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Great article, properly added to my “arrival” bookmark folder (yes I’m obssessed, can anyone who’s seen the movie blame me?). There’s a piece on The Los Angeles Review of Books that underlines the movie’s take on academia, which seems parallel to your understanding of it.

Spoilers ahead.

I understand the dissatisfaction in not seeing the “actual scientist” being as useful as he could be to the narrative (there’s a part on the script where he seems to make a breakthrough in figuring out how they travel, but even there it’s weird and seems out of place in the larger story that’s being told), but I saw this as a point being made regarding how seriously “actual scientists” take the “humanities”. I suppose Ian was a necessary presence as were the classic scifi scientists that perpetuate the trope you quoted in your article. I agree it’s not a trope as well developed as it could and should be, but I guess he wasn’t the focus on this particular movie. Let’s see what the science fictions of the future will bring.

There was a point to be made in the very first Louise x Ian interaction about this, which is kind of obvious, and as a writer I was kind of bummed that it wasn’t made, but then again, the character wasn’t me. “If it wasn’t for language, how could scientific understandings and breakthroughs be passed on between scientists and across generations?” Louise gives civilization a new beginning through using her primary understanding of Heptapod to convince everyone to CTFO and just talk to each other.

I’m assuming you didn’t think that the part where Ian told Louise that she approached language like a mathematician was enough to redeem the narrative as to its prejudice against such a humane area of knowledge? Either way, her following statement says a lot about the view of the movie to me. She doesn’t care if she’s viewed as a scientist or not: she knows her knowledge is rich, valid and necessary.