Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A CREATION THEORY

Finally, a summer movie I can get excited about. Due June 26, My Sister's Keeper is a drama from The Notebook director Nick Cassavetes about two parents (Cameron Diaz and Jason Patric) with a young daughter (Sofia Vassilieva) who suffers from leukemia. Through in-vitro fertilization, they "produce" a daughter (Abigail Breslin) strictly for the purpose of providing the sick girl with a genetic match to save her life. Years later, when daughter number one suffers kidney failure and they turn to daughter number two to be a donor, the latter refuses and hires herself a lawyer (Alec Baldwin) to protect her rights. Conflict ensues.

I don't know about you, but I'll be rooting for daughter number two. I mean, this poor girl already has enough emotional baggage to carry around for life, having been brought into the world strictly to save her big sister. And she has to lose a kidney for her, too? In the book, her reasons for refusing are actually far more complicated, and there are some interesting twists along the way. If the movie is faithful to the book, expect plenty of waterworks.

Last night, I watched an episode of Private Practice with a parallel storyline. Thank God, Dr. Addison Montgomery saw things the way I do and refused to have any part of it. I recently had a conversation with a friend about baby-making technology and how it's gotten out of control. Gays and lesbians are using sperm and eggs from John Does and Jane Does and, in the case of gay men, hiring surrogate mothers just so they can have bragging rights to a biological kid. Ricky Martin did it. So did a very good friend of mine who is now the father of two beautiful daughters. I'm absolutely thrilled for him, but I have my reservations about the process in general.

Years ago, when I expressed a non-desire (since reversed) not to have children, my aunt said that I was selfish. But where is the selflessness in being obsessed with having biological children, turning to questionable means and shelling out tons of money toward that end when there are so many kids out there waiting to be adopted? Why do bleeding-heart liberals cock their eyebrows at people who buy expensive purebred dogs rather than making a trip to the local dog shelter, while applauding would-be parents who bypass adoption agencies in favor of expensive scientific procedures for taking control of their lives?

I believe parenthood is a great thing, and I hope to get there someday (via adoption -- none of this surrogacy stuff or impregnating one of my female friends for me). I also understand the appeal of having biological children and seeing yourself in another person. But those who think they are instantaneously better people for being a parents (you are out there, and you know who you are -- self-improvement is a process and it comes with more effort than simply giving birth), or that parenthood automatically makes their lives richer or validates their existence is fooling themselves (it's all about what you do with the experience, not the experience itself). Yes, being a mom or dad can be a great thing for those who carry that parenting gene, and raising children does require a certain amount of selflessness. But the motives -- sense of family, companionship, immortality through offspring -- are just as selfish. Think about it.

My Sister's Keeper will be interesting for reasons other than whether Cameron Diaz will or won't be snubbed by Oscar yet again (Vanilly Sky comes to mind, as does Being John Malkovich and The Gangs Of New York). I'm curious to see what kind of debate it kicks off regarding in-vitro fertilization and what basically amounts to doctors and parents playing God. Don't misunderstand me: I'm no right-wing nut; I'm all for stem-cell research, the right to choose (although I think abortion is a horrifying thing) and euthanasia. (Capital punishment remains a very gray area for me.) So this is not just about playing God. I believe baby-making technology fails to take into account the babies and what possible monsters will be created when the details of conception are eventually revealed.
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