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Why isn’t the 1963 Western ‘McLintock!’ About Me? By Scientist Barbara McClintock

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It’s time for some science non-fiction

Come on! This is would be riveting on the silver screen.

I bet you never think of the 1963 western movie, McLintock!, starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. You know what else you never think of? Me, Barbara McClintock, Nobel Prize winner. I know Marie Curie won two Nobel Prizes, but this is about me. I only won one Nobel Prize, which is still more than John Wayne.

Also, I was originally named Eleanor but since I was such an active child, my parents renamed me Barbara. They thought Eleanor was too feminine of a name for me. Take that Eleanor Roosevelt, who was actually named Anna. Why am I bringing up other people when I’m badass Barbara McClintock, the first woman to be awarded the National Medal of Science?

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So why isn’t the movie McLintock! about me? I was alive during the 60’s. The producers easily could have just called me up and said “Hey, Barbara McClintock, discoverer of transposable elements, the ‘jumping gene,’ sequences that move DNA from one genome to another. Can we make a movie about you?” What would have I said? It doesn’t matter what I would have said because Hollywood did not call. They just went right along making McLintock!. A movie that they had the nerve to misspell my last name in that is not even about me. By the way, it’s McClintock with two c’s not that one c atrocity that you threw up on the marquee. And another thing, it’s dumb to force an exclamation point into a title, don’t tell me how to say it, because I say it like this, McLintock?

Did 1963 really need another western? Did the world need to see John Wayne again in a cowboy hat and belt buckle? No, of course it didn’t. Hollywood could have given movie-going audiences something really exhilarating, like my systematic studies on the mechanisms of mosaic color patterns of maize seed.

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Instead, Hollywood decided to ignore me, just like the science world ignored my 1945 discovery of the transposable elements. I was finally recognized for the work in the 1970s and given the Nobel Prize in 1983. I had to wait for all three of the original Star Wars to be released before anyone paid attention to my actual real-life science adventures. Now, I’m done with waiting. It’s time to take matters into my own hands. People like science fiction, I’ve got science non-fiction.

Listen up movie makers, I have a pitch for you. It’s a reboot of the western classic comedy McLintock! called McClintock!. Instead of being a sexist romp about a cowboy and his estranged wife with a weird spanking scene thrown in, it’s about a never married childless scientist who became the leader in maize cytogenetics in a male dominated field. Think Children of the Corn but more like McClintock of the Maize.

Let’s see how that does on opening weekend.

I was not elected to the National Academy of Sciences just to let John Wayne prance around in 84 western movies in his career. He wasn’t even a real cowboy, I was a real scientist. Let me tell you, there is nothing more wild west than my discovery of the chromosomal breakage-rejoining-bridge cycle and I got two fists to back that up.

Come on, you didn’t get that? That was a punching you in the nose science joke.

Heather Meyer is a humor writer in Minneapolis who likes to bake terrible things live on Facebook as Cooking Heather and tweets @heathermeyer2.


Why isn’t the 1963 Western ‘McLintock!’ About Me? By Scientist Barbara McClintock was originally published in The Belladonna Comedy on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.





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