Mayim Bialik on Superman, Shaving, and Scientists

Geek Culture Technology

With the upcoming Man of Steel almost here, Gillette jumped on the fact that the trailer shows a bearded Man of Tomorrow and thought it would be fun to gather a group of knowledgeable folks to ask them the rather time-tested question of “How does Superman shave?” The results can be seen here, and we’ve already asked to Kevin Smith and Bill Nye about their theories, but today, we chat with Mayim Bialik about her theory on how Superman shaves, plus some other science-related topics.

You can see Bialik’s theory in the video above, but she was kind of enough to expand on her thoughts with us:

GeekDad: In your theory, you say there’s research being done in Kryptonian genetics, specifically into the proteins which hold facial hair follicles in place. You posit that they’ve been able to denature the enzymes which hold the follicles in place via a lotion, causing the hair to become weak enough to be removed. So essentially, it’s Nair with a better scent, am I right?

Mayim Bialik: No, my theory would involve not a Nair product, but a Gillette product that would be more enzymatic.

GD: You’re on a show that carries a significant amount of geek cred. Was there anything about your experience on the show that influenced the development of your shaving theory?

MB: I actually did speak to Bill Prady as I was developing my theory. He’s our creator and executive producer. He already had several ideas about exactly how Superman shaves, so I did run my theory by him. No one else on the cast would care, but Bill Prady definitely cared. And Steve Molaro, our showrunner and executive producer, he’d probably care too.


GD: You mention in your video that you love comic books. Are there any particular titles you like to read?

MB: I grew up reading classics, both DC and Marvel. I got really into adult comics, meaning graphic novels and Spiegelman and Klaus and Peter Bagge and those sort of things. I loved Y: The Last Man, I loved it. Because I have two young boys, we’re doing classics and starting again, I’ve been doing vintage Flash with them, so that’s been fun.

GD: Y: The Last Man is fantastic!

MB: It’s really, really good.

GD: We keep seeing rumors about it being made into a series and now a movie. I just hope they do it right.

MB: That would be amazing. If I was not on Big Bang Theory, that would be the job I’d want.

GD: Big Bang Theory does a great job of laughing with geeks, as opposed to at them, which we don’t see often enough. This is fantastic, but what is even better is the portrayal of your character and Melissa Rauch’s character as these capable, successful, scientifically minded women. Do you get much feedback from viewers or fans? And is the treatment and development of these characters a directed decision?

MB: If you met our writers, it would make a lot of sense. Both Bill and Steve, in particular, are very seasoned geeks and also very reasonable and sensitive too. I think a lot of their interest in the female characters and the female geeks comes out of what I would imagine a lot of geeky guys in their youth were dealing with in terms of understanding women.

I have gotten a lot of positive feedback, as a female scientist, as someone who based my character on several women who were my professors in graduate school … I had professors who looked like supermodels who were neuroscientists and I had professors who looked like Amy Farrah Fowler. There are lots of different kinds of females and I do a lot of work for STEM advocacy and especially trying to inspire young girls and I think trying to put a female face on science is something I do get very positive feedback about.


GD: After your first run at television, you decided to go back to school where you earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience. Can you talk about that decision for a moment and why science is important to you?

MB: I was a late bloomer. I thought science was for boys (because all the boys said that it was) and science and math were hard for me, which I thought meant I wasn’t good at them and that they weren’t for me. I think that’s a really kind of interesting distinction many of us are not made to make. Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean you’re not good at it. It wasn’t until I was 15, I was on the set of Blossom that I had a biology tutor. She’s now a dental surgeon, but she was an undergrad dental student at UCLA at the time and she was the one who gave me the confidence and the skill set to believe I could be a scientist.

Three of my four grandparents are immigrants to this country, so I grew up with a very strong ethic to go to college, no matter what, even if you had your own television show, you had to go to college. So Blossom ended when I was two years out of high school and that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to have a normal kind of academic life.

My parents were English teachers and I grew up in a cerebral environment and we were always reading and experiencing art. I always wanted to be a renaissance person; I wanted to be in a community of academics where what was inside your brain was valued more than if you could make someone laugh.

GD: I want to key on one of the things you said, that you didn’t think that science and math were for girls. It seems like there’s a lot of that. With your television job, but more specifically, your education, you must have an opinion on what we can do to get more young women engaged in engineering and the sciences?

MB: I’ve been the spokesperson or Texas Instruments for two years. This is a lot of what I do with them. I think part of it is presenting this information as early as possible — teaching kids about STEM and about STEM careers. I think presenting it equally to boys and girls and finding ways to not have it become a cultural/gender divide issue, because it’s not. There’s nothing about the female brain that can’t and shouldn’t learn about STEM subjects. We need female voices in these fields.

Obviously, historically and sociologically, there are lots of reasons why women didn’t used to have a lot of careers. But now that women can, they should be encouraged equally. Part of that is what I do with TI, try to put a positive face on STEM and a female face on STEM. Teaching students what it feels like and what it looks like to be a scientist early on is important.

It’s why the handheld graphing calculator is so important, I think. The exact calculator you can hold at 13 or 14 is the same calculator you will hold in college and graduate school and into a life as a scientist. Being able to do experiments and use that kind of technology really gives kids an idea of what it feels like to be a scientist so they don’t just think about it as a lone professor in a laboratory. (Which may appeal to some boys, but which may not appeal to a lot of girls.)

GD: Just one last question: You mention your Kryptonian lotion smells really good, making Superman smell really good. What does it smell like?

MB: Roses and daffodils is what I decided. Those are good smells.

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