Gentlemen Prefer Clones (except when they don’t)
Poor Mollie 2. No one loves her, except Mollie 1, which begs the ultimate question about cloning: just how human are clones? How much care do they deserve? Sex Education takes the view that, though Mollie 2 needs and deserves just as much care as Mollie 1 (what with her sweet baby features and helpless nature), she won’t get it from the uncaring adults that either a) already have a Mollie, or b) paid for one that wasn’t supposed to come with a heart defect. Dig a little deeper, though. Why does Mollie 1 care about what happens to Mollie 2? Mollie 1 describes her clone as “The baby that’s me.” In her clone Mollie sees herself. But her parents view the child as none of their business, and most certainly not their responsibility. They already have a daughter, and though this other Mollie shares their genes, they don’t care about her.
Know what that means? Yes, that’s right, it’s the classic nature versus nurture argument. Is Mollie 2 truly Mollie 1? The story itself seems to think so (hence the only fitting name for the baby also being Mollie). I’m not so sure I agree–after all, Mollie 2’s life will take a drastically different direction from Mollie 1’s. Their different experiences alone will make them different people, and the same can be said for the other Mollies.
Then there’s the issue with no one wanting Mollie 2. Sex Education has a weird obsession with perfection that comes out in a lot of ways, from Barbie doll trades to Mollie’s parent’s insistence that Mollie is somehow ‘perfect.’ Mollie buys into this idea of perfection too.
So what’s the deal here?
To me at least, ‘perfect’ seems to be synonymous with originality and with humanness. Mollie 1 obviously isn’t a truly perfect child. She gets the occasional B, got sick, and was peer pressured into saying “Fuck the holy ghost,” which I’m sure her parents would not have been pleased to hear. Nevertheless she is a very good kid. Everyone likes Mollie, especially the readers. After all, it’s her psychologically traumatized viewpoint that we experience the story through. But that’s beside the point. Mollie is ‘perfect’ because she’s the original. There are many copies, yes, but those copies were all made with a background assumption of their innate Mollie-ness–that they too would be polite, adorable, smart, etc. Mollie is also fully human, which here means she was brought into the world the old-fashioned way. Sex Education implicitly assumes there’s something not-perfect with the Mollie clones…and to be sure there’s a lot of weirdness wrapped up in the idea that rich people can interview a little girl and then order a clone of her to take home. Perhaps the un-perfection comes from the attitudes of all the parents of all the Mollies. The Berringers–just think about them as parents, even of a child who didn’t come out ‘defective.’ (If you didn’t just shiver a little for that poor Mollie clone, I don’t know what to say to you).
And don’t even get me started on the Barbie-trading. Mollie wants herself. It doesn’t matter that one Barbie is much like another (same assembly line, same unrealistic proportions), Mollie wants a doll that looks like herself, a simple cosmetic change that makes no difference in the Barbie’s play value. So what’s wrong with black hair Barbie, huh? Is black hair Barbie not good enough for Mollie? Pretty much. Only blue eyed, blonde haired Barbie is good enough. That blonde Barbie is the one Mollie wants, just as the Berringers wanted a ‘perfect’ Mollie. Has Mollie just imitated all the adults she hates so much? Who knows? Mollie doesn’t tell us. I’m not sure if I know the answer either. Maybe Kress is merely foreshadowing Mollie’s quest to rescue her clone. Or maybe, just maybe, a little more of her parent’s attitude has been imparted to her than she’d like to admit. Seems harsh, doesn’t it? But it brings us back to nature vs. nurture. Mollie has a hard time talking about her issues. Who else has that problem? Oh. Right. Mommy does. Mollie’s also got quite a temper…just like her father. So….nature? Or nurture?