University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Scientific Critique of “Osmosis Jones”
The 2001 film, _”Osmosis Jones”_, focuses on the representation of the human organism and the daily conflicts a body faces in order to maintain function. The film _”Osmosis Jones”_ is a film that tries to capture the attention of children ages eight to fourteen, by exposing the mechanisms of the human body. It is able to reveal the dangers of maintaining an unhealthy diet and some of the consequences that are associated by doing so. The film illustrates that bacteria and viruses are found freely in the environment and that one must be cautious with the substances which one chooses to ingest into one’s organism. “Osmosis Jones” is a film that tries to engage children’s imagination and curiosity of the human body through comedy and animation. It uses biological analogies to teach and explain many of the main functions of the human systems. Although sometimes rather vaguely and with a few misconceptions, the film touches upon human internal systems such as the immune system, the central nervous system, the circulatory system and the digestive system.
TRUE REPRESENTATION OF THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
Throughout the film “_Osmosis Jones_”, the immune system is the one which is predominant throughout the entire film. Osmosis Jones, the “protagonist” of the film, is a representation of a white blood cell who with the help of a cold pill named Dricobenzometapetramine, “Drix”, work together to destroy a dangerous virus. Throughout the film, the immune system is shown responsible for combating against bacteria, infections and viruses such as the antagonist of the film, Thrax also known as “La Muerte Roja”; a virus commonly caused by the Bacillus Anthracis bacteria. White blood cells or leukocytes defend the body against infectious disease and foreign materials; in the film they are represented as the police officers of the body, the FPD.
Most often medication that is taken to combat the common cold works alongside the immune system to soothe symptoms and get rid of viruses. Drixanol, is a medication that is portrayed to be an antihistamine that helps relieve symptoms of the common cold such as sore throats and runny noses by combating off the natural histamine. Histamine triggers the inflammatory response as an immune response to foreign pathogens. The film “_Osmosis Jones_” uses numerous amounts of analogies that represent functions of various organs. The lymph nodes of the human body are compared to a police station where foreign particles are trapped and restrained from entering the circulatory system. Much like in the film, white blood cells are found within the lymph nodes and play an important part of the immune system.
MISCONCEPTIONS OF THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
The film “Osmosis Jones” captures the attention of the children by animating a rebellious police officer who does not follow instructions and who fights off bacteria with his “gun” however, a white blood cell’s defensive mechanism does not work the way the film portrays it. A white blood cell uses a process called phagocytosis where it surrounds a bacterium and eventually engulfs it and uses digestive enzymes to break it down. Not only does the film portray this error, but in reality, a white blood cell has a “life span” of only three to four days on average. Unlike Osmosis Jones, white blood cells do not have relatives like “Granpappy Osmosis” for the reason that white blood cells are produced within the bone marrow of an individual. White blood cells do not reproduce through the process of mitosis which contradicts what Leah, a character which Osmosis Jones shows great interest for, says about him being a cell the reproduces with himself.
IMPROVEMENTS FOR THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
To make the immune system of a human body more realistic, the film “_Osmosis Jones”_ could have made some improvements, improvements that would better educate the film’s viewers. Instead of showing Osmosis Jones fighting off bacteria with a weapon, they could have shown Osmosis Jones going through the process of phagocytosis. This would allow the viewers to have a more accurate visualization and representation of how the immune system combats against infection.
In addition to this, they could have shown other cells such as B-cells and helper and killer T-cells; cells that play a great role in an individual’s immune system. In the film “_Osmosis Jones_”, B-cells could have been shown secreting antibodies while helper and killer T-cells could work alongside the white blood cells. Furthermore, Drix should have been an antibiotic for the reason that a cold pill focuses on relieving cold systems such as sore throats or runny noses while an antibiotic is able to kill bacteria and prevent it from reproducing.
CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM
TRUE REPRESENTATION OF THE CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM
Throughout the film, the central nervous system was represented as the controlling centre of the body. The mayor’s office was located within the brain and had the ability to control the entire body. The hypothalamus, shown to be located in the center of the brain (in Thrax’s brain model), is correctly shown throughout the film as well. As mentioned several times, the hypothalamus is responsible for controlling body temperature and hence forth, the central nervous system is responsible for maintain homeostasis throughout the body. In the film when the brain sent out signals throughout the body, the signals where shown as electricity running down wires. This analogy is actually quite accurate for the reason that nerve signals require electrical gradients to travel across the body.
