Tuesday, July 13, 2010

What is done can't be undone, son.

Splice is not a new story. It's all about the consequences for those whose vanity and arrogance lead them to play God. We've seen it before. What's troubling is the terrible punishment Splice imagines for its female Frankenstein.

**Word of warning, if you haven't seen Splice, don't read further because I'm about to spoil the hell out of it.***

Splice acts like it's concerned with a lot of different moral issues surrounding genetics, but it basically boils down to a gruesome parable about how female fascination with vanity leads to rape.

You have two scientists, Clive and Elsa, who are in love and also the top genetic "morphologists" in their field. They are paid by a corporation to design life forms that synthesize proteins. The life forms are composed of genetic material from cows, horses, pigs, etc. Once they have matured fully, these synthesized organisms produce proteins that that can be sold by the corporation. The creatures are hideous, but they make dough, so everybody's happy.

Dear Adrien Brody, we still ain't cool. We ain't forgot about Halle Berry.
Billy Bob wasn't enough for y'all, huh? Signed, All Black Men.
Except for the woman. Elsa wants to take the logical (to her) next step and create a hybrid using parts of human DNA. Clive doesn't think it's such a good idea, but is helpless before her feminine wiles. Before you know it, they shake the tree of knowledge and out comes the future.

The future, a creature named Dren, looks like a walking penis for the first half of the movie, so I guess I should have been known that something was up.


Earlier it was revealed that Clive wanted to have a baby "conventionally" but Elsa said she didn't want to have to give birth. "Maybe when we figure out male pregnancy," she jokes. In the mad scientist stories we're used to (hint: Frankenstein is a man) the creation of the monster is motivated by the character's vanity, but this vanity is of the intellectual nature. The man wants to be able to out-think God. Elsa, on the other hand, is just concerned with creating without increasing her dress size. "Is this even about science?" pleads Clive. Uh, nooo.

Throughout the movie, we see pictures of Elsa staring at herself in the mirror or staring at pictures of herself with her mother when she was younger. She even teaches Dren to look in the mirror and to embrace her "feminine" gender by putting on makeup and wearing jewelry. She does too good a job because Dren starts exhibiting her own symptoms of vanity.

One of the most interesting things about the movie is that as Dren becomes more and more human in appearance, her mother becomes less and less humane. After a nasty confrontation with Dren, Elsa's vanity and arrogance push her off the deep end, and she cuts Dren's stinger off. Unfortunately, she later learns that the stinger doubles as a youknowwhat.

And Clive ends up sexing Dren for some reason, which is just about the weirdest thing I've ever seen in a movie. Maury to the millionth power. Although it's disturbing, at least it still feels new. I can't name too many science fiction movies that so embody the Electra complex. But, just when you think you're going to get something new, Dren dies and becomes a dude.

And for what the movie was trying to do, this is the only way it could have ended. The Frankenstein story always requires a punishment for the foolish scientists. In this case, the male scientist is punished with death because he bit the apple, but the female scientist requires a punishment that Dren isn't capable of.

'sup, girl?

Dren as a dude is bigger, faster, and stronger. For some reason he can also talk, although he obviously wasn't Hooked on Monster Phonics because all he can say to Elsa is "inside you."*

Which brings us to the end. It's too bad that a movie which opens up so many possibilities in terms of looking at gender ends up settling for a lot of cliches with frightening implications. The woman looks in the mirror, falls in love with what she sees and is punished. Elsa loses the man she loves, her career, and ends up being impregnated by a monster.

In the end I just ended up feeling bad for Elsa. Too bad she wasn't born male, maybe then she would have been lucky enough to die like a man.

*Side note: BARF

No comments: