Splice (Hoban & del Toro 2009) is a simple film, a modern lesson in the complexities of creating new organisms with human DNA and fostering mutant children in hostile environments. In this classy piece of cinema, a biochemist power couple -- in danger of losing laboratory funding! -- create a new hybrid organism in hopes of a genetic breakthrough. Things take a turn for the worse when the “father” falls in lust with his mutant daughter and his wife catches him having sex with ‘it’.
This of course causes marital problems, until the mutant daughter spontaneously changes sex, kills the father and rapes the mother. Finally, the distraught mother - only survivor of her freak-child’s murderous rampage - deals with her pain by donating the resultant fetus to corporate science. Confusing? Yes. Freudian? Yes! Though I was shaking my head violently during this film, and my eyebrows were furrowed for so long that my forehead hurt, Splice does do us a service.
This confusing piece of misfired psychoanalysis hints towards a number of issues related to the role of biological sex in determining behavior, and capitalizes on the media’s fascination with the idea that testosterone, the hormone that assists in transforming a fetus into a male, is related to aggression. The spliced mutant human-fish-duck-bat child ‘Dren’ (affectionately named by her mother) demonstrates a number of radical changes when ‘she’ becomes male, some of which are actually supported by empirical evidence (see McIntyre & Edwards, 2009 for a review). For instance, after the infusion of testosterone, she demonstrates a strong desire for dominance (by killing every other male in sight) and she shows a clear reduction in empathy (violating her mother despite her pained cries).
However, as we take in all the Freudian phallic symbolism and lose track of the all the gene swapping, we must remind ourselves that the science of sex differences is not so clear-cut. We cannot forget the role of interactions between genes, behavior, and environment during human development. And most importantly, in Dren’s case, we cannot overlook the role of mixing human DNA with the DNA of slugs, kangaroos, armadillos, and overbearing mothers!
Check out Splice (2009) here:
Hoban, S., & del Toro, G. (Producers), Natali, V. (Director). (2009). Splice [Motion picture]. Canada,France: Dark Castle Entertainment.
McIntyre, MH., & Edwards, CP. (2009). The early development of gender differences. Annual Review of Anthropology, 38, 83-97.