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Iconic X: Oryx and Crake & the X Chromosome Meet Madame X

Writing a themed-post on the letter X is a task with limited options.  Fewer words begin with the letter X in the English language than any other letter.  Even with the inclusion of Ex words we have an exceptionally small number of words with which to work.  My theme for this A to Z challenge is Iconic Femininity. So let’s review Genetic Xes and Speculative Fiction that commemorates eXtinct species.

Iconic X Chromosome

The obvious post for me would be the Iconic X Chromosome.  But this would kind of be cheating.  I covered the subject fairly well in a couple of previous posts.
Exes, Sexes, and Mitochondrial DNA was written in 2015 for this challenge and is a great post about the an incredibly iconic aspect of being female:  the X-Chromosome, that is THE female chromosome.
When I reviewed my earlier post, the Exceptional Letter X, to write this post I was reminded of a NYT article  that is a wonderful resource piece for writers about Mothers Day and genetics.  For Motherly X Chromosome, Gender Is Only the Beginning  is the fun NYT  Science Section piece that I linked to in the 2012 post. I encourage others to read my post and the NYT for Mother’s Day inspiration.

The eXtinct Oryx & an Iconic Feminist Writer

I also previous covered what was, for me, an obvious choice for an X entry, OryX and Crake, what I consider to be a must read (or listen to) speculative fiction novel by Margaret Atwood in the MaddAddam Trilogy. Everything Atwood writes is feminist at some level, and her speculative fiction is often of an eco-feminist bent.  I listened to an audiobook version of the first volume in 2004 on a cross country solo road trip.  On a post about the roadtrip I wrote,

Finished listening to Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake yesterday. The language in the book is exquisite. The story is compelling. All the soul deep questions one asks in a lifetime are there. Her voices are so real.

Later, when I wrote the above-mentioned eXceptional post (2015) I said,

The novel is a dystopian, near future, parable that I listened to as an audiobook on one of my cross-country drives when DC political and Indiana family commitments meant I was on the road a lot.  It expores the implications of genetic engineering, the ever widening gap between the haves and have-nots in gated communities turned into walled enclaves, as well as the likely development of garish sexual culture of underclass employment.

I finished the trilogy in audio versions too after writing my 2015 post.  The genetically new human-derived species was a bit, well, silly, but I adored the development of the women characters and the depth of time over the series so that we could view not only an ecological collapse but how women played a significant role in building a new infrastructure that might help humans rebuild their place in the world.
This post was difficult for me as I feel like I had done a great job with my previous X posts.  But there is always room for improvement and nuance, right?  So I decided to get over my cringe factor with a story that is completely composed of the cruel, confining stereotypic elements of a morality tale.  It is classic.

Madame X


Wikipedia summarizes the original story quite well, and you get the idea right away..

The protagonist is a woman who has been thrown out into the street without any money by her jealous husband, when he discovers she has been carrying on an affair. She is not even allowed to see their young son. She sinks into depravity.

Then flash forward a few decades and her current lover wants to exploit her former husband’s high status through blackmail, so she kills him. So in her trial for murder  in which she will only reveal her name as Madame X,  she ends up with her son as her attorney and to spare him the shame and such she signals her ex-husband to keep her secret.  She has her classic fallen women,  “Oh, please understand…” speech, after which she becomes ill, kisses her son/attorney, and dies.  Can you say, “melodrama!”  or what?
It is nothing that I would want to read.    Quite a few people must have loved the concept of punishing women for not conforming to societal expectations for wives and mothers because the play has been remade many times in many formats including inexpensive Kindle 2017 version.
However, if you are in the mood for a classic  film, the 1960s version with Lana Turner and John Forsythe is probably worth the streaming fee or purchase price. This adaptation adds a few elements, updated to mid 20th C. from early 20th C., such as a nasty mother-in-law.  Grab your tissues and head into the classic zeitgeist of mid-Century Modern American Culture.  This has been described as classic soap opera, very Stella Dallas, or Peyton Place-esque, and this version certainly captures something  of the American mindset before the post-modern era.