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it's morphing time
neverending story
anijen21 wrote in animorphs
all right, so per request, I am going to articulate my thoughts about morphing a little bit better here.

So the premise of this series, our favorite children's book series of all time, is that kids turn into animals to fight aliens. There are lots of stories about people turning into animals, to learn more about themselves or animals or Mother Nature or whatever. Merlin and King Arthur comes to mind. It will probably be reappropriated by Stephenie Meyer at some point...oh right it was.

The thing about morphing in Animorphs, specifically, however, is the whole sci-fi element.

It's not magic, an ancient Indian curse, or some kind of potion that turns our kids into animals. It's science.

DNA-based *cascading cellular regeneration*, I think was the term Ax used.

The series pretty much put every niggling sub-premise to rest. Kids not only turn into animals, they turn into cockroaches! birds! whales! ducks! 40 or so different Earth animals, then Hork-Bajir! Andalite! and even some humans!

It is the humans now that interest me.

The coolest caveat about the morphing technology was not only that you got to experience the animal's physical life, but also, in a sense, their mental one. Instincts, hunger, urges, and even some built-in how-to instruction manuals.

What about all of that stuff, but for humans?

I mean, we get the jokes about Ax babbling and stuffing everything he can find into his mouth like a toddler, and finding two legs ridiculous, but for serious--how would it feel to become another human?

Anyway, even though this seems like a little thing, I think it means we can apply the whole morphing conceit a little bit more easily to reality. Some sci-fi author wrote a big rant about Star Wars in some magazine and basically defined good sci-fi as the diffusion of powerful technologies through the lower echelons of society, not the desperate clinginess of higher classes of said technology. (It's a really cool series of articles that pretty much solidified my stance in the Star Trek vs. Star Wars debate.)

So, what would happen if the morphing technology pervaded all levels of human society?

I think there are a lot of cultural and sociological implications here that went unearthed. Probably because they lead to some controversial endpoints. Like I said in the last post--what would it feel like for a straight person to morph into a gay person? What would it feel like for a man to morph into a woman? I mean, even just really simple shit that I wondered in 3rd grade (and for some reason found its way into an episode of Mad Men)--does the color orange appear the same way to everyone who sees it? Do some people see pink as I see green? etc. What would happen if that implicit solipsism inherent in humanity--that we can only experience life through our own, unique physical viewpoint--was no longer a problem? How do you think that would affect society?

And then there's actual societal problems it could cure, or perhaps even cause--I mean, transgendered people wouldn't have to go through painful and humiliating surgeries to achieve their true bodies. Disabled people, with either congenital defects or debilitating injuries, wouldn't need to be that way anymore. And then what about like racial implications? I mean I'm starting to feel like I'm edging up to the part that's going to start pissing people off, but what if everyone in the world could be an Aryan male? What would we judge each other on if not gender, race, height, weight, deformity, beauty, etc.?

I don't know. Let's just talk about some of this shit here.

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Whilst I don't really agree with the aforementioned article, at the risk of being the lamest lame-o who ever lamed, as a guy I'd totally want to morph a girl just to see what it would be like to pee. There, I said what we were all wondering.

well in that regard likewise


I've thought about the transgendered thing before, I think because of the Taxxons morphing anacondas in the end. Maybe that chain of thought will make sense to someone else.

I've also thought about morphing someone of the opposite sex, mainly for purposes of sexual...what would be the word here... skill? I've thought about writing a fanfiction about it, actually, probably with Marco, because I think he's the most likely to have tried it.

I haven't ever thought of the other points you mentioned, but they bring up some interesting possibilities. People who think homosexuality isn't natural could be directly proven wrong. You could temporarily morph into someone of another race or sex just to see how/if people treat you differently, or someone short, fat, skinny, ugly, pretty, whatever.

As for changing your appearance at will just for taste... that makes me a little uncomfortable. I'm probably a rarity in that, if I could choose what I looked like, it would be extremely similar to what I actually look like. I'm happy with my hair and eye color, my height, my nose, and so on. I'd like to be in a little better shape, but that's something I can change even in the real world. I've often wondered, however, what I would look like and be like with the same exact genetic set, except male. I'm bisexual, and pretty androgynous in my tastes, and I don't think I would fit in any better as a guy than I would as a girl. I certainly wouldn't go through all the crap, and what I see as self mutilation, to change my gender in the real world. But if I could morph I would definitely try it out. Would I like it better? I don't know. I kind of doubt it, there would just be a different, just as annoying set of expectations and stereotypes. But then, if anyone could change their gender at any time, a lot of those stereotypes might not exist.

