Analysis of the Film 'Gattaca'

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The film ‘Gattaca’ released in 1997, portrays the controversial topic of genetic engineering showing just what the near future could possibly look like if this was implemented. As technology was starting to take off in the late 20th century, science was finding new ways to manipulate just about everything, including human cells. During a very controversial time whether or not human modification should be legal, ‘Gattaca’ was released really outlining the harm that it could have on society. The film shows how a man named Vincent cannot fit into the future world because he was not one of the genetically modified humans, thus making him an outcast. Vincent’s dream was to become an astronaut, which he could never achieve because he was not as good as the rest of the people in society. As the film progresses, we see how a utopian society may have severe downfalls as Vincent finds a way to succeed and many of the genetically engineered humans actually struggle. The director of this film, Andrew Niccol, wants to show what could happen if technology is abused, and if science evidently takes on the rule of God. The film ‘Gattaca’ shows society what the possible future of human engineering technology could look like in cynical way by portraying the negative affects it could have on societal discrimination, science and religion, and also one’s true human identity.

Throughout the course of the film the director shows the effects that discrimination from society can have on people. These examples are shown when Vincent is being described against on the basis of his genetic code. Vincent says, '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' (​Gattaca, ​0:19:00). The director is showing that technology of science could completely alter people's own perceptions of others. Whether or not a human was genetically modified enough before birth could be the deciding factors of where they fit into in life. Niccol is showing that something like this could add a whole new level to discrimination. As history has shown many people are very quick to discriminate against others that may have different traits, and it takes a lot of time for society to adjust to these differences. A reliable source states, 'Vincent experiences all the obstacles that a minority group might experience in present-day American society: joblessness, lack of educational opportunities, alienation, low self-esteem, etc. Like a dark-skinned individual whose minority status is visible to all, Vincent’s potential as genetically unmodified, albeit invisible, is easily ascertained' (Kirby, par.8). Kirby is explaining that discrimination of people, which is already a huge problem in society, could skyrocket even more. Whether or not a family just does not believe in the evolving technology or just cannot afford it, could completely hinder that person's life before they are even born. This issue is outlined relevantly by the director when he shows that the genetically perfect humans were even forced into their own specific bracket no matter their true capabilities. “No one exceeds his potential - it would simply mean that we did not accurately gauge his potential in the first place' (​Gattaca, 0:47:22). This quote from the film exemplifies that even those that would be gifted with the perfect genetic makeup are still restricted to the specific abilities given before birth, all being very different. If people were given all different restrictions with no ability to adapt to social norms, this allows for even more discrimination. The director really outlines what the effects on societal discrimination could be if genetic engineering was the future, a future with even more enhanced discrimination than today’s world could be unbearable.

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The role of science is the basis of showing what the future of technology could look like, and how science specifically related to genetic engineering could affect the world. Niccol shows how the advancement of technology and science could undermine religion. Vincent says, “I’ll never understand what possessed my mother to put her faith in God’s hands, rather than her local geneticist” (​Gattaca, ​0:09:25). This quote is used in an ironic way demonstrating that this sort of future could completely eliminate the true form of intimacy in a relationship and how a baby should be born, rather eliminating God from the picture of life and replacing him with science. Many can argue that this science could be used simply to help specific genetic diseases, without the science turning into eugenics. The question lies can people resist the temptation of using this unethically, especially the wealthy. A science article writes, “​The CRISPR liberals are optimists. They insist that we should proceed as rapidly as possible… They believe that it would be unethical to have the technology to produce better children and not use it” (Comfort, par.6). This explains that there are many people out there that are all for scientific changes, but are they actually aware of the harm it can cause. The idea of genetic engineering could very easily slip into that of the Nazi movement that was run by the idea of eugenics in the form of selective breeding (Comfort, par.11). There is nothing to stop the new genetic engineering from becoming a sort of cult like the ideology of Nazism. “In short, neoliberal eugenics is the same old eugenics we’ve always known. When it comes to controlling our evolution, individualism and choice point toward the same outcomes as authoritarian collectivism: a genetically stratified society resistant to social change—one that places the blame for society’s ills on individuals rather than corporations or the government” (Comfort, par.39). The film exemplified this idea perfectly, as the film portrayed the Gattaca workplace as almost a cult that one could only hope to fit into. Science is very powerful and may be beneficial in our everyday lives, but as the director shows throughout the film sometimes the science can have many downfalls on society and could easily slip into eugenics.

One's true human identity is manipulated through genetic engineering; this is shown throughout the course of the film. 'Identity is not looked at as a sum of different elements, representative of one’s identity and subject of being misrepresented and falsified, but as a narrative, an individual inner story that each person needs to build, develop and rewrite over time in order to redefine the meanings of their lives' (Andrade, pg. 429). This article shows that a human must build their identity rather than be born with a given identity. Throughout the film true identity is portrayed through the character Vincent, as he succeeds in a life where he is not one of the genetically engineered humans. Vincent says, “This is how I did it, Anton I never saved anything for the swim back” (​Gattaca, ​1:32:47). Vincent beat his genetically superior brother, thus showing the testament to human will power. “As genetic engineering promises to offer powerful new means to rewrite life, these attempts at rewriting have effectively questioned notions of individuality as well as of collective identity” (Gottweis, 128). This portrays the theme throughout the film, showing that one’s qualities are not made genetically but rather formed naturally through the course of a person's life. True human identity can only be shown through one's life, not through a genetic makeup. This film shows that true identity is not defined at birth.

​'Gattaca' ​shows society what the future could look like if we let technology take over, especially in the form of genetic engineering. It shows how it can cause a massive uprising in societal discrimination and also how the evolution of science could undermine true religion. The director portrays the story to show current society that true human identity would be completely taken away with the idea of genetic engineering. We looked back at history and the eugenics that can be formed through this idea. This idea was a very controversial topic in the late 20th century, and ​‘Gattaca’​ does its best to show society that genetic engineering could be a destruction to societal norms.

Works Cited

  1. Gattaca.​ Andrew Niccol. Columbia Pictures, 1997. Film.
  2. Kirby, David A. “Extrapolating RAce in GATTACA : Genetic Passing, Identity, and the Science of Race”. Literature and Medicine, vol 23 no.1, 2004, p.184-200. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/lm.2004.0006.
  3. Gottweis, Herbert. “Genetic Engineering, Democracy, and the Politics of Identity”. ​Social Text​, no. 42, 1995, pp. 127–152. ​JSTOR​, Accessed 14 Nov. 2020.
  4. Andande, Norberto Nuno. “Human Genetic Manipulation and the Right to Identity: The Contradictions of Human Rights Law in Regulating the Human Genome”. Volume 7, issue 3, 2010. HeinOnline. Web.
  5. Comfort, Nathaniel. “Can We Cure Genetic Diseases Without Slipping Into Eugenics?”
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Analysis of the Film ‘Gattaca’. (2022, December 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 17, 2024, from
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