In this next installment of our series on depictions of women in STEM, we examine Kaywinnet Lee (Kaylee) Frye of the short-lived TV show Firefly, portrayed by Jewel Staite.
Underneath Kaylee’s sweet exterior is an extraordinary engineer with a penchant for machines and mechanics. As the mechanic of the ship, Serenity, in the space western drama that aired from September to December 2002, Kaylee had a deep love for the ship that she kept running. Despite her lack of formal training, she managed to steal the previous mechanic’s job by fixing the ship when he said there was no hope for it. She almost embodied the ship as if it were a living character on the show, as she would express hurt if the ship’s capabilities was insulted, and if her mechanical skills did fail her on the rare occasion, she would slip into a deep sadness. She is almost seen as having an intuitive knowledge of mechanics, skills that she was “born with.” This could be seen as problematic, as “Radengineer” points out on her blog: “It buys into the idea that people are born with mechanical ability – an idea that people have been using to explain why women just aren’t interested in engineering. […] I don’t think it’s useful to characterize Kaylee as having been born with this knowledge because it’s not possible and it contributes to women and minorities feeling ‘imposter syndrome’ when something doesn’t naturally come to them.”