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Beholder: the future is not necessarily progressive

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beholder_4.jpgThe short film Beholder is set in a near future domed community whose socially conservative politics are eerily familiar. Director Nisha Ganatra isn't subtle with her comparisons to present-day Republicans in the United States. For example, the community is called Red Estates, and a political stump speech includes the phrase "This is the real America," a well-documented conservative talking point in recent years.

The story centers on Sasha, the pregnant wife of popular political candidate Bobby Aryana. At a prenatal exam, she is told her fetus has the genetic marker for homosexuality.1 She tells the doctor, "I don't remember requesting that test" and the doctor responds "There's no need to request it. All fetuses are scanned automatically." He continues, "There's no need to be alarmed. We'll take care of the problem." In Red Estates, there is a highly effective inoculation to "correct the problem." The eroding concept of choice is cemented when the nurse hands Sasha a clipboard saying "Please sign the consent form for the mandatory inoculation." The only other option offered is "termination."

This is not the only trait controlled for; "designer babies" are the norm and a source of pride for the community. A woman in the waiting room boasts, "I hear that blue eyes are all but extinct outside Red Estates." The area outside the domed community, just referred to as "the coast," is viewed with disdain and pity, and discussed as a place of crime and primitive behavior. A Red Estates advertisement states, "Studies show genetically engineered children lead happier lives than children on the coast. Don't let your child be left behind." This echoes the way prenatal technologies can move from an option to a "mandatory choice" in our culture. As prenatal genetic testing becomes safer and more accurate, a woman who doesn't choose it will increasingly be seen as a "bad mother," as has evolved with expectations around ultrasound.