Why the Fleet Science Center wants to freak you out on Friday

Daniel Kaluuya stars in "Get Out," which will be screened on Friday, March 13, during the first installment of "Pop-Culture Science," a new series of programs looking at the science behind movies, TV shows, comic books and more. The series is presented by the Fleet Science Center and the Comic-Con Museum. Friday's program will be held at the Comic-Con Museum.
(Universal Pictures )

For their first ‘Pop-Culture Science’ program, the Fleet Science Center and the Comic-Con Museum are exploring the science of horror in the Oscar-winning ‘Get Out’


From the people who brought you “Two Scientists Walk into a Bar,” “Suds and Science” and the recent “Art of WonderCon” exhibition comes an evening of adult education with a killer twist.

On Friday, the fiendishly smart folks from the Fleet Science Center and the Comic-Con Museum are presenting the first installment of “Pop-Culture Science,” a new program series exploring the science behind movies, TV shows, comic books, fandom and more. To kick it off, the two Balboa Park organizations are taking a walk on the dark side.

Friday’s inaugural program will feature a screening of director/writer Jordan Peele’s Oscar-winning “Get Out,” a horror-comedy hybrid that takes a dead-serious look at race relations, the ramifications of slavery and the creepiness of suburbia. And if you are not sure why we are drawn to movies, books and TV shows that scare us, SDSU professor Phillip Serrato will be on hand to explain it all.

Along with snacks and sodas, insight is one of the perks “Pop-Culture Science” is happy to provide.

“My take is that we like to be scared because it can provide an inoculation against our fears. If you are afraid of clowns or vampires or zombies, you can say, ‘I’m going to confront the thing that scares me, and when I’m done, I will have overcome it,’” said Serrato, chair and associate professor in SDSU’s department of English and Comparative Literature.

“But I think what also drives us to horror is not so much that we want to be scared but that we want to know something that has been previously unavailable to us. What I’m proposing is that a horror movie can be illuminating. We can end up learning an unpleasant truth or reality, and that kind of knowledge can be scary.”

Which is perfect for both the Fleet and the Comic-Con Museum, where introducing patrons to light-bulb moments is precisely the point.

For the Fleet, “Pop-Culture Science” is part of the museum’s growing collection of programs for adults. Beginning almost a decade ago with “Science on the Rocks” and continuing with “Two Scientists Walk into a Bar” and “Suds and Science,” the Fleet has brought scientists into bars and brew pubs to create casually enlightening events designed to remind grown-ups that learning shouldn’t stop once they are out of the classroom.

“Our mission is to engage everyone in San Diego in the powers and possibilities of science to create a better world. We are really good at doing that for kids and families, but ‘everyone’ means everyone,” said Andrea Decker, the Fleet’s adult programs manager.

“San Diego is such a big science city, but San Diegans aren’t necessarily aware of it, and there are so few opportunities for these two communities to intersect. It is important for people to have trust in science. They need to get to know scientists, and traditional lectures aren’t a good avenue to get that done.”

For the Comic-Con Museum, a partnership with a fellow Balboa Park institution is a great way to get visitors acquainted with the new venue before its official opening in 2021. The museum, which is housed in the building that used to be the Hall of Champions, has hosted a getting-to-know-you series of arts shows, movie screenings and pop-culture panel discussions, and an evening devoted to scary science is right up Comic-Con’s colorful alley.

“The key word for us is, ‘community.’ We want to be a resource for people who want to share like-minded interests, but we also want to introduce them to new and innovative things,” said David Glanzer, the chief communications and strategy officer for Comic-Con International. “The ‘Pop-Culture Science’ idea is to take a more involved look at things we might take for granted. There is no reason why education and entertainment can’t be combined.”

The next “Pop-Culture Science” event — which will likely be held in May — will look at “V Wars,” Jonathan Maberry’s graphic-novel series about a mysterious ancient virus (!) that can turn people into vampires. Maberry’s books — and the Netflix series they inspired — take an unnerving look at what happens to a society when a pandemic strikes. Scary? Of course it’s scary. Fascinating? That, too.

When “Pop-Culture Science “ class is in session, you might get freaked out. But you are in no danger of being bored.

“I think in pop culture, especially when you think of the things that stem from comic books, there has always been a pulse of science and technology,” Decker said. “People who are interested in comics and popular culture are really conscious of what is going on in the world. They are very curious people, and that goes for scientists, too. They are both very curious crowds, and they do play well together.”

“Pop-Culture Science — The Social Science of ‘Get Out’” starts at 7 p.m. Friday at the Comic-Con Museum, 2131 Pan American Plaza, Balboa Park. Tickets are $5 (plus fee) online and $6 at the door.

THIS EVENT HAS BEEN CANCELED. See statement below.

“To protect public health and slow the rate of transmission of COVID-19, the California Department of Public Health announced a recommendation that gatherings and events of more than 250 people should either be postponed or cancelled. Comic-Con (parent company of the Comic-Con Museum) will abide by this recommendation. Therefore events currently scheduled for the Comic-Con Museum have been postponed until a later date. Refunds for Pop Culture Science will be processed in the coming days.

We continue to work closely with officials in San Diego and at this time no decision has been made regarding the rescheduling of Comic-Con slated to take place this summer; July 23-26, 2020. We urge everyone to follow the recommendations set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and your local health officials.”


1:09 p.m. March 12, 2020: This story was updated to reflect its cancellation.