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Twist and Shout! The Double Helix Replicates Itself in Popular Culture
Springy DNA bracelets designed by Carolyn Forsman.
By AMY HARMON
The New York Times
February 25, 2003
... Since the discovery of the double helix 50 years ago unlocked the molecular secret of life, the popular imagination has been busily sequencing its own meaning from the ultimate scientific symbol. As scientists rush to decipher the way genes express their biological functions, the public's hopes and fears about the power of DNA have found expression in forms both prosaic and profound.
Replicating itself with the efficiency for which it is famous, the double helix has produced a great variety of artistic phenotypes, from the 1978 movie "The Boys From Brazil," about cloning Hitler, to "Clone High," a new MTV animation featuring teenage clones of Abraham Lincoln, Gandhi and Joan of Arc in modern-day high school. (As nurture would have it, Ms. Arc is an atheist).
Springy bracelets twisted in the shape of a double helix sell for $10 at gift shops across the country; DNA perfume "recommended for casual use," is available at fine department stores, actual nucleic acids not included. Players of the popular video game "Soldier of Fortune II: Double Helix" battle bioterrorists; its creators said they were looking for something "more fresh" after the original, which involved retrieving stolen nuclear warheads. The double helix adorned a postage stamp in England. In New York alone, five exhibits devoted to genetics in contemporary art open this month....
... Carolyn Forsman, who has sold almost 250,000 of the DNA bracelets she designed 10 years ago, says part of its popularity is because of the associations it has with the origin of life, how much of your identity is preordained and how much you have control over.
"But really what it is is it's pretty," Ms. Forsman said. "It's just a beautiful form."
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