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Genres Collide at the Clone Dance Party

by Ethan Tussey

by Moira Okeeffe for IN MEDIA RES

One of the most popular Orphan Black scenes is the “clone dance party” from the season two finale, perhaps because it provides a rare moment of celebration and unity for the four main clones and their ally, Felix. It showcases both Tatiana Maslany's performances and the technical work of the production team (who join the party at the end of this “making-of” clip). The dance party has captured the imagination of fans who have hosted live cosplay dances at cons and posted numerous video recreations, featuring everything from live dancers to Lego figurines to a puppy.

The show has been praised for creating characters who are simultaneously clones and highly differentiated individuals. While much of this can be attributed to Maslany and the special effects, the show's structure also helps to emphasize the differences among the clones, as each seems to represent a different genre.

Although clearly an “ensemble” piece, the narrative center is Sarah Manning, who inhabits an action thriller filled with drug deals, a radical underground movement, and stolen identities. Sarah pretends to be Beth Childs, who represents the police procedural. Allison's cheery, suburban ruthlessness places her in a dark comedy. Helena, who goes from being caged like an animal to striding around in a bloody wedding dress, gives us Gothic horror. While not present at the party, Rachel and the threat she represents cast a shadow over everyone. At first, Rachel seems to share the thriller genre with Sarah, providing an elegant, wealthy Bond villain to challenge Sarah's grittier, Bourne-like hero. However, on closer examination, Rachel's story arc is one of abandonment, longing, and, perhaps, madness—she is melodrama. Also missing is trans clone Tony, a sympathetic, working-class anti-hero of the modern heist genre.

Cosima is key because she represents science fiction with a twist on the Frankenstein myth—now the monster has her own lab. As an artsy lesbian entangled in a complicated affair, she also suggests indie dramedy. More than Sarah, Cosima is responsible for holding disparate elements together: heart and head, good guys and bad guys, and the “two cultures” of art and science. The dance begins with her.

Much of Orphan Black's appeal is in how boundaries are challenged. The dance party is especially popular because it toys with this in a fun way, bringing several characters and storylines together for one cross-genre mashup.

Orphan Black and Genre

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A clip from "Orphan Black"

from Orphan Black (2014)
Creator: BBC
Distributor: YouTube
Posted by Ethan Tussey