Thursday, September 8, 2011

Splice (2009) - Freud is to blame for GM

Oh dear. We just watched Splice. First: don't. Second: spoilers.

There are just so many things wrong with this moralistic tale of 'what has science done??!' It stars Adrian Brody, so it gets one star for that, but unfortunately it loses the rest of them on pacing and content. Maybe I'm not reading far enough into it, given the generally positive response it seems to have gathered from elsewhere. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, which is far more likely, but here are a list of the topics it covers:

1. If you're a woman who doesn't want to have a normal, biological child, there's something wrong with you.

2. An abusive past will ALWAYS transfer into how you treat your own children.

3. Men can't resist the temptation to sleep with their daughters.

4. Women don't like competition from their daughters.

5. If you have a son, he will grow up to rape you.

6. If you sleep with your daughter, who isn't technically your daughter, even though it was entirely consensual, you deserve to die.

7. Men are predators.

8. Women are helpless when their maternal instincts kick in.

9. Rape leads to pregnancy.

10. Experimenting on your own child is a good way to make money.


Freud seems to have co-written this script. Throw in a main character who gets to experience both the Oedipus and Electra complexes in the one lifespan, and you get the fears that every parent is supposed to have. I don't know if the writer/director was struggling with some odd impulses toward his children, or was trying to convince his wife/girlfriend not to have children, but I'm a little bit concerned at this stage.

Nevermind that the main female character gets penis envy and castrates their daughter (odd enough), the idea that she's carrying a child that's her own biological data, somehow transferred by a male version of her, plus some animal parts for good measure, is cause for concern. The fact that the embryo attacked her as she was trying to remove it from the false womb at the start of the movie doesn't seem to enter into her mind as she decides to carry the baby to full term. Sure, maybe she has self-destructive impulses after allowing her husband to be killed, but I can think of less painful ways to fulfill them. Granted, I haven't killed my husband. Maybe I would feel differently then.

Horror is about crossing boundaries and breaking taboos. I have no problem with that. I do resent the implication that it's the 'child's' fault the main male character sleeps with her. Children never know what they're doing. They practice flirting with adults, but they don't know what it means. The guy knows it's wrong, but he gives in. I have never seen such a clear endorsement of parental sexual abuse. It doesn't matter that they're not technically related, nor that she's a clone of his wife. She is his child, he treats her as such, he watched her grow up from a (hideous) baby and she relies upon him for moral guidance and comfort. There is no way in my mind that he is not her father.

So, sure. Cross those boundaries. Make us aware of our taboos. But never, ever justify the pain of people who have been sexually abused by their caretakers, related or not. The rest of the movie falls into the category of just plain silly, but that one idea stands out as a serious flaw. It doesn't matter that the character dies as penance. You've already glorified the act, by making sex with his daughter much more erotic than the sex with his wife. She's prettier, sexier, and more wanton. That last is a taboo in itself, but from a child? There is a line you do not cross.

People need education about these topics, not sexual sensationalism. You're not helping to raise awareness by making an awful act erotic. If you can justify this behaviour, then you can justify anything.

And, of course, it all comes back to the 'she was asking for it' defence. I don't think there could be a combination of morally reprehensible ideas than the combination of child sexual abuse and justification.

So, yeah, I'm pretty angry. Take my analysis with that grain of salt. I was expecting far more from the director of Cube, but I guess 12 years and a bigger budget doesn't mean the ideas will be any better. For my part, I don't believe that the script writers knew what they were implying, or at least I certainly hope not. They were trying for horror. They achieved it, in a way that made me feel sick to my stomach, but not in a lasting way. They simply managed to make me angry at them for not thinking their ideas through, or thinking about how they could be misinterpreted. It's carelessness, not malice, but it can be harmful all the same.