Stephen Hawking in popular culture

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Stephen Hawking (1942–2018), a theoretical physicist, has appeared in many works of popular culture.

Television and film[edit]

Appeared as himself[edit]

Comedy & drama[edit]

Factual[edit]

Narration[edit]

Played by an actor in television series or movies[edit]

  • Hawking. Portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch in a drama about Hawking's time as a postgraduate student at Cambridge University.
  • Stargate Atlantis. In the 5th season of Stargate Atlantis, episode 16 "Brain Storm", where many world physicists were invited to a demonstration of cooling effect using a wormhole between 2 universes. Stephen Hawking, played by an actor, was shown in his chair from behind.
  • Superhero Movie. In a parodied take on Spider-Man, Hawking, played by the actor Robert Joy, jokes about himself within.
  • The Theory of Everything. Portrayed by actor Eddie Redmayne in a biopic about Hawking from the early 1960s to the 1980s. Hawking agreed to allow the filmmakers use of his speech synthesizer voice for the film.
  • Sausage Party. Portrayed by storyboard artist Scott Underwood in the animated movie, parodied as a piece of gum.

Appeared as himself in cartoon form[edit]

Hawking as a cartoon character in The Simpsons[a]
  • Futurama:
    • In "Anthology of Interest I" (2000) Hawking appears as a member of the Vice Presidential Action Rangers (VPAR), who guard the space-time continuum. Along with Hawking at the end of the twentieth century they include Al Gore, Nichelle Nichols, Gary Gygax, and their summer intern Deep Blue. He first appears as a customer at the pizzeria where Fry believes him to have "invented gravity", and Hawking neglects to correct him. After learning of Fry's inter-dimensional experience, he arranges for him to be kidnapped by the VPAR.
    • In the film The Beast with a Billion Backs (2008) Hawking appears as his own head in a jar leading a scientific convention organized to study and discuss a tear in the universe. He says that despite writing a book about it, he has no idea what it is. After stunning Professor Farnsworth and Professor Wernstrom with beams from his eyes, he is surprised, remarking, "I didn't know I could do that". Hawking provided his "own" voice for this appearance, and is characterised the same way as in The Simpsons.
    • Hawking appeared in the video game segment of season 6's finale, "Reincarnation" (2011).

  • The Simpsons:
    • In "They Saved Lisa's Brain" (1999) Lisa joins the power-hungry Springfield chapter of Mensa. They take over the local council, intending to transform Springfield into a Platonic Utopia. Hawking gets wind of the group's actions and arrives in Springfield to investigate. When they announce their new draconian laws, the crowd gathered quickly transforms into a angry mob. Hawking saves Lisa with his wheelchair, which comes complete with hidden gadgets including retractable helicopter blades and a spring-loaded boxing glove. He later joins Homer for a beer at Moe's, where Homer impresses him with his theory of a donut-shaped universe.
    • During the British Comedy Awards 2004, Hawking was presented with a one-off toy version of himself in Simpson form by Matt Groening, complete with boxing glove. Hawking presented Groening with a lifetime achievement award.
    • In the episode "Don't Fear the Roofer" (2005) he is again at Moe's, for Lenny's birthday party. He later explains that he was tracking a miniature black hole, which drew light away from Homer's "imaginary friend" Ray (guest voice Ray Romano), thus making him invisible to Bart. Homer is therefore able to prove his sanity after being institutionalized.
    • In the episode "Stop or My Dog Will Shoot" (2007) Santa's Little Helper encounters Hawking in a corn maze while searching for a lost Homer. Hawking says "This maze is too hard for me," and then flies off in the helicopter attachment.
    • In the episode, "Elementary School Musical" (2010) Hawking raps with Flight of the Conchords for Lisa.
  • The Fairly OddParents. Hawking appeared throughout the episode "Remy Rides Again", in a mechanical flying wheelchair with a rocket on the back of it, which at the end of the episode, disappeared in a way similar to that in which the DeLorean went back in time in Back to the Future. Hawking was played by Dee Bradley Baker in this episode. Hawking was hired by Remy to prove that 2+2=5, and was also Crocker's roommate in college. Then Crocker found out that 2+2 actually equaled 6, at which he runs after Hawking to brag.

