Everything Everywhere All At Once has won 11 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay. This is fantastic news because it is rare that a science fiction film is nominated for such high standing. Questions include, but are equally as big as “How can we reconcile our love for our families with the intergenerational trauma we suffer?”
Everything Everywhere All At Once depicts a distant dimension where the human race developed into giant wobbly hot dog fingers, as well as the world that served as the backdrop for Michelle Yeoh's Evelyn and Jamie Lee Curtis' Deidre, Evelyn's tax auditor in another timeline.
If you're anything like us, you were also thinking, "How scientifically plausible is all this?"
Giant Wobbly Hot Dog Fingers: A Natural History
Alex Ries, concept artist and illustrator, was invited to talk with us about his own fictional "Birrin" civilization, which has evolved from the known science around evolution. His films include the Subnautica: Below Zero game, the film Warriors of the Future, and Two-Sky River: The Birrin Saga, an ongoing book on his own "Birrin" civilization.
Ries was able to demonstrate a surprisingly plausible-sounding mechanism by which humans might form giant wobbly hot dog fingers. This requires natural selection to carry on genes that are capable of forming larger, more hot dog-like fingers.
"Wobbly hot dog fingers may have evolved as humans evolved from tree-dwelling to plains-walking apes, thus removing the hands from locomotory use," according to Ries. One possible route is social or sexual signaling.
Ries contends that at this point, while the hands may become impractical, they would still serve as attractive markers to a mate, much like a peacock's train.
"Sexual selection has seen even more improbable behavior and physical traits appear on Earth," says Ries. "The fingers would essentially become display structures, such as deer antlers, which regrow each year, or the massive crests on some extinct pterosaurs."
Natural selection would result in the bones breaking and retreating from the fingers over the generations, according to Ries, who points to the situations where characters in the hot dog timeline actually eat each other's fingers, and suggesting how this could be a possibility.
Ries argues that early human reproductive practices involved attempting to bite at the fingers, causing harm. This ability to regenerate any damage only boosted fitness. Eventually, this evolved into eating portions of the fingers during mating rituals. This regenerative soft tissue contains hormones that enhance pair bonding.
Ries claims that in order to avoid blood loss, these fingers evolved to remain constant from a point nearer the hand. At the beginning of courtship, these growth zones immediately withdraw the already limited blood supply to the soft tissue.
Fingers of the Giant Wobbly Hot Dogs on Planet of the Giant Wobbly Hot Dogs
The giant wobbly hot dog fingers timeline would impact more than just how people look. How our physical form has evolved has an enormous impact on our civilization and social structures, from our relationship with technology to fashion and social interactions.
According to Ries, a technological society would only be possible if the feet and mouth-parts were used as primary tool manipulators. Clothing would be different and in various cultures, either hide the hands completely or pretend to expose them, depending on social taboos.
As Ries points out, even our diet might have shifted in the giant wobbly hot dog finger timeline: "Without hands to hunt using spears, we may have relied on foraging even more, collecting fruits and shellfish with mouths or feet." Fruits, plant materials, and shore-based seafoods may therefore be less common in the global diet.
Beyond the "actors eating each others' fingers" scene Evelyn spots on the launderette TV, our art and culture would also be completely different in this world.
Ries predicts that visual art would go on several paths, with a focus on handprints in caves as a symbol of power or social status. "Painting with the feet would result in galleries lower down the walls of caves, while holding applicators in the mouth, and entirely different forms of art higher up, or used to refine the work done by the feet."
And maybe another Den of Geek writer is tapping his toes to type out "How Humans Might Have Evolved Short, Bony Fingers" somewhere in the multiverse. We bet it is really good.
More of Ries's own work may be found on his website, or by following him on Patreon.