Introductions are my favorite thing to write. At the start of the intro, structure is less rigid. An author can do whatever it takes to get the readers hooked. Then suddenly, it’s the thesis, and the preview of everything I have to say. By this point, the reader is hooked and dragged into the slew of information, or such is the goal.

The tone of the introduction “cracking the code of life” struck me as more mystical than scientific. This production is seeking to provoke interest on the grounds of DNA as almighty dictator of who we are. As our class discussed on Friday, there are endless metaphors for DNA throughout the film. They are highly concentrated at the beginning, with over seven analogies within the first seven minutes. These analogies serve two purposes. They pull in readers, alluding to the grandeur of DNA ‘’constellations” and comparing the genome to A Thousand and One Arabian Nights.

This hook serves as the audience attention device, a classic introduction hook. It may be difficult to engage the general public in a program about genetics, but the tactics of the introduction come with serious side effects.

All these grand metaphors also serve to mystify DNA and make the audience feel that their own body is foreign.  One of the first scenes shows a scientist pulling DNA out of a test tube. This visual of a glob of clumped up genetic material does not inform us about the structure of DNA. The scientist tells us it looks like “little strands of cotton”, but we can’t really see details on screen.  The purpose of the shot is to present DNA as science, able to be captured by the test tube and manipulated by the scientist. This presentation makes DNA unnatural and inhuman. Other visuals further present DNA as “weird”. Shots of yeast and worms are used, as well as a brief conversation about a banana having similar genetic material to humans. This idea DNA is weird and it is weird that we share it with other organisms is problematic. DNA is a part of us. Learning more about it doesn’t change the way it exists within us and other organisms, as it has existed for all of history. Close relation to other organisms is supposed to be a shock to the audience, as it was a shock to early geneticists. Are we really so superior that we ought to have “instructions” in a different language, or more than twice as long as instructions for a banana? This notion comes from a lack of critical thinking about the origins of the world around us, which comes with a lack of respect.

he metaphor of DNA as “instructions” seems eerily similar to a plan. If there is a plan for your body, your diseases, the very way you think, do you have free will? If the analogies in the introduction are taken literally, no. Such comparisons serve as a chatchy hook, but there are weighty ethical issues related with “cracking the code of life”. Perhaps this is just the scientist in me speaking, but this introduction overdid it. Most viewers could be intrigued by lesser measures, and when ethical issues are at stake, less is more.

All these grand metaphors also serve to mystify DNA and make the audience feel that their own body is foreign.  One of the first scenes shows a scientist pulling DNA out of a test tube. This visual of a glob of clumped up genetic material does not inform us about the structure of DNA. The scientist tells us it looks like “little strands of cotton”, but we can’t really see details on screen.  The purpose of the shot is to present DNA as science, able to be captured by the test tube and manipulated by the scientist. This presentation makes DNA unnatural and inhuman. Other visuals further present DNA as “weird”. Shots of yeast and worms are used, as well as a brief conversation about a banana having similar genetic material to humans. This idea DNA is weird and it is weird that we share it with other organisms is problematic. DNA is a part of us. Learning more about it doesn’t change the way it exists within us and other organisms, as it has existed for all of history. Close relation to other organisms is supposed to be a shock to the audience, as it was a shock to early geneticists. Are we really so superior that we ought to have “instructions” in a different language, or more than twice as long as instructions for a banana? This notion comes from a lack of critical thinking about the origins of the world around us, which comes with a lack of respect.

The metaphor of DNA as “instructions” seems eerily similar to a plan. If there is a plan for your body, your diseases, the very way you think, do you have free will? If the analogies in the introduction are taken literally, no. Such comparisons serve as a chatchy hook, but there are weighty ethical issues related with “cracking the code of life”. Perhaps this is just the scientist in me speaking, but this introduction overdid it. Most viewers could be intrigued by lesser measures, and when ethical issues are at stake, less is more.

– M. Charles

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~ by melissascharles on January 12, 2014.

One Response to “”

  1. Italics and large font size are also negative side effects of drafting this blog in word. Apologies.

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