Referenced[edit]

  • Computer Stew. Hawking's image was animated and used as a character in several episodes.
  • The Wrong Coast. A segment of the show tells about a movie called Party Time Continuum, in which Hawking is portrayed as a time-travelling party-animal played by Seth Green.
  • Weebl and Bob. In their clip "Balance", Stephen Hawking flies across the screen in his buggy and the various characters play around with his speech synthesiser against his will, making it say strange things, such as "I've wet my pants".
  • User Friendly. Stephen Hawking realizes in a power blackout that all the dark matter in the universe may be grues.[3]
  • Hawking. A partly fictionalised 2004 biographical drama following Hawking's life as a Cambridge student, the initial onset of his motor neuron disease, and his meeting with his first wife.
  • Superhero Movie. Hawking, played by actor Robert Joy, first appears as a judge in a science fair who offers weed to the students and later helps Dragonfly (Drake Bell).
  • Knocked Up. Jonah, while playing in a wheelchair, does an imitation of Hawking by saying (in a robot voice) "People think I'm smart because I speak in a robot voice."
  • The Vicar of Dibley. In the episode "Winter" from the Seasonal Specials, when casting for the Christmas Nativity play, Frank Pickle decided to base his version of the Wise Man on Stephen Hawking, speaking in a voice that sounded only slightly similar to Hawking's synthesized voice.
  • Father Ted. In the episode "Are You Right There Father Ted" from the Third Season, Father Dougal mentions an occasion when Father Ted had done an impression of Stephen Hawking in a variety show only for Stephen Hawking to turn up unexpectedly.
  • The Big Bang Theory. In the pilot episode Howard Wolowitz brings over a tape, stating that it is a Stephen Hawking lecture recorded in 1974, "before he became a creepy computer voice." In an episode in Season 2, Leonard impersonates a fellow physicist's impersonation of Hawking on the phone. In an episode in Season Four, it was mentioned that Sheldon had been tricked by his friends into going to the airport at 2 am to meet him. In Season 6 episode 6, Sheldon Cooper and Stephen Hawking also engage in a game of 'Words with friends' over internet. The two come up with pet names of Coop and Rolling Thunder. In the end, to Sheldon's dismay, Hawking insults him.
  • The Colbert Report. Stephen Colbert, in character as a right-wing conservative pundit ala Bill O'Reilly, has frequently featured segments entitled "Stephen Hawking is Such an A-Hole", citing reasons such as the 'megalomaniacal' title of his program, "Stephen Hawking: Master of the Universe". "There is only one master of the universe," Colbert responded, "and that's He-Man."
  • Men in Black: International. A copy of Stephen Hawking's Book "A Brief History of Time" is seen lying on top of a bed in an early part of the film.

Referenced in cartoons[edit]

  • The Critic. Jay and his new trucker friends go to see "Ultimate Force" at a drive-in, which one of the truckers states will most definitely feature "a tough guy on wheels." The movie turns out to feature Hawking discussing his theories on relative force.
  • Dilbert. Hawking was portrayed in an episode about Dilbert's project, the Gruntmaster 6000, whose "graviton generator" could create a black hole to wipe out all life on Earth. In "field testing" done without consulting Dilbert, the Gruntmaster 6000 was sent to a family in Squiddler's Patch, Texas, where a family of four, living in a trailer, and rather stupid, somehow destroyed the graviton generator, and created a black hole. During the episode, it is "revealed" that Hawking has the power to travel through both time and space via wormholes, and Dilbert learns the hard way that you should never bet money that a theoretical physicist can't do something. Hawking in this also calls Dilbert a "cheap bastard" for only borrowing his book in a library.
  • Family Guy.
    • Hawking's persona was first featured in the episode "Peter, Peter, Caviar Eater"; it is a very brief cameo during the song "This House Is Freaking Sweet"; Hawking is presented as the man who will help Chris do his homework. During this time he is tapping his foot.
    • He makes a cameo appearance on "It Takes a Village Idiot, and I Married One". He is seen with his wife sitting by a fire singing "She'll be coming around the mountain"
    • Stephen Hawking talks to reporter Tricia Takanawa in the eighth-season episode, "April in Quahog", about the first directly observable instance of a black hole. Hawking tells Takanawa, using his electronic voice, that the discovery "validates the work of a lifetime" before getting out of his wheelchair and talking in a "regular" voice. He is then thrown a surfboard which he catches and with which walks off, telling Takanawa, "see ya, bitch" ("see ya, ching chong" on the DVD release).
    • In the episode "The Old Man and the Big 'C'", Hawking is seen streaking at a baseball game, saying "Haha, you are all looking at my penis, you didn't plan on it, but it's happening."
  • Ugly Americans. A show on Comedy Central, Leonard and the blob visit Stephen and steal his voice-box for their own use.
  • Mr. Peabody and Sherman. Sherman has a lunchbox with Hawking on it, with the words 'A Brief History of Lunch'.

