Caution: There may be spoilers ahead
In the year 2056 – the not so distant future – an epidemic of organ failures devastates the planet. Out of the tragedy, a savior emerges: GeneCo, a biotech company that offers organ transplants, for a price. Those who miss their payments are scheduled for repossession and hunted by villainous Repo Men. In a world where surgery addicts are hooked on painkilling drugs and murder is sanctioned by law, a sheltered young girl searches for the cure to her own rare disease as well as information about her family’s mysterious history. After being sucked into the haunting world of GeneCo, she is unable to turn back, as all of her questions will be answered at the wildly anticipated spectacular event: The Genetic Opera.
Via Lionsgate & IMDB
Repo! The Genetic Opera is perhaps one of the most underrated films I’ve ever watched. The first time I watched it was at the behest of the elder of my younger brothers during my senior year of high school. At that time, I thought it was alright. The characters were hauntingly beautiful and the costumes delightfully dark, but beyond its appeal to my horror loving heart, I had little interest in re-watching it. The other day, I was browsing Shudder and came across it and decided to watch it for the sake of nostalgia. It was then that I picked up on the parody that my seventeen-year-old self missed entirely: for-profit healthcare.
Repo! takes place in 2056, where a planet-wide organ failure epidemic has led to drastic measures. In a time of need, a company by the name of GeneCo has come to the rescue. Offering payment plans to those that cannot afford their new organs, GeneCo saves the lives of those unfortunate souls. But what happens when they can’t meet their payments? Well, that’s what repo men are for, isn’t it?
So where does the parody come in? A similar system already exists in the way the American health care system is presently structured with its for-profit health insurance. Most insurance companies, like GeneCo, are not there for the benefit of their consumers, but for the filling of their pockets. As long as you can pay the premium (or the payment), your coverage remains intact and you’re able to get treatment and medication (or keep your organs in the world of Repo!). The moment you’re not able to do that, your coverage is often revoked (or your organs are repossessed). Of course, in the real world, this isn’t as brutal as it is in Repo! At least, not in most cases, but it can be just as scary. For myself, it’s often quite terrifying as I struggle to stay in remission from ulcerative pancolitis.
Moving on from the parody, there are other aspects of the movie that I feel are also accurate representations of today’s society – things that I feel Repo! was a bit ahead of its time on. The Largo family seems to represent the manner by which the wealthy feed upon the powerlessness of the poor. Also, am I the only one that, upon re-watching this film, can’t help but think of Trump when I’m looking at Rotti Largo? As a villain, Rotti is largely incompetent. He uses others to do what he can’t and often resorts to bullying to get what he wants, as can be seen in the blood contract with Blind Mag. Another example is how he manipulated Nathan and later Shiloh to break and control them, in hopes of controlling them. While it worked for the former of the two, Shiloh was not susceptible to his manipulation – yet another reference to something we’re seeing in today’s society in regards to Shiloh’s generation (that is present-day millennials) and the older generation, which is more mixed politically.
I think it’s also important that we take a moment to focus on Shiloh as a character. She is, perhaps, my least favorite character in this film. Then again, she was also in her rebellious teenage years and was, naturally, horrendously stereotyped. She loathed her father for keeping her bound to her room, even though she understood why and, even when she found out his sins and the lies he told her, she failed to turn against him – paying homage to the saying that “blood is thicker than water.” The end comics only state that she went into hiding, hinting that she was never to be heard from again – which is a shame. I’d like to think she’d become an activist, but… I guess that wasn’t her future.
One of my favorite things about this musical is the haunting and unearthly qualities that linger around Blind Mag and the Graverobber. This is a film I will watch again and again, even if others loathe it for being campy and over the top. In fact, I plan to show it to my Dad’s girlfriend’s kid.