brothercyst: Children of Men; a variation on the idea

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Children of Men; a variation on the idea

I saw Children of Men again today, and I am as amazed as I was the first time, if not more so. (Go see it.)

Seated in the theater before the film began, an alternate version of the film's premise occured to me and has been bothersome in my mind all evening. As you probably know, Children of Men imagines a world where women have inexplicably become infertile and humanity seems doomed to extinction after extant generations have passed. A nightmarish scenario, but here's what occured to me: what if the human female population did not become infertile but instead inexplicably began giving birth only to babies of one sex?* This would also render humanity incapable of perpetuation, but it would mean there'd be one last generation composed either exclusively of males or exclusively of females.

I can hardly imagine anything more unpleasant than being a member of the last generation of males. I'd rather die. At best it would be a world of douchebags, competition for the (rapidly aging) females rising to feverish levels until they all died out and only males remained for a few final decades. At worst, human civilization would just quickly descend into an orgy of mass murder. I really believe that.

But what would a final generation composed exclusively of women be like?

*surely this premise must have been treated before somewhere in a book or film. i haven't encountered it; has anyone? and don't say Y: The Last Man. that's not the same premise.


Ian said...

I think you should maybe hurry up and write it -- it's a good idea. Never heard it anywhere else before.

Robert said...

check out the bible, exodus chapter 1. pharaoh wants to destroy the hebrews by "dealing with them shrewdly" -- so he decrees that all newborn males must be killed at birth by the attendant midwives. only female newborns could live.

not exactly what you described, but very similar.

Ned said...

Nick, S. from the reading says:

1) "If there were only women, then there's a simple solution that would last for quite some time: the remaining men jerk off constantly and donate to a sperm bank. That could keep women reproducing for hunders of years--lots and lots of sperm."

2) "There is no way that there could be only men left because a disease that eliminated women would have to effect the X chromosome, and since men also require the X chromosome, this would be an equal opporrtunity plague for all genders."

She's a smart cookie, no?

Ian said...

I'd have to disagree with part 2 of the previous post. Any phenomenon that interfered with sex determination in vivo could lead to the creation of only one gender of humans. For instance, imagine if a virus developed that attacked the male reproductive tract, destroying sperm's potency by recombining deleteriously with the gamete's genetic complement. Now imagine that the presence of a y chromosome confers immunity against this virus -- voila, we have only male offspring.

Alternatively, because of the (albeit infinitesimal) difference in weight and hence propulsive capacity between X sperm and y sperm, a widespread change in the composition of females' vaginal fluids (wrought by environmental triggers, perhaps) could provide an overwhelming competitive advantage to y sperm in the act of reaching, and then fertilizing, an egg.

Or heck, even post-fertilization the possibilities are multiple: if the presence of a y chromosome in a developing fetus conferred any sort of substantive survival advantage over the absence of one, nature could effect an absence of females in the population.

Maybe the y chromosome, long thougt largely genetically inert, might at some point in the future prove indispensible in combatting a virus or a pollutant or any number of other selective pressures.

In any case, I think a scientifically plausible explanation could be constructed.

NickAntosca said...

Interesting responses, guys. Ian, I'm going to incorporate it into something, I think. Robert-- interesting. A modern pharoah might be a scientist. Ned, the sperm bank idea is really good, but still--supplies eventually run out. Of course (Larry Summers' position notwithstanding) female scientists might use the extra time to figure out how to create some sort of "fake sperm"--a dummy vessel mimicking a sperm but containing chromosomal material actually harvested from another egg.

BUT STILL, that doesn't address or eliminate my question, which is what the generation (or generations, in the sperm bank scenario) composed only of women would be like.

Ian said...

It would devolve into an emotionocracy, with the most emotionally expressive women rising up the power structure (at the top of which would sit Oprah Winfrey, of course).