Writing this epistle has made me think of something else. Morphing could clear up some psychological questions about how much our genes determine who we are. Depending on the answers, we might have a lot of quasi-mystical ideas going around. It would bring up a lot of questions about the soul, maybe even convert a few atheists. Without your body, who are you? If you're not in your body, where are you?

Here's another thought, too. If you were old, and nothlit-ed yourself as someone young, you could essentially double your lifespan.

(Deleted comment)
I think one thing that needs to be clarified is what this morphing technology would be like.  Is it like in the books, because that encompasses much more than DNA.  It basically makes a template from the acquired animal.  With DNA, you just copy the genotype, but not the phenotype.  Why would Cassie, for example, have long hair when she morphs into Rachel?

Also, much of what we consider "instincts" both for animals and humans could very well be socially conditioned.  Even things we take for granted, like Jane Goodall observed a female gorilla running into the group she was observing, panicked and dragging a screaming infant behind her by the umbilical cord.  This gorilla clearly did not learn what it meant to be pregnant, to give birth, and to be a mother gorilla.  The other females comforted the new mother, cut the umbilical cord, and suckled the infant until the mother learned how to do it.

I mean, being a woman is learned.  We teach girls what it means to be female, femininity, gender roles, gender expectations, etc.  A man morphing into a woman doesn't give him all that social learning.  So, if being gay, for example, is the result of combination of factors both biological (genes, hormones) and psychosocial, whether morphing into someone who is gay would result in a gay morph would depend on what is happening when morphing.

YES YES EXACTLY and now I want to read all about Jane Goodall

or like Judith Butler says, all gender is performative. I mean, imagine what we could learn by morphing some unsocialized animals, like I don't know...squirrels or sloths or something, into humans, both male and female, just to see how they'd act. If morphing were real, a lot of the "nature v. nurture" controversy would definitely be cleared up

Also, from the snips I can read of that dude's articles, he makes me glad I leaned toward the Star Wars side. It's a more visually diverse world, and it's not just set in a military sort of environment.

Then again, it's almost midnight and I'm probably tired and cranky. Maybe I'd give the guy more credit if I had more sleep.

god that article did not have the effect on you guys I wanted it to!


I think at one point Ax says that the instincts of humans are easy to control, but maybe he only feels that way because he himself is a sentient being not unlike humans.

I think we all essentially have the same instincts, just born into us through years of evolution. For example, we recoil when we smell something rotten because thousands of years of evolution has led us to know that eating something rotten is harmful.

It's really our ego (as in "self") that differs us from one another. And I think just morphing into a new body would not negate your entire ego, especially since your don't gain the other persons' ego along with your own when morphing. Really, becoming a Yeerk would be the best way to really see things through someone elses eyes. So haha, maybe you could morph a yeerk and check it out that way O_O


Overall, this post is awesome and made me think about things I had never considered before. BRAVO.

yeah, you're right. sexual orientation is part of self-identity which presumably does not change when you morph. I guess I'm interested in where the line is, though. Like when they morph house flies, they still find it disgusting that they're attracted to a soiled diaper, even though their physical bodies are greatly attracted to it. So does that level of instinct get filed under "self-identity" too?


If a transgendered person morphed and became a nothlit, that wouldn't be their 'true' body either. It would either be someone else's body, or someone's body that they created from a bunch of acquisitions. They could theoretically acquire and mix their parent's DNA, but then, how much of that would still be their true body? Would they really want to be their brain in someone else entirely just so they could have working genitals but pass on someone else's genes?

How would people with injuries suddenly learn to cope as an able-bodied person? Do we rip them away from the way of life that they know and the culture that they're a part of just because we can? Or do we give them no choice and do it at birth? (The Animorphs, in giving the disabled kids the ability to morph, at least gave most everyone a choice. Wouldn't you love to know how many of them chose to keep the morphing ability and their own bodies, or used the ability to become a differently-abled nothlit?)

Would they even have to be nothlits? Would there be a tax on the ability? Would people with the ability have to be registered and tagged and controlled?

