20th Television, 2005. DVD.