Gattaca


For me, Gattaca is both a favorite and a great movie. In a world where your genes are everything, there is one man who will defy the system and strive for his dream. Will he succeed? There is no gene for the human spirit.

Vincent was born the ‘natural’ way, so he has flaws like a weak heart and a relatively short life expectancy. In a world where prenatal laboratory genetic selection is the standard, this is basically a death sentence. Yet Vincent refuses to let his dream die; he’s going to the stars. He has the brains for it, but he is continuously rejected by the space program, Gattaca. Although genetic discrimination is illegal, everyone does it. Vincent is desperate, and he finds a way to get his foot in the door – by borrowing someone else’s genetic identity.

As launch time approaches, things begin to heat up. A murder occurs at Gattaca, and the cops are intensively investigating everyone. Will Vincent be exposed and denied his dream so close to realization? Watch the movie and find out!

A few things I really like about Gattaca:

Philosophical questions

Genes matter, but how important should they be in society?
Hitler thought that they should determine your very right to exist, likely giving eugenics a bad name forever. Brave New World described a society in which people were centrally and systematically bred to fit a certain order.

Gattaca lacks the centralized control of the above examples; nonetheless, it still results in the same type of society. People can still choose to have kids naturally, but the consequences of such a choice become increasingly costly as the genetic “arms-race” intensifies. Eventually, all rational parents with the means feel “forced” to choose genetic pre-selection for their kids. These kids are then graded upon their genes, and this effectively produces a stratified system similar to the one in Brave New World. The power of society is such that if enough people do something, individual free will – while technically still exercisable – ceases to be relevant.

Can violence be attributed to genetics?
This is controversial today. As the Gattacan police investigate the murder, the perception is that some people are above suspicion because they are “incapable of violence.” In our society, we tend to think the same way based on social status and upbringing, but not based on genetics.

It seems plausible that some tendencies (quick to anger, uncontrollable rage, etc) might have genetic bases, but modern criminal law is still based upon the idea that violence is largely a conscious choice. If we discovered that violence can be largely attributed to “bad” genes, this would force us to rewrite the lawbooks.

What’s genes got to do with love?
In Gattaca, people secretly take samples (hair or saliva) of prospective mates for genetic testing. The ramifications of this sort of behavior are most intriguing. If a girl thought a guy was hot, would she be turned off if he has less than stellar genes? Would guys react the same way?

Anecdotal evidence and some gender studies today suggest that women who initially are not attracted to a guy may warm up to him after finding out he’s rich. Would the same logic apply to genes? It’s hard to say because genes do not translate predictably to material results. Smart genes don’t guarantee wealth; health genes don’t guarantee long life. I wonder if this new mountain of data will actually help or if it will simply make dating a nightmare!

Style – there is a very sterile, understated look to everything. It’s almost like everyone lives in a laboratory.

Clever name – Gattaca is entirely composed of letters representing the 4 nucleotides in DNA: adenine (A), thymine (T), guanine (G), and cytosine (C)

Sharp, poignant writing

Vincent: [narrating] I belonged to a new underclass, no longer determined by social status or the color of your skin. No, we now have discrimination down to a science.

Vincent: I was never more certain of how far away I was from my goal than when I was standing right beside it.

(Starting on the beach, swimming out to sea)
Anton : Vincent! How are you doing this, Vincent? How have you done any of this? We have to go back.
Vincent: It’s too late for that. We’re closer to the other side.
Anton: What other side? You wanna drown us both?
Vincent: You wanna know how I did it? This is how I did it, Anton. I never saved anything for the swim back.

Comments welcome!