Wouldn't we just judge based on what people choose to become rather than what they start out with? It's not like changing one's appearance means that they have no appearance for people to judge on, and how would anyone know that that's not the way they were born anyway?

choice is implicit in this whole thought experiment. Maybe I was just feeling cynical and assumed that, given the opportunity, most people would change who they are. That may not be the case, though. And as far as taxing/tagging/etc, I mean you're definitely right. It would be very easy for some alleged rapist or murderer to morph and live a new life successfully on the lamb, but at the same time, even with tagging/taxes/registration system I guess I assumed there'd eventually be a black market where you could do all this *off the grid*, essentially.

So I guess at the point I'm thinking about this, there's really no way to tell who's changed and who's the same person they're born as. And since morphing would give the opportunity for an unfair advantage, I assumed there was a point where everyone would do it. But I'm sure there'd at least be some small political group of "freedom birthers" or something who would reject the technology outright and deplore the rest of society for giving up the very same things you outlined.

I don't know. These are all great questions, and trying to figure out how humanity would react to this is really interesting.

I wrote about Animorphs for my Disability Studies class in college!! Let me find it.

BY THE WAY for those of you who never took a Disability Studies class in college (it is kind of a new field), a main theory of disability studies is that disability should be treated as "difference," like gender or race, rather than a "disease" that should be cured. This is KIND of a mindfuck, because, like, if you are blind wouldn't you like to see?? But a lot of people with disabilities have written that no, they would like to keep their disability because they value the perspective it gives them. It's a part of them, just like my arms are a part of me.

So some disability activists would say HELL NO to any kind of morphing to "fix" disabilities. But even without morphing it is a big debate! One of the biggest is among the Deaf community--some say that Deaf kids should absolutely not receive cochlear implants because they should belong to the Deaf community. But others say, getting the implants as a child gives them a greater chance of success and shouldn't these kids have the opportunity to hear? OHHHH I just don't know what to think.

Oh I found my thing from college. We had to keep a "disability studies journal" and reflect upon disability in the media as the class went on. It was a more informal writing style than an actual paper. What's up, I made my professor read this ramble about Animorphs!


This semester I want to look at portrayals of disability in pop culture (books, TV, movies) targeted at children and young adults. I first started thinking about this issue when I described this class to a friend, and we started talking about a childhood favorite book series and its relationship to the topic of disability studies. The book series is The Animorphs by K.A. Applegate, which details the adventures of 5 high school kids who gain the power to morph into animals. They use this power to save Earth from an invasion of the Yeerks, sluglike aliens who crawl into people’s ears and control them. It’s all very thrilling. However, toward the end of the series the Animorph-alien war really escalated and they decided they should have more than five Animorphs. They were unsure how to go about choosing recruits—if they revealed themselves to someone who was been controlled by a Yeerk, their secret identities would be blown. Luckily for the Animorphs, it turns out that Yeerks never invade disabled people, because they are repulsed by the idea of living inside an imperfect body. So the Animorphs visit a children’s hospital and give a bunch of children with physical disabilities the power to morph animals.
In addition to being horrified by how much of this book series we were still able to remember, we were also intrigued by the assumptions at play and the implications this book series—of admittedly poor quality, but also of high popularity—had with regards to disability. We were a little shaky on remembering all of the details about this plot point, but in summary:
- The Yeerks (a force of insidious evil) dislike people with disabilities. The reader wants to side against the Yeerks, so that aligns them with the disabled.
- However, the Animorphs’ alien ally (of a different species), Ax, also dislikes people with disabilities. Apparently aliens just don’t like disabilities. The reader usually would sympathize with Ax, but the human Animorphs are pretty appalled by Ax’s stance. Ultimately it seems clear that you are meant to sympathize with the human Animorphs, and hence be accepting of disability.
- The Animorphs have their own assumptions—that the disabled kids are harmless, since the Yeerks won’t inhabit them. (True, and based on their prior knowledge of their enemy, not just their own assumption that no one would see a disabled person as a potential threat.) They also assume that the disabled kids will be universally thrilled to receive the ability to turn into an animal, so they can—at least temporarily—escape their own bodies. This turns out to be true. (But really, who wouldn’t want to temporarily turn into an animal? It’d be fun.)
- And finally: the thing about morphing is that when you morph back it restores you to perfect form according to your DNA. It’s pretty scientifically sketchy (…as is the whole book series) but basically if you’re morphed as a bird and you get hurt, and you morph back to human, your human form doesn’t sustain the bird’s injury. Also, if you morph back to the same bird, it won’t be hurt anymore because your body rebuilds the bird from the DNA. So anyway, the kids who were disabled due to injury are healed when they morph and morph back. The kids who were disabled due to genetic diseases were still disabled when they morphed back. The leader of the disabled morphing kids is one of the ones who was healed. Hmm.
- Also later they recruit some blind kids to be Animorphs but I don’t remember them as clearly.

