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Representing Professors: Junior, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger

by Curtis Marez

Having failed to secure FDA funding for research to prevent pregnant women from miscarrying, here Dr. Arbogast (DeVeto) tires to persuade his partner, Dr. Hesse (Schwarzenegger) not to leave his post at the fictional “Leland University” (played in the film by UC Berkeley). Schwarzenegger became a star as a result of his role in James Cameron’s The Terminator (1984) where he literally played a machine, and here, a decade latter, he brought that star image to his characterization of a university professor. Even though his research is focused on human reproduction in ways that other characters in the film treat with great reverence and sentiment, Hesse is initially depicted as driven yet cold, without loved ones or friends, and hence isolated from human warmth and empathy. Over the course of the film this situation changes when, unable to perform tests on women, Dr. Arbogast steals a frozen egg from the lab of another university researcher, Dr. Diana Reddin (Emma Thompson) and inserts it into Dr. Hesse. In the film’s complicated narrative, Hesse and Reddin fall in love, fall out of love, and then reconcile before Schwarzenneger’s machine-like professor is softened and humanized by the process of giving birth. What does this character arc suggest about conventional understandings of the work of being a professor?  What qualities are lacking in Dr. Hesse at the start of the film, and what does he gain by the end? And what is the significance—the limits and possibilities-- of framing the value of public university research and education in such terms? 

Representing Professors: Junior

After losing their federal research grant, two university scientists discuss their future in ways that project an image of professors as coldly rational and machine like.

from Junior (1994)
Creator: Ivan Reitman
Distributor: Universal
Posted by Curtis Marez
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