Gattaca. Dir. Andrew Niccols Perf. Ethan Hawke, Uman Thruman, Jude Law, Gore Vidal, Lorean Dean. Columbia Pictures. 1997. Film
Gattaca, was released in 1997 to a receptive audience. Nominated for an Oscar, this science fiction film tapped into viewers’ fear of technology and societal repercussions of genetic engineering.
The movie follows the life of Vincent Freeman (Ethan Hawke) who is conceived naturally in a "not so distant future." This reality is ruled by a selective gene pool deemed the "perfect" race. Genetically selected "Valids" have predetermined futures, occupying high rank positions which they have been genetically groomed to execute to perfection. Forcing Vincent, an In-valid, to struggle against his predetermined future in a mineral position as a janitor.
However, Vincent has lofty dreams of one day working for Gattaca, a space and aeronautical company. Vincent ladder hops to "become" Jerome Morrow (Jude Law), using Jerome's perfect DNA to pass for a Valid capable of working at Gattaca. Vincent proves his ability to compete and excel at his job, something that genetics tell him he can't. In order to go undetected he must meticulously ensure that his true In-valid identity is not discovered by never leaving a sample that could genetically be traced back to him. This proves difficult, and he is investigated for the murder of a director at Gattaca. Eventually being found not guilty, Vincent achieves his goals of going on a mission to space.
Vincent's achievements are undermined by his genetically perfect brother Anton (Loren Dean). Throughout his childhood Anton was always regarded as better and more perfect. However, cracks in his genetic superiority begin to appear as Vincent and Anton grow up. Playing a game of "chicken" Vincent beats Anton and rescues him, when genetically Anton should always be able to beat Vincent. However, Vincent proves that a predetermined fate can falter questioning the idea of a predetermined destiny.
This movie investigates the idea of a utopian society created by genetically altering the human race to eliminate any weaknesses or imperfections of society. However, the movie portrays more of a dystopia, highlighting the difficulties in having a superior race. In many ways this movie brings up to the topic of racism in a new form. It is not racism against gender or skin color but against genetics. The prevalent genetic racism that dictates the ebb and flow of society and predetermines who is "fit" enough for a particular job raises real life questions about genetics and the intervention of technology.
Gattaca, set in a "not so distant future" tapped into the booming world of cyberspace and the unknowns of advances in technology. Piggybacking off of Marshall McLuhan and his theory, Gattaca portrays a world in which new technologies change social organization and cognitive function. These newly engineered Valids are "perfect" in every way, living and functioning as cyborgs blurring the lines of real life and virtual reality. The capacities and capabilities of the Internet were unknown when this movie came out. Similar to Tron Legacy Gattaca explored the intersection of human capabilities and machine dominated power.
Currently, the world that Gattaca predicted in the "not so distant future" is not a reality. However, Gattaca is still relevant when looking at government intervention. Throughout the movie, genetic information, primarily DNA, is used to racially profile by the government. These samples must be given often to any official that asks for it. Your genetic information now functions as a high tech driver’s license, allowing the government to track your every move. This "Big Brother" type of regulated society mimics the potential control and power the government can have online. The role of the government in tracking and controlling online behavior is still in discussion today, evidenced by the recent SOPA/PIPPA blackout.
Although Gattaca may be dated by today's tech savvy standards, Gattaca played to the fears of the unlimited world of cyberspace and cybertechnology. This fear of the unknown is still relevant today. As cyberspace progresses and continues to grow exponentially, the unwanted residual effects on society and cyberculture continue to be a real concern.