Me Skeptic, you Jane: dumb choices for smart roles

After coming out of Thor, which was a satisfying summer blockbuster — particularly when seen for half-price at an AMC theater before noon — I had one major observation: that Natalie Portman‘s Jane Foster is the least convincing female scientist since The World Is Not Enough‘s Dr. Christmas Jones in 1999.

Today, I had a rousing discussion with my brother, who insisted that even if Portman was bland and too youthful, she couldn’t possibly be as miscast as Denise Richards‘ illustrious “nukular” physicist. So who does deserve the title of Second Least Convincing Scientist? Is there someone besides Portman who might warrant the dubious honor?

Here’s my own Top Five:

5. Angelina Jolie as archaeologist Lara Croft in Tomb Raider.*
4. Jennifer Connelly as research scientist Betty Ross in 2003's Hulk.
3. Liv Tyler as cell biologist Betty Ross in 2008's The Incredible Hulk.
2. Natalie Portman as Jane Foster (with Chris Hemsworth's Thor).
1. Denise Richards as Christmas Jones.

Should this list be re-ordered? Did I miss someone? Are there other, similar, portrayals that stretch the boundaries of believability?

Mind you, being a beautiful woman isn’t the deciding factor here. You can absolutely be beautiful and smart, and absolutely portray a character as being both, too. Gillian Anderson‘s Dana Scully from The X-Files, Brennan (Emily Deschanel), Cam (Tamara Taylor) and Angela (Michaela Conlin) on Bones, Pauley Perette‘s Abby on NCIS…they are all attractive and competent. Laura Dern‘s Ellie in Jurassic Park? I never doubted her for a minute!

But others… others are a different story. Mira Sorvino as entomologist Susan Tyler in 1997’s Mimic is definitely an honorable mention on the WTF?! list for me. As are Elisabeth Shue‘s research scientist roles in The Saint and Hollow Man. And to go back to TV, I would  certainly throw B&B and Y&R‘s chemists Brooke Logan (Katherine Kelly Lang) and Ashley Abbott (Eileen Davidson) into the mix!

There are just some actresses and occupations that don’t fit, for whatever reason.

*I am aware that Jolie is actually a pretty good physical match for Lara Croft, the video game character, so it’s more a general reaction of “Lara Croft, archaeologist? Shyeah right!”

One thought on “Me Skeptic, you Jane: dumb choices for smart roles

  1. Portman is unconvincing as a scientist? I haven’t seen Thor but she usually seems pretty smart.

    Its been a long time since I’ve seen Hulk but I don’t think Connelly was unconvincing. She usually comes across as mature and intelligent. I think she made a decent scientist. I agree on Denise Richards though. She does not seem like a scientist. She doesn’t come across as particularly bright and is not a good enough actress to make you believe she would be interested in science.


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