Parthenogenic seatbelts

There always seems to be one scene in a story when the author conveys the gestalt of everything we’ve been reading or watching, but distilled, purified down to its essence. Sometimes the placement is obvious, as in the climactic scene in A Fish Called Wanda between Michael Palin’s stutterer, Kevin Kline’s clueless bad guy and the eponymous fish. Or the scene in Singing in the Rain where Gene Kelly sings and dances the title song.

Sometimes it’s done with more stealth, tucked away so craftily that we might miss it. One of my favorites (ok, nobody else seems to have noticed this one except me, so maybe I’m crazy) occurs at the moment in Jurassic Park when the main characters are plunging down through the air in a helicopter and the paleontologist Alan Grant, played by Sam Neill, who has already been shown to be utterly in conflict with all things technological, cannot find half of his seatbelt.

To set the stage here, it’s important to remember that there are only female dinosaurs in the park. This was to ensure that the scary ones, like those pesky velociraptors, couldn’t ever mate and take over the world. Even so, Ian Malcolm, the cynical mathematician played in the movie by Jeff Goldblum, has been issuing warnings based on chaos theory (don’t blame me, that’s how Michael Crichton writes) predicting that in spite of all the precautions, something is apt to go horribly wrong.

And indeed, it turns out that because the scientists had started with incomplete dino DNA, they had filled in the genetic gaps with frog DNA. In the end those female raptors, channeling their inner frog, start to reproduce by parthenogenesis. Ah, foolish, foolish scientists. Somewhere Mary Shelley and the ancient Hebrew Golem are smiling.

OK then, back to our scene. Sam Neill is sitting there holding two identical seatbelt ends, one in each hand, glaring at them in perplexed frustration. I know you’re way ahead of me here. Finally he just ties the two ends together. And there you have it: Technology subverted by seatbelt parthenogenesis, and the central theme of the movie (the hubris of man’s technology defeated, as “life finds a way”) reiterated in one elegant moment.

Can anybody think of any analogous moments in a novel, play or movie?

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