Episode 38: Repo! The Genetic Opera (Super Spooky Halloween Special Part II)

A still from Repo! The Genetic Opera showing an illustration of a fake insect in a book.

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Charles actually just wants to be doing a musicals podcast:

I guess this is a science podcast


Transcript

Charles 0:22
Hello and welcome to Assigned Scientist at Bachelor’s. I’m Charles and I’m an entomologist.

Tessa 0:27
And I’m Tessa and I’m an astrobiologist.

Charles 0:30
And today is the second Halloween episode we’re recording for 2021. And what we will be discussing is Repo, exclamation mark, The Genetic Opera. Tessa, do you have a history with this property?

Tessa 0:47
Not specifically, although I do remember when it came out because I had acquaintances who formerly had been very big fans of either Buffy the Vampire Slayer and/or Firefly, and apparently those types of people were also the type of people who are also really into this movie. I was alerted of the fact that it existed when it came out, and had like a very basic rundown of the premise, but that’s about the extent of my exposure to it.

Charles 1:17
I will say, I think I was the perfect age for this when it came out. Because it came out in 2008, when I was 15. And this is like peak 15 year old bait.

Tessa 1:30
It very much is. And for context, I was 21 when it came out, so that may have been why it, just, you know…

Charles 1:37
You’re a little, a little bit too old for it…

Tessa 1:39
Yeah.

Charles 1:40
I wasn’t actually that into it. But I was a 15 year old on the internet in 2008, so I was very familiar with people being into it. Because I never… I don’t know about you – I’m guessing that you didn’t – I never had like an emo phase.

Tessa 2:00
I didn’t, no. The closest I got was my freshman year of high school where I wore a lot of black but that’s just because I thought it made me edgy and mysterious. It didn’t. But…

Charles 2:10
I also did that. And I it also didn’t make me edgy or mysterious. But that’s life. I you know, I never had an emo phase. I was never goth. I was never scene. I was just a huge dork.

Tessa 2:23
Yeah, pretty much same here.

Charles 2:25
Since the moment I was born, I came out and the doctor was like, I’m sorry. I’m sorry. But it’s a dork.

Tessa 2:32
Yeah.

Charles 2:32
And then my parents looked at each other, and they were like, well, we’re dorks. So that’s fine. But… I want to make a joke here about genetic destiny and Repo! The Genetic Opera but I can’t really get there. And I think that reflects about the amount of thought that also went into the script. Hey-o. There are a number of things that I would like to talk about. The first thing I would like to say is that this movie is very bad.

Charles 3:01
Okay, so Repo! The Genetic Opera, according to Wikipedia, is the “2008 American science fiction gothic rock opera horror film,” which is quite a description. So it’s in the relatively near future. I think it’s still in the 21st century, but later on. At one point, the the chain of consequence that is introduced in an extremely clunky exposition, cartoon montage… Please… is that there was an epidemic of organ failures. Who knows why.

Tessa 3:34
Yeah, it’s never explained. That was actually one of the questions I had is what’s going on here? Is this like the phage from Star Trek Voyager? Yeah.

Charles 3:43
So an epidemic of organ failures. And then GENE-CO is introduced, which produces, I think, artificial organs or maybe like organic organs.

Tessa 3:56
You know, it’s never actually said what, you know, where the organs come from.

Charles 4:01
Right? So then they get organs and they also to increase profit, because capitalism is a plague on the earth, influence, like a cultural trend towards very trivial surgery, not just cosmetic, but like, brighten up your liver, that kind of thing. And then they pass a bill that allows for organ repossession, which amounts to not surgery in a clinical setting. But Repo Men hunting people down in the most dramatic way possible, and slicing their abdomens open and just pulling them right out there with, again, no sterilization.

Tessa 4:42
No sterilization – no ligation either. You know, as someone who is married to a former veterinarian and has heard you know, stories from the trenches of surgery, they make it look very simple. It’s almost like plug and play which is not really how organs work. [laugher faint in the background] And you can just hear her laughing in the background.

