“You’re a part of me and I’m a part of you”: Rogue Motherhood in Splice

Authors: Virginia Blum*, University of Kentucky
Topics: Cultural Geography, Gender, Sexuality
Keywords: motherhood, psychoanalysis, Lacan, new reproductive technologies
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 5:00 PM / 6:40 PM
Room: 8201, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

In his Seminar X, Anxiety, Lacan expands upon Freud’s famous discussion of fort/da where the child masters the mother’s comings and goings through a game. While Freud focuses on the pain ensuing from the mother’s absences, Lacan instead asserts that “anxiety isn’t about the loss of the object, but its presence.” It’s the too-present mother, more dangerous than the absent mother, who poses risks to the child’s emergent autonomy. Vincenzo Natali’s 2009 updated Frankenstein film, Splice, depicts new reproductive technologies as an allegory of the mother’s stifling presence (motherhood as ownership) in the life of her child-product. Elsa and Clive are bio-geneticists in the employ of Big Pharma for whom they harvest proteins from the new lifeforms they engineer. Although she declares her opposition to becoming pregnant, Elsa goes rogue and illegally splices her own human DNA with animal DNA to grow a hybrid creature in an artificial womb. Elsa becomes preoccupied with this new lifeform/daughter whom she alternately coddles and abuses. The child is imprisoned, cruelly punished, and refused any subjectivity apart from her mother’s. Meanwhile, the “father” is unsuccessful at separating mother and child and eventually pays with his life for abdicating his paternal role. Splice identifies motherhood as a site of extreme anxiety in a world where women conspire to supplant fathers, manufacture children, and convert their babies into capital.

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