Music and radio[edit]

  • Brian May (lead guitarist of Queen and astrophysicist) used recordings of Stephen Hawking's voice in his song "New Horizons (Ultima Thule Mix)" (written to celebrate New Horizon NASA space probe journey)[4].
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The voice of the book in the new series, The Hexagonal Phase first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Thursday 8 March: BBC Home page for The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
  • Jon Holmes. The comedian's BBC Radio 6 Music radio show features Hawking reciting songs lyrics as suggested by listeners. These have included 'Gay Bar' by Electric Six and 'Prime Mover' by Zodiac Mindwarp.
  • Greydon Square. The atheist rapper makes several references to Hawking, most poignantly in "The Dream" expressing his dream "to be walking with Stephen Hawking along the beach talking theory".
  • The Bob & Tom Show. Hawking is portrayed (and his computerised voice simulated) in a spoof of the show I'm with Busey. At the end of the spoof, he's heard cursing his roommate for being so stupid.
  • Juno Reactor. Hawking is quoted in the track "Landing" from electronica/ambient band Juno Reactor's album Transmissions.
  • Manic Street Preachers. The band's 2009 album Journal for Plague Lovers features a track entitled "Me and Stephen Hawking".
  • MC Hawking. Using a speech synthesizer similar to Hawking's, nerdcore artist Ken Lawrence performs as the imaginary alter-ego for the "theoretical physicist turned gangster-rapper." Song titles include "E=MC Hawking" ("I explode like a bomb/no one is spared/my power is my mass times the speed of light squared"), "Fuck the Creationists" ("Fuck the damn creationists I say it with authority/because kicking their punk asses be my paramount priority") and "Entropy" ("You down with entropy?") The success of the MC Hawking amongst internet users eventually led to a 'greatest hits' compilation CD entitled A Brief History of Rhyme (a play on Hawking's A Brief History of Time book title), featuring album artwork done by comic artist Tony Moore. Hawking himself is reported to have said that he is "flattered, as it's a modern day equivalent to Spitting Image".[5] Lawrence has performed as MC Hawking for Hawking himself.[6]
  • Pink Floyd. Hawking's "voice" was sampled by Pink Floyd (from a UK British Telecom television advert) and used in their song, "Keep Talking" from the album, The Division Bell (1994). Hawking's voice also appeared on the instrumental track "Talkin' Hawkin'" from their album, The Endless River (2014).
  • Richard Cheese & Lounge Against the Machine. Richard and Hawking sing "The Girl Is Mine" as a charming duet on the album Aperitif for Destruction. (Celebrity voices impersonated.)
  • Robin Williams, on his 2002 DVD Robin Williams: Live on Broadway, mentioned that "I called Stephen Hawking's house once", and proceeded in a mechanical voice: "Hello this is Stephen Hawking." "Yes, I'd like to leave a message." "No. This is Stephen Hawking.". On the B-side track 'Boston' of the CD release of the 2002 comedy tour, Williams mentions that "MIT is the only place Stephen Hawking can do comedy" followed by a René Descartes joke.
  • Turbonegro. Hawking's voice is featured on the song "Intro: The Party Zone" on Turbonegro's 2005 album Party Animals, saying "Greetings. My name is Stephen Hawking. Anyways... Please follow our denim leaders as they enter the final black hole; a new dimension in rock music. Welcome to the Party Zone."
  • Yes. The song Real Love from their 1994 album Talk includes the line, "Far away, in the depths of Hawking's mind."
  • Symphony of Science. In the original production by John Boswell, portions of Hawking's Universe series were used as lyrics and included in 'A Glorious Dawn'.
  • Radiohead. Stephen Hawking is often mistakenly thought to have given his voice to "Fitter Happier" on Radiohead's album OK Computer. It is actually singer Thom Yorke's computerised voice.[7]
  • Epic Rap Battles of History. Stephen Hawking, portrayed by series co-founder Nice Peter, appeared in the seventh episode against Albert Einstein (portrayed by Zach Sherwin). Peter's portrayal later reappeared in the series' first season finale and second and third seasons premieres.
  • The FuMP. In Volume 1, the song "Talk Nerdy To Me" (a spoof of "Talk Dirty To Me") includes a Stephen Hawking-like voice near the end of the song, which is an acknowledgement of Hawking's references with "nerd" culture.
  • Nolwenn Leroy. The French singer-songwriter released the song "Stephen", inspired by Hawking's theories, on her 2017 album Gemme.[8]

