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Rosalind Franklin

The Race for the Double Helix is a movie that ran in the British in the 1950s for a long time. In the United States in 1987, the movie appeared as a TV film dramatization that showed actual events leading to the scientific discovery of the molecular structure of DNA. This movie is about a story of competition between different scientists to unlock the scientific mystery behind the DNA. It examines the personal as well as the political challenges that the scientists had to face in their attempt to unravel this mystery. According to the movie that was based on a book by the same name written by James Watson, the scientists engaged themselves in a race to finding the molecular structure of the DNA molecule ahead of other scientists who had also embarked on the same subject. The movie won several prizes like the Best Single Drama award of 1988 TV Award. (Penguin, 1990)

The film appears an obvious rivalry between two groups of scientists who are both undertaking an attempt to make a similar discovery. One of such groups is working at the Cambridge University while another is bases at the King’s College London. The group at Cambridge composes of James D. Watson and Francis Crick whereas the group based in London has faces of the people like Rosalind Franklin and Maurice Wilkins. Notably, Rosalind Franklins is the only female in this group of dedicated scientists. As the story unfolds, one cannot miss to see the real picture and the implications of her gender. This is typically exemplary of our contemporary world. (Wilkins 2003)

This film goes to a great extent in exposing the loneliness that exists in the research set up and perfectly serves an educative role for the viewer on what exactly happened in this historical moment. As a matter of fact, the movie reveals a tight tension that ensues between the clearly dedicated and insightful works of Rosaline Franklin and the laid back attitude of both Watson and Crick. Besides, there is visible a freezing tension on the basis of gender, institutional superiority and personality cults. Thus the two groups work as if they are rival political groups. Indeed, they both take any possible chance available to discredit the works of their colleagues just to remain relevant in the eyes of the public. For instance, Watson is captured making a joke on general terms but which is obviously directed at the supposed rival group. He says, “Blessed are they who believed there was any evidence”. Although it does not come out clearly as to whom Watson was targeting with such kind of a joke, the viewer gets an impression that the main intention is to suppress any thoughts among the general public that their rivals did succeed. (Penguin, 1990)

Perhaps the most demystifying part comes when the movie exposes the technical advantages that Watson and Crick had that caused them to overtake the rival group in scientific reasoning. This was basically the part of genetic function that helped predict the chemical structure as well as biochemical functional mechanisms. This is what appears to have played a leading role in their establishment of the complex molecular structure of the DNA and by extension the subject of molecular biology. Although the group that had the only female scientist does not clinch the eventual success, it appears quite very clear in the movie that she has left a mark that would be hard to erase. The movie is directed by Mick Jackson and the musical aspect of it under a music composer Peter Howell. For the entire storyline in the movie, molecular models of DNA arte used to represent the actual DNA strands. (Penguin, 1990)

The only woman of the story, Rosalind Franklin, was a Biophysicist of the British origin who made tremendous contributions to the demystification of the mystery behind molecular biology. Among other things she accomplished had to do with the structure of viruses, RNA molecule as well as the crystallographic structure of graphite and coal. However, the greatest achievement remains that of the elucidation of the crystallographic structure of the DNA molecule. This is primarily due to the central role of NA in the cell metabolic processes as well as genetic coding that helped comprehend the biology of genetic inheritance. This was despite the fact that she did not get the credit for the discovery of the DNA that she spent most of her life studying. (Wilkins, 2003)

There is no doubt that personality conflict was a major hindrance on the path of Franklin to making an independent discovery of the molecular structure of DNA. Indeed, Crick at much later on admitted that she was only two steps away from the actual discovery single handedly. This attitude of individualism comes out clearly in the type of comments that her male colleagues make about her efforts. For instance, Watson largely dismisses the fact that Franklin’s contribution was significant when he knows that the truth is otherwise. Moreover, the fact that Wilkin would rather her pass crucial information to a rival research group manifests of a big personality conflict. Essentially, in one way or the other all the three male scientists seemed to be out to bring Franklin down. The viewer thus remains asking just what could be the reason behind it. To some extent it may be argued that her strong personality led to this perception. (Penguin, 1990)

The intelligent woman Rosalind Franklin had a serious personality issue that stood on her way. As a matter of fact, the constant reference to her as a bossy unfeminine character tells a lot about what her colleagues thought of her. From this expression it appears that she was not the kind of person someone would love to work with and therefore the ease with which she was betrayed. However, such personality could still have developed due to the kind of environment in which she lived. This would be so especially if the male colleagues were trying to portray her as being less significant in the study due to her gender. In indeed this was the case then such kind of personality would be justified by all means. The viewer in their technical analysis of the situation would argue that Franklins would behave the way she did in order to assert her intellectual prowess. Ideally, this would be a relevant undertaking especially when your colleagues whom you are supposed to respect consider you an outsider. This I consider a very unfortunate incident that any human in the same shoes would react to by displaying a “bossy unfeminine character”. (Penguin, 1990)

