I mentioned in my last post that I’ve recently gotten (all the way) into Orphan Black. The third season will apparently debut next Spring, which is perfect because I’m still puzzling out everything I learned in seasons 1 and 2. I dream about this show — it’s become a problem. In any case, it got me thinking about how seldom human cloning is addressed in entertainment. Seldom compared to how often I expect people think about it (then again, just because Orphan Black is taking up mega space in my brain doesn’t mean anyone else gives a flip about clones, right?). The main thing I’ve been turning over and over in my mind is the possible purpose of the clones in the show. Some years ago, I read Never Let Me Go, which is also about clones, and since I started watching OB, I’ve been comparing the two.
So let’s talk about clones!
I’ll try not to spoil any specifics in the show for anyone thinking about checking it out. The main deal is this: Sarah Manning (English chick from Brixton, far left in the picture) comes back to the United States after 10 months. Her aim is to get out from under an abusive, drug dealer boyfriend who she works for/with, and take her daughter (whose been in the care of Sarah’s foster mom for the past 10 months), and her foster brother, Felix, with her to start a new life elsewhere. Her first night there, she sees a woman, who looks exactly like her, kill herself. She takes maybe 10 seconds to be openly horrified before snatching the woman’s purse and taking on her identity. Eventually, she learns that this woman wasn’t the only one in the world (or even the immediate vicinity) who shares her face, and she starts coming into contact with the others. They tell her what little they know about the whole thing, and begrudgingly accept her as one of them in their mission to learn more about who they are.
One insane thing after another happens in this show. But in 2 whole seasons, after everything they’ve learned, they still haven’t figured out why they were made or whose DNA theirs was derived from. One of the scientists responsible gives the vague answer “we wanted little girls,” but I’m having a hard time believing this was their only purpose. After all, why not adopt (aside from the absurdly arrogant reason that, this way, they know ahead of time what their child’s DNA is comprised of b/c they synthesized it themselves, unlike with a normal child)? Another question I have is why make so many of the same girl? The clones managed to collect details on a bunch more like them in the world (who we don’t meet). With such a large number of them in existence, of course they’d eventually run into one another and try to figure things out. Is this all part of one giant experiment? If not, why not take greater pains to keep them separate from one another? The clones’ so-called “monitors” aren’t very good at their jobs…
Never Let Me Go
Unlike Orphan Black, the clones in Never Let Me Go are both closely monitored in one large group, and designed for a specific purpose that they learn of early on. They’re also cloned from different persons, rather than just one. The clones in this book live at a boarding school called Hailsham until age 16 where it is mostly stressed that they take care of their bodies. They are not taught anything that would allow them to live independently. The main difference between this story and OB is that the children are told they are clones, and that their purpose is to donate organs to normal human beings once they (the clones) reach a certain age. After they’ve donated as much as they can, they die, or reach “completion.” But knowing this doesn’t mean the clones don’t still have questions. Kathy (the protagonist) and Tommy seek out the head of their old school to ask if Tommy’s last donation can be postponed. What they find out is devastating, perhaps even more-so than what they already know about themselves. I definitely recommend reading this book, if only to give yourself a what-if perspective on an interesting topic.
Have you seen Orphan Black, read Never Let Me Go, or encountered any other clone stories?