Marvel has announced the Ultimate Mentor Adventure, part mentor program, part contest, that gives American girls in grades 9-12 the resources to find and interview professional women in science, technology, engineering, and math, and then rewards them for doing it.
Natalie Portman has always been a consistent voice for greater screentime and opportunities behind the scenes for female characters and real women in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so it doesn’t surprise me at all to learn that she’s the first face you see on the Ultimate Mentor Adventure’s explanatory video. Portman talks about her character Jane Foster, an astrophysicist, amid finished and behind the scenes clips of Jane in Thor: The Dark World, and, while the bombastic music of the trailers plays, she says, “the truth is, I really do love science. And the role gave me an amazing opportunity to explore science in all its possibilities.”
That’s what the contest appears set up to do. With the resources on the page, eligible girls (they must be at least fourteen, in grades 9-12, and live in the continental U.S.) can find a woman working in a STEM job that they find interesting in their area, and also get tips on how to interview and introduce themselves. In order to be eligible for the big prize, however, entrants must submit a unedited five minute video in which they talk about their love of science, their experience interviewing their mentor, and what steps they might take to embark on a STEM career.
That big prize? A trip to Los Angeles, California, to a screening of Thor: The Dark World at the El Capitan theater on opening day, a screening where the winning videos will run as part of a documentary short before the movie. It’s hard for me to express how cool of a contest this is. Not only is it taking one of the oft diminished characters in superhero film (the love interest) and emphasizing that her talents are useful and achievable in the real world, it’s also structured in such a way that even girls who don’t win are given resources to follow their interests, and motivation to find out a bit more about their career opportunities.
Four for you, Marvel Entertainment and Natalie Portman, and I do hope that documentary short makes it onto a DVD release!