Review: Decoding Annie Parker

“Review: Decoding Annie Parker.” The Risky Body blog.

Decoding Annie Parker tells the story of two women; Annie Parker, a three time cancer survivor and the geneticist Mary-Claire King whose discovery of the breast cancer BRCA gene mutation is considered one of the most important discoveries of the 20th century.

I see why BRCA+ women have been promoting this movie. We want a voice in the mainstream. We want some cultural artifact that explains our situation–something that we can point to when explaining things to people and be like “see that? that’s what I have, that’s what my family has been through, this is why I do what do even if it seem extreme to you.” [Yet,] I was disappointed in this movie.

It  shortchanges viewers on the science behind BRCA mutations, and there’s little sense of why the discovery was scientifically significant. The filmmakers missed an opportunity to explore the life of a woman in genetics who triumphs over the misogynist tendencies of the scientific community. I find their depiction of her as an icy lady scientist appalling and terribly cliche. Moreover, Annie Parker is a strange figure to focus on in some ways. King never decoded Parker’s genome, Parker’s genes were not part of the discovery of BRCA1 at all, and the two never even met; there’s no real tie between them beyond the fact that King located BRCA1 and Parker is a carrier of BRCA1. Why not use a woman from one of the cancer families King actually studied?

Decoding Annie Parker isn’t a terrible movie, but the filmmakers really missed their chances to make it a great one or at least a good one.

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