Books, comics and newspapers[edit]

  • Ancient Shores. In this science fiction novel, he is one of several luminaries who are heroes of climax of the novel.
  • The Adventures of Dr. McNinja. A character known as Dr. Birding is featured as a parody of Hawkings and The Incredible Hulk, having The Hulk's monstrous transformations, but still remaining paralyzed in monster form.
  • The Coming of the Quantum Cats. Several Hawkings from different alternate universes ("in varying states of health") make a cameo appearance in this science fiction novel by Frederik Pohl. They are all involved with their particular Earth's plans to develop technology that would allow travel between alternate universes.
  • How to Die: or The Good Gatsby. In this humoristic novel by Wm. Douglas Warren, Stephen Hawking is discussed in a lengthy comic prose about time travel and his voice machine.
  • Dominic Deegan: Oracle for Hire. Recently, the title character became a teacher at the famous School of Arcane Arts, where he teaches a class called "Secrets of Divination". At the end of his first class, he conjures up a rather large book entitled A Brief History of Everything (Unabridged Version) by Steven Hawkman, the required reading for his course. The name is a paper-thin allusion to Hawking himself, while the title is a slight alteration of A Brief History of Time. [1]
  • Hyperion Cantos. Hawking's name appears across the tetralogy under the terms such as the Hawking drive and the name of the Hegemony frigate HSS Stephen Hawking.
  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. The main character, nine-year-old Oskar Schell, writes letters to Stephen Hawking frequently and once even receives a letter by Hawking that is addressed directly to him.
  • The Onion. Satirical newspaper ran an article claiming that Hawking had constructed himself a super-powered robotic exoskeleton, complete with a jetpack and claws that can rip through tanks.[9] Hawking, with his typical good humour, sent them a letter cursing them for exposing his evil plans for world domination. Hawking also had a printout of the article pinned up in his Cambridge office for some time after it was published.
  • Ultimate X-Men. In Ultimate X-Men #25, there is a reference to Stephen Hawking having written an article on mutants, apparently stating that they were mankind's last hope against the rise of artificial intelligence. This makes him one of the rare humans who sympathize with mutants. In addition, the Earth 616 continuity has stated or hinted more than once that Hawking and Hank McCoy (the Beast) are close friends.
  • Bloom County. In the comic strip, Hawking was said to have had a rivalry with the strip's resident boy scientist, Oliver Wendell Jones.
  • JLA. Batman manages to defeat the supervillain Prometheus by replacing the martial arts skills Prometheus had downloaded into his mind with the physical skills and coordination of Hawking. Batman later commented that this was the "first time [he] ever hit a man with motor neuron disease".
  • Atomic Robo. Hawking creates a fake psychological profile of ATOMIC ROBO indicating the robot hero has a power-standby mode, thus making him an ideal candidate for an envoy for the Viking Mars lander. As ATOMIC ROBO does not have a power-standby mode, this leads ROBO to spend the entire Ten month trip without sufficient means to stave off boredom/maintain sanity.
  • Hyperion. In this novel by Dan Simmons space travel ships are driven by "Hawking drive". This drive was invented by 'race' of Artificial Intelligences (AIs), and allows to make faster-than-light flights.