MISCONCEPTIONS OF THE CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM
Several misconceptions and flaws were seen throughout the film dealing with the central nervous system. Throughout the film the hypothalamus is only shown as the place where temperature is controlled but in reality the hypothalamus has much to do with the endocrine system as well. Nerve cells in the hypothalamus control the pituitary gland by producing chemicals that either stimulate or suppress hormone secretions from the anterior and posterior pituitary. Many of these chemical hormone secretions have great effects throughout the body as well as help maintain homeostasis. Another misconception that is seen in the film is when Thrax takes a DNA “bead” and due to the disturbance in the DNA the body temperature begins to increase. However, it is known that body temperature increases as a defense mechanism. When the body recognizes a foreign substance, body temperature increases in order to denature or coagulate the foreign bacteria.
IMPROVEMENTS OF THE CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM
There are several improvements that could be considered for the representation of the central nervous system. Firstly, Thrax can be shown as a character who inserts his own DNA to disrupt his host cells’ DNA. Therefore, through transcription and translation replicas of this modified genetic information will disrupt other cells which could eventually include the hypothalamus cells. Furthermore to expand upon educational purposes, a reflex arc could have been demonstrated by Frank burning his hand. Specialized receptors in the hand would send signals through exocytosis to neurotransmitters which would then go through receptor mediated endocytosis to specialised neurons. This sensory information would then be transmitted to the spinal cord which would cause interneurons to pass the message to motor neurons and from here causing the muscle to contract.
TRUE REPRESENTATION OF THE CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
In the film “_Osmosis Jones_”, the circulatory system is represented as large “highways” that allow organisms and substances to travel to different parts of the body. The film portrays a true representation of arteries and veins, which like in most text books are represented through the colours red and blue respectively. Arteries are portrayed as red because they carry oxygenated blood cells away from the heart and to other important organs. Veins however are represented blue because they bring back deoxygenated blood to the heart in order to be oxidized once again.
Even though these colours are often used to distinguish the two, blood is always red however; oxygenated blood is often a brighter red while deoxygenated blood is often more of a reddish brown colour. In addition, the kidneys where shown as true representations of blood filtration. In order for a substance to exit the body, it must have a “ticket” meaning that it must be processed before exiting the body through urination.
MISCONCEPTIONS OF THE CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
A great flaw and misconception that was seen in the film “_Osmosis Jones_” in respects to the circulatory system was that the arteries and veins were depicted as flat surfaces that just lead to other organs. However it is known that arteries and veins are somewhat tubular and liquids as well as nutrients and wastes travel through the circulatory system. Not only did the film disregard the shape of veins and arteries but it also failed to mention the plasma that makes roughly 90% of an individual’s blood.
IMPROVEMENTS OF THE CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
To improve the realistic aspect of the circulatory system within a human body, arteries, veins and arterioles must be depicted as round and tubular tunnels. This would further allow the audience to understand how red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and plasma all flow throughout the body. In addition plasma should be shown in greater concentration for the reason that the majority of nutrients such as sugars, proteins, fats and sodium are imbedded within the plasma. Furthermore, Frank’s unhealthy life style could be shown through the narrowing if of veins and arteries due to plaque buildup. This could further emphasize the importance of a well-balanced and nutritious diet and life style.
TRUE REPRESENTATION OF THE DIGESTIVE SYSTEM
The film “Osmosis Jones” represented the digestive system in both its mechanical and chemical aspects. The film displayed the digestion system beginning at the mouth and moving its way down the body. At the beginning of digestion, the film portrayed the teeth as the ones used to break down foods into smaller pieces. The saliva is shown as a liquid substance that softens the food allowing for easier management of the food. The tongue was depicted as an organ that helped the food move around the mouth allowing the teeth to break the food down into even smaller pieces. It was then shown that the tongue moved the chunks of food down the pharynx and eventually into the stomach. The stomach was shown as an organ that chemically broke down foods but that could also affect the process of regurgitation if the stomach could not process or digestive the food.