Charles 5:04
Okay, so our protagonist Shilo has a blood disorder… maybe. And so she’s kept inside all the time. At the same time. The guy who runs Gene-Co has three horrible children, and a terminal illness that is apparently killing him by the end of the day. Also, there is an opera scheduled for the end of the day where performer called Blind Mag – ironically, in the same way that large guys are sometimes called Tiny, because she has very special eyes, and also she’s an opera singer. And so she’s going to sing, she’s giving up her eyes, they’re going to get repossessed, so she will also be dead by the end of the day. Twist – Shilo’s Dad, who says that he’s a doctor, is actually one of the Repo Men. And there’s this whole convoluted web of loyalties and ownership where basically, Bling Mag has to work for Gene CO, and Shilo’s dad also has to work for Gene Co. And the guy who runs Gene-Co is trying to get Shilo on board, because he used to be hot for her mom. And also there’s a character called the graverobber who truly could be cut out of the film and it wouldn’t make any difference.

Tessa 6:11
He’s basically the Greek chorus. Not even a really necessary Greek chorus.

Charles 6:15
Just completely unnecessary, except for 16 year olds to be really horny about.

Tessa 6:21
I can see that actually, yeah.

Charles 6:24
I actually… while I was watching this, I was thinking of a trend on Tik Tok right now. Because I am on Tik Tok, to understand the kids, and there’s a trend, it’s a, it’s an audio where there’s like, you expect me to like this bland twink when there’s a perfectly good dilf available? And people will put this over audio. I saw one with Dune where it’s Paul, and then alternate, both Duncan and whoever Oscar Isaac plays. So Jason Momoa and Oscar Isaac, and I also saw it with Legolas and Thranduil. Which is like… they’re about the same age. Like no offense to Thranduil. He is literally a dilf but he’s not like, meaningfully a dilf. There’s no gray in that hair.

Tessa 7:14
Right. Right.

Charles 7:15
Right. Anyway, I kept thinking about this while watching this, but swap out grave robber for bland twink and Anthony Stewart Head, obviously, for dilf. Right? I mean, I know that you’re a lesbian, but…

Tessa 7:28
No, no, I can totally I can totally see that. I can totally understand that.

Charles 7:32
Okay, good. I just need that validation from everyone, all the time. Okay, so the three things that I liked… in the first song that Shilo’s dad has by himself, when he’s cutting up that guy to repossess his intestines, apparently, he sticks his gloved hand up inside the guy’s torso, and moves his mouth like a puppet. [clip from Repo! – “It’s a thankless job, but somebody’s got to do it (got to do it)…”]

Charles 8:06
I enjoyed that. That felt very camp to me… that felt like a real like a transcendent moment of camp in an otherwise, just like unremarkably bad movie. The second one… at the opera, there was an old lady DJ, just there. And I enjoyed that. And then thirdly, I enjoyed Amber’s dress as a throwback to like 18th century French court fashion. Wonderful. You give me a wide pannier, I’m having a great time. Unfortunately, then her face immediately fell off. And I was like, I’m not so into this part. But the dress…

Tessa 8:43
The dress was pretty amazing.

Charles 8:45
The dress was pretty good. So I think those are the three things that I enjoyed. The rest of it, I had less appreciation for. So I’m actually very interested just to go through your list of questions.

Tessa 8:58
Okay. So first off, why are we having this epidemic of organ failures that leads to the rise of this of this system? And I never really addressed that. I will also say I spent a good portion of this film trying to figure out what a aesthetic they were going for. I mean, I guess it’s goth. And but like, it’s at the same time. It’s like is a steampunk? Is this bio punk? Is this camp? Is this post apocalyptic? What’s going on here?

