The Whitest Kids U’Know, a sketch comedy television show, used one of its final segments (season 5, episode 8) to parody the prospect of an expectant couple faced with pre-selecting the traits of their baby.
The skit features a young white man and his pregnant wife, played by another white man. Their doctor asks if they would prefer a baby boy or girl, explaining that their fetus is at the stage at which hormone therapy can influence certain traits. The couple is surprised, but they immediately dive into it, opting for a son because “boys are funnier.” Next on the menu: eye color. After a flip of a coin, they settle on green.
Then the doctor, who is black, asks if they would prefer a white or black child. Their faces fall. They nervously venture that they want the baby to look like them; the doctor says, “So that’s how it’s gonna be, huh?” The parents-to-be become increasingly awkward as they try to avoid offending their doctor, who is also gay and an amputee – traits they are then asked to opt for or against. When they finally emerge from the office, their efforts to achieve political correctness have led to an unanticipated outcome. “We’re gonna have a gay, black, pirate baby,” the wife glumly declares.
The Whitest Kids segment is reminiscent of a scene in another pop culture must-see, the science fiction classic GATTACA, in which a white couple similarly consults with a black doctor about their future child’s traits. These expectant parents have already decided that they want a boy with hazel eyes, dark hair, and fair skin. The doctor raises his eyebrows as he mentions their skin color preference, but nods approvingly and notes the other traits he has taken the liberty to select against, including a propensity for violence or alcoholism. The couple tentatively suggests that perhaps they should leave some things to chance. But they are persuaded by the doctor’s forceful response that “there is enough imperfection in the world already” and that they should give their child “the best chance possible.”
Both of these fictional situations depict expectant parents being pushed into the role of consumers by developments cast as benefits of modern medicine. They seem uneasy as the baby waiting for them suddenly becomes the product of their preferences, but they choose nonetheless. They experience doubt and discomfort about deciding whether to follow or challenge culturally hegemonic assumptions that assign normative value to arbitrary phenotypic traits, but they make the decisions.
The result in Whitest Kids is the inverse of what’s likely if such choices become available; the scene from GATTACA is much more probable. The technical imperative to choose the traits of one’s children would encourage many if not most people to eliminate difference in the name of avoiding “imperfections.”
This prospect is presented as comedic in the first and as science fiction in the second. But what if the option to pre-select the traits of future children were to become a real possibility? As selection technologies become ever more powerful, it will be increasingly important to move beyond the discomfort of the genetic counseling session, to think collectively about whether we really want the power to design our children.
Previously on Biopolitical Times:
Posted in Disability, Eugenics, Genetic Selection, Inheritable Genetic Modification, Jessica Cussins's Blog Posts, LGBTQI, Media Coverage, Race, Sex Selection
CommentsAdd a Comment
Comment by 123, Jul 8th, 2012 8:47pm
No hay dinero, que digan lo que quieran. Ni hay dinero para fichar ni para acercarse a lo que pueden ofrecer otros equipos (Estaría bien buscar una lista de todos los que han dicho no al Celta en el último año y medio) y si no es así han mentido hasta ahora; si hubo que vender a ropafutboles toda leche a Jordi a los rusos para cuadrar las cuentas de este año después de que Michu dijera que no al Sporting. Si están diciendo que hay que vender a alguno de estos que citas. Pues es evidente, si hubiera pasta no habría necesidad de vender.
Entiendo que digan que el equipo debe compra camisetas de futbol ascender, yo también pienso que no se puede esta en segunda como norma y mucho menos luchando por salvarse (y la afición está hasta las narices de esta situación), pero lo que hay es lo que hay. La Real, buen ejemplo par anosotros, tardó tres temporadas y, primero, la afición va al campo, no como nosotros que vamos cuatro gatos, y ellos sí tienen pasta para traerse jugadores que complementen a la cantera. Nosotros tenemos cantera, el resto de jugadores no marcan/no han marcado la diferencia.