The ownership of the body and surgery in “Repo! – the Genetic Opera”

Always when I hear the word ‘surgery’, be it plastic or reconstructional, my thoughts drift away to the rock opera “Repo!” (2009) (there is also a film called “Repo Man” with a similar plot, but without the singing). I especially like it because of its uniqueness of combining the main topic surgery with a mean humour and the concept of an opera.

The story is set in the not too distant future, where an epidemic of organ failures reduces mankind rapidly and panic erupts. There is no immunisation and no help, until the multi-billion dollar biotech company GeneCo emerges as saviour and presents the solution: artificially cultivated organs. The problem is that they are expensive, and not everyone is able to afford the treatment GeneCo offers, but without the transplantation they would have to die. Even for this dilemma the biotech company has a solution, which is easy organ financing. The organs have to be paid in instalments. Because GeneCo has a monopoly, and is the only hope of mankind, it is able to make some new laws, of which one is repossession. Those who cannot keep up their payments, get a friendly visit by the Repo Man, who collects the organs and takes them back to GeneCo. And the tragic thing is: the organs get ripped out of the living organism, which usually results in their permanent end. So, many humans are in debt to this big company and live in mortal fear to miss their payments, but kind of everybody is saved from the epidemic, hooray. Now, because GeneCo is a financial, political and a cultural power to be reckoned with, the whole future society develops around this company and the omnipresence of surgery and organ transplantation. Bodily modifications become fashion statements and some organs really get kind of fancy (yay, get the coolest liver of them all!). Some people even get addicted to this new, fashionable surgery (and to the painkillers as well). And because nearly no one is rich enough to just buy them, this means more organ financing contracts for GeneCo and even more work for the Repo Men. So many people live their daily lives with organs in them which they do not own. Because they only have to be a bit late with the payment, their life can be forfeit, which means that the ownership of their body and life lies in GeneCo’s hand.

Well, I personally find that concept quite interesting. It means bodily transgression at the cost of freedom. Somehow, there always is a price to pay for modifications, even in reality. Well, in reality, it could be said, there is less at stake than in “Repo!” but at least health, money and position within society. If a surgical accident happens and a simple cosmetic surgery turns the human into an ugly abomination, does this person not pay with their social life? What if it it is not only a cosmetic surgery but one, on which the life of the person depends? What I think ist a quite intresting in “Repo!” is that the organs, which are provided, are not from a donator, but are expensive nontheless and are even considered to be of more worth than the human they save. I always asked myself, if they could practically reuse a repossessed organ. Would something like this be possible in a few years?

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