Charles 9:23
I think that the real answer is there was not a lot of cohesive vision. Yeah, yeah. In the production of this movie. Here’s another thing. All of these characters had like seven costume changes. This takes place during one day. Like every time we see Amber, she’s wearing a different outfit, which I guess you could argue fits with that character. But like, multiple times, Luigi just changes his shirt randomly. He doesn’t get any… one time he gets brain on it, so fair enough, but then another time he doesn’t get anything on it. He just changes his shirt. And I think it’s so that the we can know that he has also had like, because Amber is said to be addicted to the knife, addiction to the knife [clip from “Zydate Anatomy”]. And then, Pavi obviously has a weird face situation going on. And so you could be you could think Luigi hasn’t had anything weird done, but then he has all the criss crossing scars across his torso.

Tessa 10:31
Right. And I’m pretty sure that is to show off his scars.

Charles 10:34
Yeah, we only need to see that one time. And I kind of wonder if maybe they just forgot. Okay, so we don’t know where the organ epidemic came from.

Tessa 10:42
Yeah.

Charles 10:43
But I think we’ve established I don’t think they know where the organ epidemic came from.

Tessa 10:48
That’s a fair interpretation. But yeah, other than that, the other notes I had was aside from the thing about not like eating organs for some reason,

Charles 10:56
Well, here’s maybe an opportunity for genuine education since ostensibly, this is a science podcast, what’s happening with ligation.

Tessa 11:04
Okay, so ligation is, and my wife has my full permission to interrupt me if I screw this up, but I think I understand it is basically, organs need blood supply, in order to function as a result, they have a lot of blood vessels that tie into them, both small ones, and also like large arteries and veins. And in order to remove an organ, you know, say if you’re spaying a cat, or whatever do you need to tie off those vessels and those, you know, circulatory connections, and now admittedly, this is partially so the animal or patient or whoever doesn’t bleed out. And if you’re a repo man, and you’re going to be killing the person anyways, clearly, you don’t care if they die or not. But even then, that’s still a lot of connective tissue that’s, you know, hooked up to that organ, you just can’t yank it out, at least not without seriously damaging it, which would defeat the whole purpose.

Charles 11:53
I will say, I was thinking about this, and I was thinking you could make a counter argument that this is purposeful…

Tessa 11:59
[to her wife off mic] Thank you love.

Charles 12:01
Bunch of married people… having positive relationships with each other. Unbelievable.

Tessa 12:07
But yeah, so that that was like, you know, that is your scientific content for our science outreach podcast for today.

Charles 12:14
Yeah, well, I will say, I think you could make the argument that it doesn’t actually matter, that you’re just reaching in with unsterilized gloves, and you’re not doing ligation and you’re not doing anything, and they’re also… they don’t have any like storage coolers. I mean, I think you could make the argument within the reality of the world that we’re looking at that they aren’t actually functionally repossessing anything. They just want to have a reign of terror.

Tessa 12:40
Yeah. I mean, it just doesn’t seem like a very practical system. No, because, you know, it’s not like you hear about the, you know, the second hand organ market, which, presumably, would be the point of the repossession. I mean, that’s what they do with repossessed things in real life.

Charles 12:53
Well, here’s a, here’s a question for you. I was watching this and I was like, this is a bad movie, because all the songs are bad. And the story is also bad, and the characters are bad, and the production design is bad. And the color grading…

Tessa 13:12
Oh, man, I don’t know what’s going on with that. Yeah, just atrocious.

Charles 13:15
Bad. And the costume design, other than a couple of examples I thought was bad, especially this is… okay, Amber has these two like flanking bodyguards all the time, and I don’t think they’re really bodyguards. I think they’re just there for like ornamentation. And they’re wearing harnesses, but their harnesses are like the Alie Express, like $5 polyester strap harness – you can’t spend like $50 on a good quality harness. Are you kidding me? Because the only groups that I can think this movie was actually made for are like, emo and scene 15 year old girls – and much love – and like gay people with low standards.

