The Devil in Our DNA: A Brief History of Eugenics in Science Fiction Films

  title={The Devil in Our DNA: A Brief History of Eugenics in Science Fiction Films},
  author={David A. Kirby},
  journal={Literature and Medicine},
  pages={108 - 83}
  • D. A. Kirby
  • Published 2007
  • Sociology, Medicine
  • Literature and Medicine
The persistence of eugenic themes in cinema over the last 100 years reflects fundamental societal beliefs about heredity's role as the source of social problems. From its earliest days science fiction cinema's critiques of eugenics were not aimed at the movement's underlying assumptions that humanity's fundamental nature lies within its genome and its relationship to social problems. Most science fiction films either implicitly accept these assumptions or incorporate them into their narratives… Expand

Topics from this paper

Imagining Evolution: Drama and Science Fiction
  • Alexander Hall
  • History
  • Palgrave Studies in Science and Popular Culture
  • 2021
Beginning with early radio dramas on evolution, including a historical radio play on the voyage of the Beagle by George Orwell, this chapter outlines how it was in non-science broadcasts where theExpand
Sympathy for the Clone: (Post)Human Identities Enhanced by the 'Evil Science' Construct and its Commodifying Practices in Contemporary Clone Fiction!
The manipulation of human DNA in the form of eugenic pursuit, cloning, genetic engineering etc., has become a well-established subject in science fiction for decades now. In our days, this thematicExpand
Utopian Visions of “Making People”: Science Fiction and Debates on Cloning, Ectogenesis, Genetic Engineering, and Genetic Discrimination
In his treatise on science fiction (sf), Darko Suvin claims utopian fiction as the “socio-political subgenre of science fiction,” suggesting that such texts should be approached both as literatureExpand
From Bodies to Borders and Beyond: Mutating Boundaries in Logan
This paper explores the theme of boundaries in order to examine various intersections in Logan, including the corporeal boundlessness of dying mutants, the transgressive exploits of biotechnology, the permeability of national borders, and the unbounded potential embodied by the remnants of mutantkind. Expand
‘A machine for recreating life’: an introduction to reproduction on film
This introduction to a special issue aims to consolidate a disparate literature by exploring diverse strands of film studies that are rarely considered in the same frame by tracing the contours of a little-studied history. Expand
Boundary Transgressions: the Human-Animal Chimera in Science Fiction
This paper explores how science fiction writers have used human-animal chimera experiments as the inspiration for creating characters that challenge us to consider what is quintessentially human andExpand
Eugenic utopias/dystopias, reprogenetics, and community genetics.
  • Aviad Raz
  • Sociology, Medicine
  • Sociology of health & illness
  • 2009
This review offers an analytical framework for mapping the growing literature on eugenics in order to provide a summary for both teaching and research in medical sociology to discuss and illustrate potential research directions in this field. Expand
Popular Culture and Genetics:Genetics and Biotechnologies in the Movies
Although the past few decades have been marked by a rapid development of biotechnologies, it significantly precedes the social understanding of genetic phenomena. At the same time, as biotechnologiesExpand
Cool Geeks, Dangerous Nerds, Entrepreneurial Scientists and Idealistic Physicians? Exploring Science and Medicine in Popular Culture
The public image of scientists, researchers and physicians and their work is not only influenced by what people learn in school or hear in the news. How medicine, science and research are representedExpand
"Dead channel": writing cyberpunk
With a melding of anxieties of past and present, His Beautiful Ones invokes classics, such as Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, William Gibson’s Neuromancer and Bruce Sterling’s Schismatrix Plus. With aExpand


The New Eugenics in Cinema: Genetic Determinism and Gene Therapy in GATTACA
It is evident from the recent boom in films that include genetic engineering as a plot element, ranging from the wildly successful Jurassic Park to the box-office flop Alien: Resurrection, that sf cinema remains a forum for discourse about biotechnology's impact on society and nature. Expand
There is no unauthorized breeding in Jurassic Park": gender and the uses of genetics.
This article relies on close readings of Jurassic Park (the book and the film) and Gattaca (film) to argue that a great deal of the opposition to new genetic technologies expressed in contemporaryExpand
"There is no Unauthorized Breeding in Jurassic Park": Gender and the Uses of Genetics
Close readings of Jurassic Park and Gattaca are relied on to argue that a great deal of the opposition to new genetic technologies expressed in contemporary popular culture is grounded in a profound anti-feminism. Expand
Looking Upward: H.G. Wells, Science Fiction and the Cinema
Three of the traditional concerns of science fiction literature-space, time, and the machine-possess natural affinities to the medium of film. Space and time are obviously relevant, for the cinema isExpand
The Black Stork: Eugenics and the Death of "Defective" Babies in American Medicine and Motion Pictures since 1915
The author examines Eugenics of Film, Medicine, Media, and Memory, which examines the role of media and culture in Eugenic Constructions of Hereditary Disease and its role in the development of Euthanasia. Expand
Genetic Coming of Age: Genomics, Enhancement, and Identity in Film
Midway through the 1996 film version of The Island of Dr. Moreau the muumuu-clad Dr. Moreau stumbles upon a ren egade band of genetically engineered Beast-People beating on the grand piano in hisExpand
Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature
I. Nature as a System of Production and Reproduction 1. Animal Sociology and a Natural Economy of the Body Politic 2. The Past Is the Contested Zone 3. The Biological Enterprise II. ContestedExpand
Time and the Literary
Introduction. Karen Newman, Jay Clayton, Marianne Hirsh. Part I. 1. Undoing: Catherine Gallagher. 2. Genome Time: Jay Clayton. 3. The Future Literary: Literature and the Culture of Information: AlanExpand
Liberal Eugenics: In Defence of Human Enhancement
Preface and Acknowledgments. 1. Genius Sperm, Eugenics, and Enhancement Technologies. 2. A Pragmatic Optimism about Enhancement Technologies. 3. Making Moral Images of Biotechnology. 4. The moralExpand
Remaking Eden: How Genetic Engineering and Cloning Will Transform the American Family
Could a child have two genetic mothers? Will parents someday soon be able to choose not only the physical characteristics of their children-to-be, but their personalities and Ian wilmut of great harmExpand