Clones: copies or people?
Before I started this class, my concept of what clones would be like was very similar to Star Wars Episode Two: Attack of the Clones. The clones in the film are created from a Bounty Hunter named Jango Fett, but are modified to make them more compliant. The clones are created and utilized as soldiers to forcefully overthrow the Jedi order. The clones have ranks, just as in any other army, but no discernible difference is indicated that would make one clone a higher rank than another. They are tools used as a means to achieve an end and do not receive very much development in the story. The surviving clones serve as Imperial Storm troopers for the Galactic Empire. The audience is not trained to feel empathy towards the droids in episode one or the clones in episode two when they die in battle. They are not developed as characters, so the audience has no vested interest in whether they live or die. I remember thinking what a brilliant idea it was to use droids and clones in warfare rather than sacrificing real human lives. Since then, I have changed my understanding of what clones would be–not copies, but people.
During one of our first few class sessions, we discussed how identical twins are far more identical than clones would be (they share the same pre-natal environment), but we as a society never question whether or not twins have value as people or whether or not they have souls. Identical twins are unusual and rare, but their humanity is not questioned. In the dystopian novel Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro and Michael Bay’s action thriller, The Island, the clones are created to serve as organ donors for other people in society. Both stories draw focus on the human element of the characters. It is only revealed later in each of the stories that the people are clones at all. The stories tug at the heart strings, painting clones as the next discriminated against group. In The Island, the clones try to escape their fate and succeed with the help of a genocide survivor named Albert Laurent. In The Island, Lincoln meets his sponsor, Tom Lincoln, the person he was cloned from, and highlights the difference in their characters. They are both human with the same genetic material, but not the same person. In Never Let Me Go, the clones only have each other and cling to those relationships. They know about the outside world and their place in it from a very young age and do not question their role as donors. The characters in both stories are richly developed and portray the clones as real people with wishes, hopes and dreams. The stories are drawing attention to a potential future society when human cloning becomes a reality.
These pieces of art work against already existing ideas that clones are less than human and try to replace them with an understanding of clones as no less human and unique like any other human creature. Clones, like other previously and currently discriminated against groups (African Americans, immigrants, women, and homosexuals), are people too. So if the day comes that there is a clone staring you in the face, I hope you will not be able to tell that he or she is a clone and that you will treat him or her with respect.