Therapeutic cloning – The Island

(Warning: contains story spoilers!)  The Island looks into a near future (the year 2019 is specified) where it has become possible for the rich and famous, including top sportsmen and the US President, to have a clone of themselves made as an ‘insurance policy’.  The clients are led to believe that the clones (aka Agnates) are kept in a permanent vegetative state, but this is not true.  The clones, which are made using an accelerated development system, are, in fact, awake and carry out certain jobs.  They are told that they are survivors after a catastrophic accident and have to live indoors, unless they win the lottery and with it the chance to move to the contamination-free Island.  This is a cover story to explain their sudden disappearance when their organs need to be harvested for the sponsor.  The film focusses on an escape by two clones, Lincoln 6 Echo (Ewan McGregor) and Jordan 2 Delta (Scarlett Johansson), who go in search of their sponsors after Lincoln discovers the truth about what it means to win a move to “The Island”.

The film can be a useful vehicle for discussing human cloning.  For example, you could get the students to compare and contrast the cloning depicted in the film with the science and current legislation of both therapeutic and reproductive cloning.

The film is a certificate 12, so there are few problems content-wise in showing the whole thing to any secondary or university group.  However, some scenes in isolation (supported by a little background from the teacher) are sufficient to serve as a case study.  In particular Chapter 17 “Why do they lie to us?” (0:59:02 to 1:02:43) is very good – nb includes one use of ‘shitty’.  Also Chapter 7 (0:23:00 to 0:26:00) depicts an adult ‘birth’; Chapter 14 (0:48:30 to 0:51:50) the sales pitch to potential customers about the limitations of human life and a statement that the Agnates are “products, not human”; Chapter 15 (0:52:50 to 0:54:05) where we are told that Jordan 2 Delta’s sponsor is dying; Chapter 30 (1:43:45 to 1:45:50) “How many are affected?” and Chapter 33 (1:54:40 to 1:55:33) “When did killing become a business for you?”

4 Responses to Therapeutic cloning – The Island

  1. […] The book raises interesting questions about what it means to be human, but coming to it from the perspective of a scientist involved in bioethics education I ultimately found it a frustrating read. I think my main gripe is the fact that for the narrator Kathy to be in her early 30s during the 1990s, the technology used to produce the clones must have been available by the early 1960s – something I know is not the case. Yes, of course, it is a work of fiction, but nevertheless this fundamental alteration of fact grated alongside the representation of England in the 1970s to 1990s, which was essentially faithful to the history of the period. The science of cloning was never considered. From a teaching perspective, I was disappointed that there were not really any suitable vignettes to use with a class as discussion starters. The most likely sections for quoting come towards the end of the book, particularly in Chapter 22, when Tommy and Kathy discuss their schooling with one of their former ‘guardians’. On the whole, however, I think The Island is a better vehicle for introducing issues of human cloning. […]

  2. The Island has recently been premiered on satellite TV and can now be obtained under ERA licence. The TRILT identifier at the BUFVC is 005C9EE5.

  3. I read that he was quite keen do a Neighbours appearence Lol. do you know if this is true? There’s a bit of me that kind of hopes this is true lol.

  4. swazty says:

    i loved this movie. it shows the disadvantages and how greedy people are when money is involved. and how FAR people will go to live FOREVER. but is it really worth the risk?

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