Losing My Wings

Popular Culture and Extraordinary Bodies

Each year 1-2% of children are born with mutations to the hox genes, some of which are required for limb development. These mutations, long known to geneticists as homeo mutations, are often visible morphological differences because they effect the regulation of the expression of a series of changes in a developmental pathway instead of a directed change to a single protein.[1] Homeo mutants testify to the haunting on every limb on every organism by potential events that link us to developmental series of different organisms.  In my development, there was a gothic moment when I lost the potential for wings. This moment still haunts me with the strange possibilities of different outcomes. What I feel is not a phantom wing, as I never possessed one in the first place, but a zone of pluripotency in the development of all types of limbs, including wings.

Popular culture has long been the place where these half felt sensations are most deeply explored. In an often garish and oppressive medium where staring at someone can be too easily equated with understanding someone, popular culture has often appealed to extraordinary bodies in order to generate content to sell products.

In the following film clip, Mulder and Scully from the television show, The X-Files, recognize the important link between low brow entertainment and exceptional bodies in the episode, Post-Modern Prometheus, creating a strange melange of images from horror movies, comic books, and evolutionary and developmental biology.

[1] The term “homeo mutant” was coined by William Bateson. The first identified correlation between homeo mutants and 

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