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#3: The Clone Club

To someone who isn’t in the Orphan Black fandom, I would probably describe it as a very welcoming space.It’s definitely hard to articulate how I feel about it when I’m not really active in it; I follow over 200 blogs on tumblr and rarely see a ton of Orphan Black posts unless it’s after an episode has aired. A mere glance into the tag’s recent posts on Tumblr will show Cosima/Delphine fanfiction, a plethora of “[character] per episode” gifsets, and cheesy jokes. There is a significant amount of blogs dedicated to the show (the one Tumblr recommends to me the most is thecloneclub). A better indication of the fandom is the Comic Con 2014 panels where audience members ask Maslany for her secrets on portraying so many different characters or thank Maslany and Jordan Gavaris for giving them the courage to accept their sexuality.

The Daily Dot published an article giving a rundown of the show and a brief explanation of the fandom. The fandom has definitely grown since this publication—I think their Nerd HQ “Conversations for a Cause” panel linked above sold out tickets. The official Twitter has 116,000 followers and their Instagram has almost 27,000. These numbers obviously don’t reflect the entire fandom, but it’s a good indication that the show has garnered, and continues to attract, a decent amount of people.

#2: Power in Orphan Black

Gray and Lotz discuss ideology as

systems of belief that are widely shared in a society at a moment in time, which come to take on extraordinary power because they are normalized by everything from schools, to religious organizations, to the content of popular media such as television… those in power must constantly work to reassert it in order to maintain a hold on common sense (46).

The question of who holds the power in Orphan Black is one worth commenting on, as is the case in all popular culture. As the show’s premise deals with clones and scientific experiments, the simple answer would be that the scientists or the ones administering the experiments hold the power. However, this argument can be refuted as Orphan Black constantly deals with a power struggle between the clones and the scientists at Dyad Institute. Both sides demonstrate their power in different ways.

The clones hold some sort of power because they exhibit bodily autonomy and free will: they actively make choices in their careers and other facets of their lives. Despite infertility in the other clones, Sarah is actually able to reproduce and birth her own child, making her of significant interest and giving her more power if she uses this anomaly as a bargaining chip.

However, the flip side of this is if Dyad gets their hands on Sarah’s daughter, Kira, this bargaining chip is rendered useless and puts the clones and Kira in danger. At the end of season 1, it was discovered that the clones’ DNA sequence was actually a patent: “This Organism and Derivative Genetic Material Is Restricted Intellectual Property.” Since Kira is derivative genetic material, Dyad can claim ownership of not only the clones but her as well.

So do the clones really hold any power at all if they do not even own their bodies? This is where the overarching question of what it means to be human plays in. No matter the answer, the clones do not give into Dyad easily. The Institute, as Gray and Lotz discuss, “must constantly work to reassert it” in order to keep a sense of the status quo.

Obviously this topic is worth further discussion and I’m sure it will come up in future blogs as I rewatch the series.

#1: An Introduction to Orphan Black

It’s hard for me to articulate my thoughts on Orphan Black, especially as a newcomer to the show. I had seen countless photosets on Tumblr of Tatiana Maslany’s impressive performance as so many different clones beforehand. Instead of asking for opinions on the show’s quality, I decided to just go in blindly and before I knew it I was binge-watching the entire first season in a day, and by the time the newest episode of season 2 had aired I was already caught up.

To sum it up simply, Orphan Black is a show about human clones and the scientists who created them. Specifically, the plot surrounds Sarah Manning as she is unexpectedly dropped into the world of clones, or if you want to get scientific, made self-aware of the experiment. Explored further, the show is laced with themes of identity and body autonomy, asking what it means to be human. Maslany’s performance as the clones has earned her Breakout Actress nominations and awards, and the absence of Orphan Black in Emmy 2013/14 nominations was deemed a snub by many critics. It aired in March 2013 and quickly gained a fanbase which the promoters of the show lovingly call Clone Club after the actual club of clones within the show. The creators of the show interact with the fans through various social media sites and conventions. For example, to promote the second season they released 8 Instagram videos over the course of 8 days that ended with a binary message, which when translated to English were quotes from the last sections of Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself. This led to a lot of meta essays being written by fans exploring the ways the show related to the specific lines and speculating how season 2 would unfold.

Orphan Black is important to me for a lot of reasons. It’s a riveting show with a female lead, demonstrating a multifaceted perspective of femininity with its complex female characters. The representation doesn’t stop there—in season 2, writers introduced a transgender clone. Maslany is so good at what she does that sometimes I forget it’s just one woman playing all of these characters. With this fandom journal, I’d like to delve into why the show is important to others and how those others express their interest through fanart and meta essays. I also hope to contribute to those meta essays as I rewatch the show for this journal.