Tessa 13:59
Right? Yeah, cause I mean, it’s camp, but it’s not very good at being camp.

Charles 14:03
No.

Tessa 14:04
You know, even with having Paris Hilton, who actually does a shockingly good job,

Charles 14:09
I would say this is the the second best performance of her career and the first best is that music video that she did with Kim Petras. I just can’t… you can’t throw a bone to the homosexuals in the audience and just buy a nice harness for two dudes?

Tessa 14:39
Exactly. Especially since your audience is going to be like the few people are gonna actually recognize what a good harness looks like.

Charles 14:44
Right? Like the overlap between people into BDSM and people into this movie… it probably exists.

Tessa 14:53
Absolutely no doubt about that.

Charles 14:55
Yeah, there are members of every community who have low standards. I will say… I would not judge anybody for liking this movie, because I can see the point where it would appeal to people, but also, it’s just objectively – whether you like it or not – it’s a bad movie.

Tessa 15:12
And I mean, I will say they’re actually thinking about it. Now there were a few things about it. I did like particularly like, I thought the comic book, like format was a good way of telling backstory. Although it did get a little old by the end of it. I did like that. largos bodyguards were fishnet for no explicable reason, mostly because you know, I’m a show girl, and I’m all about the fishing nets. And in a weird way, I kind of liked how non subtle this movie is, because it is fundamentally an opera and operas, also, historically did not tend to be subtle. I mean, it was like, oh, you know, the person singing this part is a bass, they are the bad guy.

Charles 15:49
So this is the question that I was leading to, which is that everything about this movie, enjoyable or not, is not good. But is there a version of this that could be good? Like, could you take the building blocks of the script and make something that is genuinely of quality?

Tessa 16:11
I think there are elements there. Because I mean, there’s something to be said about the relentless march of capitalism, and how Yeah, you know, if somehow, body modification, organ transplant became normalized, I could totally see them selling that to people. But like, that’s already been done much, much better by any number of other works. The drama between, you know, the repo man, his daughter, and the head of the evil company has some potential as well, as well as the rivalry between the siblings and the children of the evil corporation, dude, but it was so packed into such a short amount of time and so borderline coherent, never really got to where it could have been. I will admit, “Zydrate Anatomy” was actually a pretty snappy song. In my opinion,

Charles 16:56
I would argue that’s maybe the only good song, yeah.

Tessa 17:01
Yeah – the rest, though. I just kind of tuned out, honestly.

Charles 17:04
Yeah, I think well, here’s what’s interesting to me. And this is I messaged you earlier, and I said, Are you familiar with Urinetown? And you said, Yeah, a little. And I said, Great. We’re going to talk about that for an hour. Because here’s my thing. There are not a lot of science fiction musicals, there are very, very few. Most musical theater takes place in a more or less real world. And when they don’t, it tends more often to go into fantasy and fairy tale. So for instance, Wicked is very popular, obviously, Into the Woods. I’m gonna embarrass myself, but not being able to remember like, even Damn Yankees is like…

Tessa 17:51
Yeah, that has definite supernatural element to it.

Tessa 17:54
Yeah, whereas there’s not really science fictional stuff. And one of the closest in recent times I think, is probably Young Frankenstein, the stage adaptation of the Mel Brooks movie, which is not a very good musical frankly, even that is like it’s more pulp horror, because it’s not drawing on the book Frankenstein it’s drawing on countless movie interpretations especially the, like, classic black and white one. It.. this has been curious to me for a while of why we don’t have more science… Oh! I was wrong. The most recent like mainstream science fiction musical was the adaptation of Be More Chill.

Tessa 18:39
Yeah, yeah.

Tessa 18:40
Where Be More Chill is about like – going back to the well of brain implant stuff.