OK here's like my 20th comment on this.

And then there's actual societal problems it could cure, or perhaps even cause--I mean, transgendered people wouldn't have to go through painful and humiliating surgeries to achieve their true bodies.

That would be awesome except where are they getting these bodies from? Would people donate their DNA like its sperm or something? Would you get a friend to let you acquire them? I think I might be weirded out to have a new copy of me somewhere.


And then what about like racial implications? I mean I'm starting to feel like I'm edging up to the part that's going to start pissing people off, but what if everyone in the world could be an Aryan male? What would we judge each other on if not gender, race, height, weight, deformity, beauty, etc.?


Welllll if we were all dudes we'd die out pretty quick D: Also all the Andalites basically look the same and they judge each other on all kinds of seemingly arbitrary shit like tail size. And also it seems like they judge each other based on skill more. Are you proposing that everyone would be literally the same person? Or just all white people to eliminate some differences?

Have you heard of Jane Elliott's Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes experiment? She took an all-white group of kids and told them that kids with blue eyes were superior to kids with brown eyes and within like two days the class had recreated America's racial hierarchy. But with eyes. (TOTALLY FUCKED UP for the kids involved, but you could get away with that shit in the 60s.)

Anyway I think we could always fall back on the old standby of judging people by what music they listen to. Kenny G fans will occupy the lowest rung of the new caste system.

lol as far as where the DNA would come from, I guess I was picturing something like Gattaca or even like egg/sperm donors where desirable DNA gets sold for lots and lots of $$$, but even beyond that like I figure it would turn into some black market illegal downloading of DNA, where eventually even very desirable DNA would be really easy to come by since at some point it would spread like a virus. So I guess I was just picturing the point where "good" DNA is bountiful and easy to find, where the supply curve GREATLY outshines the demand curve so everyone can get whatever kind of DNA they want.

And yes, if we were all dudes by the end of that generation we'd be gone, but again I was thinking of Gattaca (lol idk why) and I figure that if we did have the morphing technology which can apparently bend two strands of DNA together, no matter what gender it comes from, we'd be able to just harvest humans like some kind of cash crop. Like in the Matrix. So I guess I was thinking of a world where no physical attributes really matter anymore.

I guess the endpoint of all of this, yes, everyone would just be the exact same person, some ideal human being that's selected through a few tries, a few "morphing generations". I have no idea how long it would take to achieve this ideal person, or even what they'd be like. I assumed Aryan Male but hell that might just be really racist and shortsighted of me. And it might even be shortsighted to assume that the end result would be one person. I mean I guess I know that though, this is my sci-fi "WHAT IF" brain working overdrive.

Andalites would all look the same TO US, just like all lizards and dolphins and chimpanzees all look the same. I'd be pretty willing to bet, though, that within any one social species they have the ability to tell each other apart. I mean, really, if you weren't human, would it be easy to tell two different white brunette girls apart? Just like any one race finds it easier to differentiate members within that race than people outside of that race do. A large portion of the human brain is devoted the facial recognition, just for that very reason. So I bet Andalites have no problem telling each other apart, maybe not through skin color ~*shades of blue periwinkle and navy*~ but through those other traits you mentioned.

It will probably be reappropriated by Stephenie Meyer at some point...oh right it was.

Was it? The animal thing?


There are very few times that the Anis morphed humans, because they had this thing against it or whatever. Which I think was really lame--wouldn't it have made their life that much easier to just go human sometimes?

I am fascinated by what you said about morphing destroying solipsism. It makes some sense to me, but at the same time, I don't really buy into the idea that everything is biological.

Just in regards to the gay rights movement, I think it's dangerous to argue that the choices we make in regards to our sexuality are purely biological. What about other things, though? Is the way we view the world due to our biology or not? How do our choices and emotions play into Who We Are? The only real evidence we get is Cassie says Rachel's body makes her want to do really stupid stuff.

Morphing humans really raises the question of what makes us who we are.

