Tze Chun's short film Silver Sling takes place in a near-future New York City and tells the story of Russian immigrant Lydia, who is considering becoming a pregnancy surrogate for the third time. In the world of Silver Sling, surrogates are given an injection that accelerates pregnancy, shortening it to three months. While acting as a surrogate comes with a good deal of money (enough so that Lydia could bring her little brother over from Russia), a third surrogate pregnancy usually leaves the surrogate sterile. Lydia struggles to balance the needs of the present (finding the money to take care of her brother) with the possibilities of the future (having children with her boyfriend Stephen).
What I liked best about this film was the way it let the technology itself be value-neutral while focusing on how our cultural and economic structure shapes the technology's use. Accelerated surrogacy is positioned as a smart choice for busy professionals; the company's promotional film contains lines like "In a world where you shouldn't have to wait for anything, why wait 9 months for your child to be born?" and "At Silver Sling, you can have the baby you've always wanted—in a time frame appropriate for the fast-paced world of today." Though this part didn't make the film, the synopsis on the film's web page says, "corporations offer financial incentives to their high-ranking female employees to pay for chemically accelerated surrogate births." The United States is economically polarized and highly focused on consumerism and convenience. It makes sense that a convenient but unnecessary service like this would be pitched to upper class women, just as it makes sense that the women hired to do the actual labor are, as the film's synopsis states, "people on the lower end of the economic spectrum—often immigrants or people looking to make their rent." Director Tze Chun said he wanted to explore how "immigrants function as a life support system" in New York City: "They cook food, they nanny children, they take out the trash. What if they literally became the life support system for the city's future generations?"
The spokesperson in the Silver Sling promotional film refers to the "reproductive revolution," comparing it to earlier revolutions: industrial, political, and sexual. Bioethics writer Kyle Munkittrick thinks this is a fitting comparison: "Just as with the earlier revolutions, though the change began with a new technology, ultimately it was the shift in lifestyles, social mores, and culture itself that had the real impact" (Science Not Fiction).
This film reminds us that as we try to envision our technological future, we need to pay close attention to who and what is valued by our culture, as that is the real indicator of how much a certain technology will change us.
- Film, images, and director quotes from futurestates.tv.
- Munkittrick, Kyle. "Get your baby quickly and easily with accelerated surrogacy!" Science Not Fiction, Discover Magazine, July 6, 2010.