Charles 18:51
[Clip from Be More Chill, “The SQUIP Song”] Absolutely not, get out of here. And I also don’t think Be More Chill is very good, but there is one song that I enjoy. And it’s “Michael in the Bathroom” and you can watch George Salazar performance. They like have one of those weird music videos, where they have footage from the show and then they sync that up with audio from the cast recording. And they also it’s one of those like in studio recording. So I’ll put it in the show notes. It’s a good performance, side note. And another kind of science fiction, a musical Little Shop of Horrors. They keep casting hot guys as Seymour and that’s a personal… it’s a personal insult to me.

Tessa 20:03
I actually totally understand that. Yeah. He’s not supposed to be hot, it’s the whole point of the character.

Charles 20:09
He’s supposed to be short and weird. And you’re gonna put Jonathan Groff? Sorry, no. Get out of here. No, not allowed. Anyway, I bring this up because there’s a video of George Salazar and I think Mj Rodriguez performing.. they’re performing something from Littl Shop and it’s great. [Clip from Little Shop of Horrors, “Suddenly Seymour”]

Charles 20:50
Seymour should be a short king. It should be kind of a weird guy. Absolutely not Jonathan Groff. Are you kidding me? Insulting. So I was thinking about Urinetown, because Urinetown is a better musical. But I think comes back to comparably faulty world building. Because I’ve always loved Urinetown, Urinetown is great, because the premise of Urinetown is it’s, I think Urinetown fundamentally works for the most part, because it’s world is very small, and contained. It’s just this one weird town. And we don’t know what’s going on outside of the town, and we don’t see anything outside of the town. And you’re in town is not real spoiler alert, they just kill you. I think that functionally works better for musicals.

Charles 21:36
And I wonder what the thing is about science fictional premises that don’t really work for musicals very well. And I still don’t have an answer to that. And I don’t really even have any theorizing, except that in this case, it also did not work, unfortunately. But I but it also gets to, okay, so you said that you actually liked the cartoon kind of format for relaying information. And I was actually really annoyed with it. Because this is a musical, the thing about musicals is that you get to skip a lot of dialogue, because you can cram a lot of stuff into a singular, so…

Tessa 22:15
Yeah, that’s a good point. That’s a good point.

Charles 22:17
So they chose to spend like five minutes going through these panels that are not well drawn, I think they just did the thing that WikiHow articles do, where you like, trace over an image of somebody. So it doesn’t actually look very good. And surprise for anybody who didn’t other WikiHow articles do that. And so they just did that for like five minutes when like, you could have had a song, introducing the world, explaining the setting, giving us these pieces of information.

Tessa 22:45
Yeah. And I think that’s also one of the reasons why pretty much everything it does drags on for a little too long.

Charles 22:50
They like had the graverobber appear multiple times, giving us the exact same information that we already got from the beginning. It’s like I noticed already, your role building is not so complex that he didn’t pick up on this the first two times you told me, let’s move it along. The grave robber really, it’s stunning to me how unnecessary of a character he was. I mean, I guess that he tells us about zydrat, but zydrate… it doesn’t actually matter.

Tessa 23:20
No, it doesn’t. It’s just another thing that’s happening…

Charles 23:21
… in the story. It’s just so that we can like see how terrible the world is. Because here’s another thing that’s interesting is that the ending is kind of a nothing ending. Just like several people die, and then it’s like by and nothing fundamentally changes about the world. Except that now Shilo knows that, spoiler alert, it was actually her dad, who was giving her an illness. It was a real whimper of an ending he was, you know, and I was thinking like, this is a terrible ending. But also, I don’t know what else they could have done. Because even apart from Gene-Co being the worst, the entire world is bad. Like, there’s kind of nothing. There’s like no hope of a brighter tomorrow. It’s just kind of it’s terrible. Right, which also gets back to my major, this is my big thing about Urinetown.

Charles 24:16
So the premise of you’re in town is that it’s some time in an ambiguous future, maybe we don’t know. I think one of the strengths is you’re in town is that most of it is very vague about specific details. And the moment that I hate most in Urinetown is like the executives of like the water company are going on a trip to Rio or something. And it’s like, you can’t expand the world like that, because this is a house of cards that will fall down at any second. Right?

