The closest to Normal (Illinois) that I've ever been.

Monday, December 17, 2007


My current research project is getting me down. For the last month, I have been doing experiments involving artificially perfuming crickets with each others' cuticular hydrocarbons. It is a simple experimental design, and all the crickets have to do to make this experiment work is mate normally. However, the crickets are from inbred lines, and they seem to be having trouble remembering how to mate.
Consequently, I have had inbreeding on my mind lately. I love horror movies, but movies about inbreeding creep me out. I taught Human Genetics for several years, and I always found the parts about disorders in inbred human populations to be morbidly fascinating. And I can't be alone in this interest--there is a whole genre of horror that draws from our revulsion for inbreeding.

The classic 1970 film, El Topo includes an subterranean community of inbred wretches.

The only episode of the X-Files that I can't watch is "Home" about the family of deformed inbreeding pig farmers. Apparently, this was the only episode of the series to warrant a parental advisory.

The recently remade "The Hills and Eyes," 1 and 2 are about being captured by inbred mutants.

Various other horror movies about the consequences of inbreeding:

Why all these movies about inbreeding? My guess is that on some level we all know that we have those four recessive lethal alleles just waiting to be expressed, so we have reasonable anxiety about genetic abnormality. However, to put a positive spin on it, inbreeding makes horror attainable for anyone. You don't have to be a mad scientist, alien abductee, or possessed by the devil--all you need is a little inbreeding to make your own homemade monsters. Also, from the viewpoint of Hollywood, a supposedly real person with a cyclops eye is way scarier and much cheaper than a convincing cyclops alien monster.

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