With a single, well-reported article, Slate‘s Sharon Shetty has all but destroyed the credibility of Ken Scott‘s The Delivery Man (Touchstone/Disney, 11.22) and with it the credibility of Starbuck, Scott’s Canadian-made original. Shetty began with my 7.2 “Son of Starbuck” piece, in which I asked how many pints or quarts it would take for a single guy to father 535 children, and came up with some real-world answers that won’t put a smile on the faces of anyone behind this film (i.e., Scott or his star, Vince Vaughn, or the various attached Touchtone and Disney execs).
The bottom line is that it would be awfully damn hard as well as bureaucratically unlikely for one guy to father 535 kids via sperm bank donations as (a) Vaughn’s character would be required to ejaculate over 1,000 times into vials and (b) within the realm and regulations of sperm banks this level of delivery would take about seven years to accomplish.
These are other conclusions come from Grace Centola, laboratory and tissue director for New York’s Cryos International sperm bank. Centola has calculated “that about 1,066 separate ejaculations would be needed, producing around 3,198 vials of ejaculate (three per ejaculation),” Shetty reports. “Assuming the donor could provide three suitable specimens a week, which is highly unlikely given the difficulty of producing suitable sperm (something as simple as a stressful weekend can ruin a batch), it would take almost seven years to provide sufficient semen. Donors never participate for that long — even setting donor guidelines aside, most men seem to donate for a year or two, max — and most sperm banks only store samples in the hundreds at most. In addition, the majority of sperm banks record births per donor to comply with ASRM guidelines, and some have begun keeping registries to prevent donors from participating in multiple banks.”
The bottom line, Shetty writes, is that Delivery Man’s premise “is another Hollywood exercise in fanciful storytelling, or its protagonist committed seven exhausting years of his life to spreading his seed. The former seems more likely, though such a paternal feat does have precedent: Bertold Wiesner, a pioneer in infertility treatment, allegedly used his sperm to sire between 300 and 600 children. More recently, a 2011 New York Times article featured one donor who fathered at least 150 half brothers and half sisters.”
Why did Scott feel obliged to stretch or expand upon reality? Why didn’t he have his protagonist father 1000 children as long as he was going to town? Why not 10,000? Why not 100,000? 100,000 kids! In all seriousness, why not 100? Why not 50? Why not 75? 75 isn’t funny or head-turning enough? 100 or 150 doesn’t cut it? Why did it have to be 535? C’mon!