Tessa 24:44
Right.

Charles 24:45
So I don’t like that but ignoring that. I think it works pretty well because it’s kind of a fairy tale ish feel of like we don’t have we don’t know when this is happening. We don’t know where this is happening. We don’t really know why this is happening. It’s just happening and you’re going to accept it.

Charles 25:01
And so the whole plot of Urinetown is that it’s the future. And there’s such an extreme water shortage that you have to pay to use the bathroom ever. Like, every time you’re going to use a toilet, you have to pay an entrance fee to be able to do it. And obviously, there are people who are quite rich, who just have like private bathrooms in their home, and it’s fine. And then there are people who are extremely poor, who can only go and use the bathroom once a day for like the pennies that they’ve saved up, you know, and then there’s like a freedom movement where Bobby, the main character is like, I’m not going to pay to pee, I’m going to pee anywhere I like. And then he leads a revolution and then eventually he gets caught by the cops. And he’s like, take me to Urinetown. And they’re like, there is no Urinetown. We’re gonna push you off a building, and then they push him off a building and then he falls to the ground, and he has one final song before he dies. No, he doesn’t have the song. He dies and then Little Penny, not Penny. Little Sally is she, like, sings a song and then he’s also singing a song and it was originated by Hunter Foster, who is the brother of Sutton Foster, who is de facto the queen of musical comedy. Although I think she she ran into some kind of controversy last year, I think with an old bad decision performance she did.

Charles 26:16
Plus, she was set to star alongside Hugh Jackman in the revival of The Music Man, which was being produced by Scott Rudin, who was just like a real douche to everybody like abusive workplace kind of stuff. It was a whole situation. I’ve actually trapped you in what I actually want to be doing, which is just a musical… podcast about musicals. Haha. My plan! I’m actually, this is actually a backdoor application for people who do the musical podcasts that I like to invite me on as a guest for their shows. So Jim and Tomic, I’m calling out to you… Musicals with Cheese, I’m calling out to you. I’m a great guest. I have a microphone. I love musicals.

Tessa 27:01

[laughs]

Charles 27:03
You know, as countless posters in public school told me, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. Anyway, so the whole thing about Urinetown is that it’s leading up. And basically, it’s a very irreverent kind of musical. It’s like, we’re kind of poking fun at all of these tropes. And then at the very end, they pull the rug out from under you…

Tessa 27:23
Yeah.

Charles 27:23
And it turns out, the people won the day. And then it was a disaster because they overuse all the water and then they’re in an even worse place with them before. And there’s some line like, as much of a douche as that guy was, he kept the water running or whatever. And it’s like, oh, and then they all end on praise Malthus or something…

Tessa 27:43
Wikipedia says “hail Malthus.”

Charles 27:45
That’s even worse. Hail Malthus, right. And because of Malthus, and his work on population limits, and he was an indirect influence on Darwin and Wallace, and coming up with the idea of evolution by means of natural selection. Isn’t the evolution of ideas fascinating? Take a class in history of science. And, this has driven me absolutely up the wall for over a decade now. Because I don’t think that the people writing Urinetown actually are like, hardcore libertarians, who hate the people. But the ending, it feels like one of those endings where like people didn’t really think about it. And they just wanted to like do a twist. And then it turned out that the twist didn’t actually work with the greater piece they were doing and they were…

Tessa 28:34
Right, it’s tonally inconsistent.

