I recently saw the new movie American Hustle, which is loosely based on an infamous 1970s FBI sting operation that ensnared members of the U.S. Congress. There are more than a few very funny moments of highbrow farce in the film, such as when one of the characters (played by Christian Bale) receives a microwave oven as a gift from a politician and brings it home to his wife on Long Island.
He calls it a “science oven” (the first countertop microwave ovens were introduced in the late 1960s). At the time, this was a relatively new consumer-oriented technology that inspired awe and trepidation. This is the scene in the movie where the wife accidentally blows up the microwave.
She is unapologetic, telling her husband that she read in a magazine that microwave ovens take all the nutrition out of food. She then names the author of the article–Paul Brodeur, who was a crusading New Yorker writer from the 1960s until the early 1990s. The article she is probably referring to is this one, which would lead to a book by Brodeur called, The Zapping of America: Microwaves, Their Deadly Risk, and the Cover-Up.
The larger theme of these technological fears would then be expanded on in a later book by Brodeur published in 2000.
I wrote about Brodeur’s role in the amplification of these unwarranted fears in this post. I find it interesting that the maker of American Hustle–a movie in part about noble intentions gone amok–explicitly refers to Brodeur in the “science oven” scene.