Other media[edit]

  • The DVD release of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban has a picture of one of the wizards in the Leaky Cauldron reading A Brief History of Time while using magic to stir his coffee.
  • British Telecom (BT). Hawking appeared in and did the voice-over for a BT television advert which aired in 1993. Parts of his voice from this were sampled by Pink Floyd and used on their album, The Division Bell which was released in 1994.
  • Shin Megami Tensei. In this video game and its sequel, there is a wheelchair-using character who is obviously based on Stephen Hawking, named Steven. In Shin Megami Tensei IV, the character is referred to as Stephen, further cementing the homage.
  • Chapman Brothers. The British artists produced a sculpture entitled Übermensch depicting Hawking in his wheelchair on top of a rocky outcrop.
  • Go Compare. Hawking announces at a press conference he has formulated the properties needed to generate a black hole; a press reporter asks what Hawking plans to do with it, which leads to a cutaway of the black hole being used to suck in Gio Compario.
  • Phil Hansen. In Phil Hansen's breakout art piece Influential, Stephen Hawking was referenced in 5 of the layers of influence, with one clearly being of Hawking himself. "He affected my outlook on life. He made me think about what life is and what I should do with it."
  • Microshaft Winblows 98. In this parody program, Stephen Hawking (impersonated by an actor) calls Microsoft tech support to complain about the quality of their products.
  • Jimmy Carr – Stand up DVD. Jimmy Carr claims to have written a letter to him from his (fictional) 9-year-old son. According to Carr, Hawking paid for a free balloon ride for Jimmy's fictional disabled son.
  • Symphony of Science. Clips of Hawking are used in the first and fifth installments, "A Glorious Dawn" and "The Poetry of Reality".
  • Touhou Project. ZUN references Hawking in the comments for one of the spell cards of the character Eirin Yagokoro in Imperishable Night, calling him the "wheelchair man". He has also released a song entitled "Future Universe of Wheelchair" on his album Magical Astronomy.
  • Lollipop Chainsaw In the video game, Juliet Starling berates Josey for 'making fun of Stephen Hawking' after he speaks through a voice box.
  • Monty Python Live (Mostly). In the Monty Python's Live Shows in 2014, Hawking sang an extended version of the Galaxy Song, after running down Brian Cox in his wheelchair, in a pre-recorded video.[10][11]
  • The Simpsons: Tapped Out. Hawking appeared as a guest character in the scifi 2016 event.
  • Jaguar. Stephen Hawking has appeared on television commercials advertising Jaguar cars.

References[edit]

  1. ^ NBC.com > Late Night with Conan O'Brien > Show Archive Archived 25 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Richmond, Ray (3 August 2007). ""Masters of Science Fiction" too artistic for ABC". Reuters. Retrieved 4 August 2007.
  3. ^ UserFriendly Strip Comments
  4. ^ "NASA Gets Some Help From Guitarist Brian May On Its New Horizons Probe". NPR.org. Retrieved 17 January 2019.
  5. ^ Carpenter, Susan (2 November 2000). "Check It! MC Hawking Raps". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 3 March 2010.
  6. ^ Hathaway, Jay (27 November 2017). "Here's the world premiere of MC Hawking's new music video, 'Fear of a Black Hole'". The Daily Dot. Retrieved 9 January 2019.
  7. ^ "Radiohead song lyrics and info". Archived from the original on 5 April 2011. Retrieved 20 July 2010.
  8. ^ (in French) "Stephen Hawking, un astrophysicien devenu icône de la culture populaire". Europe 1. 14 March 2018. Retrieved 16 March 2018.
  9. ^ Stephen Hawking Builds Robotic Exoskeleton | The Onion – America's Finest News Source
  10. ^ McAfee, Melonyce (14 April 2015). "Stephen Hawking sings Monty Python's 'Galaxy Song'". CNN. Retrieved 12 January 2017.
  11. ^ Grow, Korry (14 April 2015). "Hear Stephen Hawking Sing Monty Python's 'Galaxy Song'". RollingStone. Retrieved 12 January 2017.

External links[edit]