Charles 28:36
This has driven me absolutely up the wall about Urinetown forever. And I was thinking about this while watching Repo, exclamation mark, the Genetic Opera. Because I was like, is there an ending that won’t feel just as dissatisfying as that ending and… trying to pull ideas out of my brain tank, and I’m coming, I’m coming up empty. Basically, I just wanted to talk about Urinetown, cause I actually, I love Urinetown. As I said, we love a woodwind moment, right. But it gets into this thing that I hate about a lot of genre fiction, where and, not to bring a certain person up, but this also always drove me up the wall about a very popular children’s magic boarding school series, where she would toss out these little details about the world that were like nice for a little joke, but the moment you started thinking about it, it was like… this doesn’t fit the structure of the world that you’ve built.

Tessa 29:35
For all the world building she did, a lot of it doesn’t actually cohesively make sense.

Charles 29:40
It doesn’t make any sense. Here’s my big question is, this story is about organs. It’s not about genes.

Tessa 29:48
Yeah. Why did they keep mentioning that? I mean, I guess part of it is oh, you know, Shilo is afraid she’s gonna be like her father and also she blames her, as it turns out nonexistent, blood disease on her mother that it wasn’t but like that’s about it.

Charles 30:03
There are a couple of like weak attempts at theme in bringing up like genetic destiny, but they’re so isolated and toothless, that it feels like nothing. Because they say Repo! The Genetic Opera, they’re like, welcome to the genetic opera. None of this is about genetics.

Tessa 30:24
Yeah. In fact, they actually talk about genetic opera being the big event, you know, that’s the climax of the story. And they never explained what that is or how it’s different from a normal opera. It certainly doesn’t have any genetics involved.

Charles 30:35
And I like, not to dig too deep into this, but Gene-Co is a ridiculous name. Because they’re not doing gene therapy, or anything. That would have been a more interesting story of, not organ repossession, but like resetting your DNA. Somebody do that story… Tessa, you’re a writer, you write that story.

Tessa 30:57
I will file that at the back of my head, sure, with my other story ideas.

Charles 31:02
Okay, so I think to, to kind of end it, we could maybe go through and try to figure out if there are any compelling scientific ideas that they’ve taken inspiration from? And, um… no?

Tessa 31:19
I mean, organ transplants. That’s pretty well established at this point, but they aren’t really doing anything particularly creative with them. I do like the idea of like, custom design organs, you know, or synthetic organs. But they never really explained it. That’s what’s actually going on or not.

Charles 31:36
I will say I, because an organ is a bunch of specialized tissue.

Tessa 31:42
Yeah, right.

Charles 31:42
Like at the basic level, that’s what an organ is. Do you know of like science fictional stories that explore like a post organ reality?

Tessa 31:54
Hmm, that’s a good question.

Charles 31:56
Could you replace organs with something?

Tessa 32:00
I know in Lindsay Ellis’s Axiom’s End, there’s an alien species that refers to themselves as being post natural, where they still have biological tissue, but most of their organs have been replaced by essentially machines.

Charles 32:15
But see that scenario, it’s like not an organic organ, but it’s still organ-ish.

Tessa 32:23
Oh, yeah. No, I don’t, I can’t think of any situations where like, it’s been. All the like functions performed by an organ have been completely decentralized. You’d have absurd levels of like redundancy. And it would also probably give you enormous biological resilience. Honestly, if you’re trying to develop like super soldiers, I could see it being an extremely valuable, it’s difficult to implement modification. Since you know, oh, no, you know, I had a bullet go through my torso, you know, well, if I had a long, that would be a problem. But since you know, my oxygenation of my biology is completely decentralized throughout my entire body. It’s not a problem.

Charles 32:58
Yeah. I mean, I guess we do have examples of non organ organisms with like, bacteria, right? And other prokaryotic organisms. Here’s another idea. What if we had a future where people got surplus organs? Like we just made up new organs to do cool, random stuff?

Tessa 33:22
Yeah, Iain Banks’ The Culture series of humans, or at least the human equivalent in that series, is basically they’re all like post human. And they’ve been modified to have additional organs, including a drug gland, so they can like basically give themselves recreational drugs whenever they want to, and also they can change sex.

