Learn from Lifetime?

by Eddie on July 14, 2009 · 0 comments

in Biology, Prose, Science, Television

It’s not often that I’ll admit to watching a “chick flick” television show, particularly one on the Lifetime network. I’ve never found Lifetime to be a bastion of great, or even unique, television writing — disenfranchised woman or women finds the confidence to thrive in a male-dominated society, rinse and repeat. I will keep my poking to a minimum, the genre has already been well lampooned in mainstream media.

Nevertheless, no matter my predilections, I’ll always offer the benefit of sampling a new show. In this case: Drop Dead Diva. Written as a dramedy, the entire show builds upon the “Freaky Friday” plot mechanism — under-educated and over-empowered model wannabe dies and enters the body of an erudite yet physically insecure rising lawyer. Oh, and don’t forget the requisite Asian sidekick.

Stereotypes and television tropes aside, my interest was piqued by a rarely seen twist on the body-switching genre: scientific accuracy. Ignoring the metaphysical and deistic intricacies of soul jumping — the protagonist’s memories are retained in the soul — several of the show’s moments of comic relief surprisingly stem from tested theories in biology.

After the soul transfer, the main character retains her 1st life’s memories, but does not incorporate the basic details of her new persona. Instead she acquires her new body’s intelligence (name the capital of New Zealand), proclivities (sense of ease at the lawfirm) and cravings (chocolate doughnuts).

Often, these body-switching plot lines involve complete and total transfers of personalities, but here we see that some traits are ingrained within the corporeal body. Take for instance muscle memory, where practice and repetition makes an action second nature, or the innate ability to swim and prefer sugar, congenital traits found in babies. Sure, you can earn a cheap laugh from having a teenager suffer the arthritic pains of switching with a parent, but Drop Dead Diva takes one-ups the baseline. I won’t give the writers too much credit — leaving intelligence and law school education intact is a matter of convenience in the storyline — but forcing a formerly size 00 model-slash-actress to ache for pastries enjoyed by a size 16 is a pleasant twist.

And this is where a bit of empowerment enters the picture. The writers intimate that eating habits, and the resulting physical appearance, is beyond the control of the person; that a sweet-tooth is purely biological, so give in to your needs. “Don’t hide it, embrace it,” she tells a widower in consultation over showing his grief in the courtroom, a poignant bit of self-projection just before she engorges on a chocolate doughnut.

What remains to be seen is how far the show will take this theme, or will they strike a balance between the two halves of humananity: nature and nurture.

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