Gods and Monsters in Splice, Prometheus, and Our Genetic Imaginary: A Gene-centric Evolution of the Frankenstein Script in Science Fiction Cinema Open Access

Hogstrom, Mark (2014)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/765371663?locale=en


This thesis identifies manifestations of the genetic imaginary throughout Vincenzo Natali's Splice (2009) and Ridley Scott's Prometheus (2012), with regard to their releases as coinciding with the close of a thirty-odd-year timeline characterized by progressive legislation over gene-centric science, and instigated by publication of the first genetics and bioengineering periodical. I borrow from and develop Jackie Stacey's methodology in The Cinematic Life of the Gene, wherein she identifies "the decade of the clone": a nine-year glut of milestone advances in cloning science. Advancing Stacey's model, I draw a pivotal distinction between circulation of genetic imaginary discourse via hard copy media, and mass dissemination of the same, via personal digital platforms such as massively capable smartphone and tablet devices.

I distinguish the iconic DNA double helix as the memetic component that most enabled gene-centric discourse to permeate digital graphical media and, subsequently, popular cultural discourse at-large. Deference to basic memetic theory confirms how the advent of massively capable smartphone devices was a second, catalyzing prerequisite in this process. I survey the double helix icon as a floating signifier, focusing primarily on its implementation in recent science fiction films of transgenic creation, as well as the filmic motifs surrounding it.

Specifically, these include the ongoing growth, or mutation, of novel transgenic creations; extreme iterations of the 'mad' or overreaching scientist archetype; a verbal language barrier between creator and created (no matter the intellectual potential); and the endurance of aberrant transgenic genomes. This grouping of elements illustrates, onscreen, a populist wariness of gene-centric potentialities, and dictates a number of hypothetical concerns, all of which stem markedly from the fact that an entirely novel mode of coexistence accompanies the bioengineering of transgenic organisms.

In reflecting gene-centric cultural discourse, this combination of motifs coincidentally outlines the guiding script and mythology of the Greek Titan Prometheus. I explore how this marks a departure from the script most common to sci-fi narratives of creation, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and endeavor to discern what this recurring deviation indicates about the effects of the contemporary configuration of the genetic imaginary on the ways in which we conceptualize and tell stories onscreen.

Table of Contents

Introduction - 1

Chapter One:

On Cultural Descent - 11

Chapter Two: Splice: "Alive. And in the flesh." - 25

Chapter Three:

Prometheus : Gods and Monsters - 39

Conclusion - 52

Bibliography - 57

Filmography - 61

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