Charles 33:42
Well, that’s very well, here’s another, specifically trans resonance on that, getting back to sort of the thing that we discussed before, of like, if we got to a point where medical technology was advanced enough to basically be able to make a body oppositely cis, which is an imperfect phrasing, but there’s no way to phrase that perfectly that isn’t like three paragraphs long.

Charles 33:42
So in a situation where we would get to a point where it’s so well advanced, that you could basically re-cis the body, but then that kind of leaves people who don’t want that out in the cold, right? What if we had a situation where you could effectively be like, we’re gonna switch all the chromosomes and it’s immediately gonna just, you know, imagine the mechanisms that might happen but some like switch flipped inside the body and then you could essentially re-sex it. Then what kind of that’s like both a utopia insofar as people who want that can get it and dystopia, insofar as there are many people who don’t want that, who maybe want these couple of things and it’s not other thing.

Tessa 34:54
Yeah, yeah, exactly.

Charles 34:56
Because I think one kind of advance in medical transition technology that I feel like we’re all kind of waiting for is for it to be more of a kind of boutique experience, to put it in kind of a transphobes nightmare kind of a way, right? Because a lot of non binary people will hesitate about going on hormones or not. Because it’s not a pick and choose kind of,

Tessa 35:16
Right.

Charles 35:17
…life situation, it’s like you’re gonna get a deeper voice, and also, you’re gonna have a lot of hair on your butt all of a sudden, and they just that’s like, never the twain shall divide.

Tessa 35:31
I think for a lot of people that, yeah, that would be the dream of being able to like, well, as you say, pick and choose, you know, what phenotypical modifications am I going to have? Because right now it’s you either get everything or you get nothing.

Charles 35:43
And I wonder, getting fully into real life speculation instead of just science fictional speculation. Is there a way that is non intrusive, that you could specialize the effects in certain areas? Do you know what I mean? Cause I mean, like, theoretically, let’s say that you want a deeper voice, and you want more arm hair. But you don’t want chest hair. Couldn’t be me, but maybe, right? Theoretically, you could like get plugs in your arm.

Tessa 36:14
Right.

Charles 36:14
Like, if you can put hair plugs in your scalp, you could put them into your arm, I assume. But then the problem is, who wants to do that? Not me. But is there a way? Because the explanation that’s always given right, is that you just it the hormones into your blood? And then they kind of go everywhere blood goes, ie, everywhere. But is there a way of, is there literally a way of like directing their influence only to like, theoretically, could you make it only part of the body and not the other part of the body?

Tessa 36:48
Yeah, I’m not sure. I don’t know if we, I mean, I feel like that’s something you could accomplish somehow with epigenetics. But yeah.

Charles 36:55
Yeah, do you think maybe there isn’t more science fiction about very speculative gene therapy? Because science fiction authors are like, I don’t want to do that…

Tessa 37:07
I think it’s that also there’s a lot of research involved. Yeah, like, in order to do that properly, you’d have to do a lot of research

Charles 37:13
And all these paywalls.

Tessa 37:15
Yeah.

Charles 37:16
I would never tell somebody to avoid paywalls by going to the very illegal SciHub. I wouldn’t do that. I would never recommend that. I want you to pay journals to access one article.

Tessa 37:31
Yep.

Charles 37:32
For 48 hours. I want you to give them $50 for two days of access to one article a million times. Well, that’s the real nightmare for Halloween, is the academic publishing industry. Very spooky. Very scary. And unfortunately, that’s real life. Okay, well if after all of this, you want to find me on Twitter I am @cockroacharles.

Tessa 38:01
And I am on Twitter @spacermase, and at tessafisher.com.

Charles 38:08
You can find the show on Twitter @ASABpod or at our website where we post show notes and transcripts for every episode, asabpodcast.com. And if you’ve liked the show, please tell other people you think might like it because it’s apparently the number one way that podcasts grow.

Tessa 38:23
And until next time, keep on science-ing.

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