MISCONCEPTIONS OF THE DIGESTIVE SYSTEM
Throughout the movie, there were several misconceptions involving the digestive system. When the food was swallowed and Osmosis Jones was swallowed with it, instead of the food moving through the pharynx and down the esophagus through peristalsis, it somehow appeared into “Downtown Frank”. This is a great misconception for the reason that food must pass through the esophagus by a process of small muscle contractions called peristalsis; which pushes food down the esophagus and into an individual’s stomach.
Another misconception that is often viewed in many children books and movies is when food reaches the stomach as a whole. This is seen in the scene when the news reporters show the images of the whole gram crackers within Frank’s stomach. This specific portion the film contradicts itself for as at the beginning of the film one is able to see that food is broken down into small pieces by mechanical digestion in the mouth.
IMPROVEMENTS OF THE DIGESTIVE SYSTEM
The film “Osmosis Jones” could make several improvements that would illustrate the process of the digestion system more accurately. First of all, they could improve the way they show food moving down into the stomach. They could do this by showing the smaller pieces of moisten food coming together and becoming bolus. From here the tongue could be shown pushing the bolus down into the esophagus and through peristalsis, the bolus can be shown moving down the esophagus and into the stomach. An improvement that can be shown of how the stomach digests food is by showing enzymes braking down food or by hydrochloric acid disintegrating the food particles.
CHILDREN AND THEIR GENERAL UNDERSTANDING OF THE BODY
The film “_Osmosis Jones_” does an excellent job of capturing children’s imagination and intriguing them to learn more about the human body. The film uses animation, comedy and concrete scientific evidence that allows children of the specified age group to easily follow along and comprehend many of the functions their inner systems have. It uses simplistic analogies that allow a child with limited knowledge of the body to make connection as to how a body reacts and protects them from diseases. Throughout the entire film, the movie makes an exceptional effort to name every organ and organelle appropriately; as to insure that children retain some realistic knowledge of the body. As well, the film makes constant connections to how a healthy and nutritious diet strengthens one’s body versus an unhealthy diet with high concentrations of saturated fats.
Even though many misconceptions of the human body are seen throughout the film, this might trigger the interest of many young viewers. For example, when one of the police officers mentions that he is going to the kidneys to see “the stones”, the film humorously pokes fun of calcium, magnesium and other mineral salt deposits that sometimes accumulates within the kidneys. Due to this humorous approach, a child might be intrigued to research information about such a topic and maybe even decide to proceed to take advanced biological courses in the future. Overall, the film “_Osmosis Jones_” makes a valiant effort to explain the functions of different parts of the body and for this reason gives children an overall general idea of how the body works.
USING “_OSMOSIS JONES_” AS A LEARNING TOOL
The film “Osmosis Jones” should be marketed as a learning tool for children. The film is an intriguing way to interest children of ages eight to fourteen to learn more about their bodies and to roughly give children an idea of how their bodies operate. This film allows a child to learn about his own body in a humorous and entertaining way which will allow him to make connections between his body and everyday things. Children will learn that white blood cells act as police officers for the body and that the body’s lymph nodes act as police stations/prisons for bacterium and other unwanted substances. Children would also be able to learn the overall main functions of body systems such as the circulatory, immune, digestive and central nervous systems.
Children would learn the white blood cells belong to the immune system and fight off foreign substances, children would learn that arteries move nutrients away from the heart and to other organs through the circulatory system, children would learn that the teeth, saliva and the tongue all work together to break down food for the digestive system and children would also learn that the hypothalamus is part of the central nervous system and that it controls the overall body temperature of an individual. Overall, this film could be easily used by teachers and other educators to introduce the body and its system to a vast majority of children. It would be a great learning tool for children to learn about the body not only in an educational way but as well as an entertaining way.
In conclusion, the film “_Osmosis Jones_” sparks a children’s imagination of the human body through comedy and animation. Although with a few misconceptions the film touches upon important systems such as the immune system, the central nervous system, the circulatory system and the digestive system. It provides the film’s audience with a visual depiction and representation of every system and its main function. It provides children with a general understanding of how the body functions and how the body protects itself from intruding substances. It is a great learning tool for classrooms introducing human anatomy to children and overall a great film to sit and watch with the entire family.