You also bring up disabled people being able to "fix" themselves via morphing, which just kind of bothers me. It implies a sense of ableism that I'm not comfortable with. If everyone who was disabled by accident could simply morph and repair themselves, wouldn't that make the world that much more isolating and intolerant for people who are disabled by birth?

I gotta go to class, but those were random thoughts.

it doesn't sit well with me, either. I think I was just trying to extrapolate to the furthest point, you know? If everyone had the opportunity to change into the race/gender/whatever with the most power, the most authority, we'd all end up as clones of some individual. And I said Aryan Male, but that might not be the case. This discussion of disabilities as a difference and not like a defect is really interesting, because I definitely thought of different cultures banding together and shying away maybe from members of their own cultures who chose to become something else. I mean, I would be pissed if a bunch of girls morphed into boys because that would give them more power in society. Just like I expect a bunch of black people would be pissed if some decided to become white.

I guess I was trying to imagine what society would be like if the playing field was absolutely equalized, if EVERYONE all was exactly the same, but that never would be the case, would it? Because even if every member of society was a clone of some randomly ideal human being, there's clothes, hair cuts, religion, career, etc, so many other societal differences that have nothing to do with DNA.

But whatever this is generating a lot of interesting discussion and I want to keep going!

It reminds me of Repo! The Genetic Opera:

And what if you could have genetic perfection?
Would you change who you are if you could?

This was mildly touched on, but now I feel the urge to throw a Molotov cocktail on the discussion:

Where do we get the bodies for this morphing?

Gamete donation boxes? (Which give me hee-larious mental images of Santa getting some competition outside Walmart.) I can't imagine this being financially sustainable. It's also not the cheap & easy route, and we all know that cheap & easy is what wins out in the end. When all you have to do is reach out and poke someone, who's gonna wait for acceptable eggs and sperm to be mixed and grown? Furthermore, do we have to wait until this DNA mix is aged properly? Or will we end up morphing infants? If it does age, how is this explained to the resulting child? (My Sister's Keeper?) Do we just keep them completely unaware? (The Matrix)

Do we shuffle some people into a corral and basically use them as stock? Can people volunteer for this? Do we end up with volunteer cults? Selling DNA samples? You know it'd happen in the black market anyway--human trafficking would just take on another facet. I'm sure societies with limits or prejudices on children (ie China, India) would profit.

How would we regulate? DNA identification is suddenly worthless. Your fingerprint suddenly means just as much as your word. How does the judicial system avoid brain-asplosions? Considering how easily DNA is acquired ("oh I'm sorry I just bumped into you in this crowd"), having an alibi is completely worthless as well. How do we handle the eventuality that our DNA is no longer sovereign? Or ours at all? How long until corporations get in on the harvesting? (Michael Crichton's Next?)

How long until the government gets those morph-tracking/demorphing rays? How long until they're horrifically abused?

How long until we start experimenting on other cultures, with or without consent?

On a positive note, endangered species sure wouldn't be endangered anymore. Just have 'em morph/clone each other instead of dying out. As long as there's a positive birth rate, if the death rate can be held near or at zero, then we're golden sooner or later.

damn this is getting so interesting

can you imagine if this is the direction the series took instead?

I got kind of lost in all this. So I have only one relevant thing to say:

Frolis Manoever. It still requires other people's DNA but you won't end up as a clone. :D

Maneuver. Whatever. That word is kinda fucked up.

OH can we also talk about people with cognitive disabilities and morphing?? You have to be able to hold the image of the animal in your mind to do it, and it's harder if you're tired/can't focus, right? What about mentally retarded people? Would they be able to do it? Or people with autism? A lot of them have trouble distinguishing the difference between themselves and the external world. I don't know if a moderate-to-severely autistic person would even understand the concept of morphing, let alone be able to do it.

Assuming they WERE able to morph, I don't think morphing would "cure" cognitive disabilities the way it would physical disabilities, since you maintain your own consciousness throughout the process. Would a "low-functioning" consciousness paired with the morph of a neurotypical human being allow that person any greater mental function? I submit that it would not.

well this isn't the best example as comparing humans to ruminants isnt really the best analogy, but you could look at the buffahuman, who started to use the very basics of language, something buffalo don't do cognitively, so i think it could be possible to affect it, but how strong or how helpful it would be is another matter all together.

hello old posts.

i mean
thanks for the intelligent & well-developed discussion question
& this is what i have to contribute

you're welcome

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