Professional betrayal was a major hindrance to Franklin’s quest for excellence as her unpublished work was shown to rival researchers by her colleague at Kings. It is hard to avoid looking at the incident as one that stems from a gender prejudice. From the initial understanding of the story as the movie develops it is clear that the main rivalry is majorly between institutions. It therefore becomes quite ironical that Maurice Wilkins would betray the institution that he has been working with and worse so give this information to a rival group. That is why the viewer is left asking just what Wilkins’ intention in the act of betrayal was. Did he dislike his institutions to the extent of giving credit to a rival institution or it was the female in the name of Franklin she did not want to get the credit for the great work. Ideally, it is arguable that Wilkins had sensed a defeat by his colleague who seemed to have gathered so much information concerning the said DNA technology. Perhaps because he did not want to have the shame of being outdone by a female colleague or did not want to be seen as less smart than the woman he opted for a betrayal. Essentially, Wilkins betrayal of the great woman scientist had purely to do with social ego of the men of their society. (Wilkins, 2003)

It’s perfectly understandable that the society is very biased towards Franklin and that perhaps thwarts her efforts to realize her goals. From the start the viewer gets the impression that Franklin’s father does not want her to study the complex profession of medicine that is culturally a preserve of the men. According to her father, she should have studied a less complicated subject like sociology. Although it comes out as only the opinion of her fatherr, the view cannot miss to note the fact that this is the general perception of the entire community. Indeed, if anyone would wish her bad then it’s definitely not her father. That is why it appears that the social pressures on her as well as her father creates this kind of tension between her and her father. Moreover, the period in which these incidents occurred was quite dominated with the issue of male chauvinism that the expressions of her father were expected. If anything no parent would like to be associated with a child who is socially considered as deviant and against the grains of the society. (Penguin, 1990)

In this movie, the aspect of double bind comes out clearly as concerns Franklins. This is a typical phenomenon in which a good response to one question negates all the others. This is the case that Rosalind Franklins has to contend with. The situation at the place of work demands that she plays a second fiddle to Wilkins because of their gender differences. However, this is something that Franklins cannot afford. Due to this, she decides to do her work and ignore the ego and jealousy of Wilkins. While it appears as the best thing she should have done, this particular step sets the stage for her betrayal. It technically appears that she has no choice of success. The villains are baying for her blood from both directions. She must either share the credit for her independent work with Wilkins or risk losing the entire work to Wilkins and his male colleagues. This is quite a tricky situation that definitely shapes the storyline of the story and in particular the fate of the intelligent woman. (Penguin, 1990)

The characters in this movie clearly do not have a level playground purely based on merit. By merit Rosalind Franklin more than deserves the credit. The only problem is that she is a woman who should not succeed where women have failed. According to the way the story unfolds in this movie, the woman is a great intellectual powerhouse and the three men seem to know this better. The fact that Wilkins goes the extra mile to steal her work tells the viewer that he actually considered this piece of work to be superior to his or at least to contain some superior information to his work. The eventual revelation actually confirms this when they realize that the woman was only two steps way from the final discovery. Indeed, what comes to the minds of the viewer is that Franklins would have single handedly achieved what three men with big egos could not achieve together. She certainly deserves some credit for being that exemplary. (Wilkins, 2003)

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Rosalind Franklins appears throughout the movie as a goal oriented woman who would not let any stumbling block stand on her way of success. The fact that she could go as far as two steps away from the actual solution tells it all about her dedication to the course that she was pursuing. However, her male colleagues appear more as a people who believe in perfectionism and are therefore not ready to accept failure. This is particularly exemplified in Wilkin as he proves ready to let down the company that has supported his research just to avoid appearing as a loser. Although there could be several other reasons as to why the men go the extra mile of stealing her intellectual property, the aspect of pursuit of absolute excellence comes out quite clear. Francis Crick, (Penguin, 1990)

Essentially, the sociological subject of gender role deviance and male chauvinism as the social norm is the idea in the whole storyline. Gender role deviance appears when Franklin’s father argues with her to drop the medical profession for sociology. According to him, it is socially unacceptable for a woman like her to wade in the murky waters of complex academic pursuit. Furthermore, the fact that her colleagues repeatedly describe her as unfeminine character exposes their reservations with her. According to them, her relative assertiveness and bossy character is not common among the womenfolk. In the end it must be said loud and clear that it is morally and legally wrong to denigrate an intellectually savvy woman of Franklin’s description. (Wilkins, 2003)

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