Essay on Gattaca
The 1997 film GATTACA, directed by Andrew Niccol, presents the audience with a very possible near future where humanity can tamper with and manipulate human DNA before a person is even born. While entertaining to watch, GATTACA also addresses some interesting questions about how a person’s genetics could affect one’s class in society, and if humanity should cross lines with genetics to achieve the good of individuals. The film does a good job depicting both the positive and negative applications of choosing whether or not to genetically edit people before they are even birthed into the world.
By analyzing GATTACA, we can see that GATTACA was right to convey genetically modifying humans in both a positive and negative light and how it could affect the world we live in. GATTACA’s positive presentation of genetic altering offers a healthy and hopeful future for families around the world. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), over 120,000 people are born with birth defects every year (2018). However, in the world of GATTACA, the idea is given to the audience that a majority of these birth defects could be canceled out. Scientists were able to genetically chart out a person’s DNA and determine what possible defects or health issues they would have in the future, and prevent those from harming the child by removing them completely.
This scientific potential has a positive portrayal in the film. Allowing a child to be born and grow up with the best health possible is seen as a positive in our society. Also, the movie GATTACA presents the positive of also extending the life expectancy of humans with their genetic tampering. When we are introduced to Jerome Morrow in the film, we are told that he has an extremely long life expectancy, and while we are not given a specific amount of years, it is safe to say it exceeds the average human life span of 76 years according to Eric Duffin (Duffin, 2019). GATTACA does an effective job considering the benefits of genetic engineering. It allows the audience to see many healthy and intelligent human beings that are allowed to live successful lives. However, these benefits are negated by the negatives the movie presents on genetically modifying human beings. GATTACA’s negative light on genetic modifications is the main focus of the movie.
The audience follows the life of Vincent Freeman, a man born without any genetic enhancements, who is viewed as a lesser man by society. Vincent has to go through a complex process of borrowing Jerome Morrow’s identity to achieve his dream of becoming an astronaut, and he is constantly trying to hide the fact that he was not enhanced. GATTACA shows us a world where people are treated like lesser beings because of their genetics, and the dangers of living in a world like that. We are shown that a person who has not been enhanced is not allowed to enter certain places when Vincent first tried to go into his company’s office without his replacement blood samples. The audience is shown that Anton Freeman, Vincent’s younger and enhanced brother, treats Vincent as inferior due to Vincent’s genetic makeup being untouched by science. The people in this film’s society are segregated because of their genetics, which reflects the truly negative aspects of gene tampering in this movie. Those who did not have their genetics manipulated before their birth (which would not have been by their choice by the way), were treated as second-class citizens in this new society.
The film does an excellent job pointing out these potential problems with genetic modification, and because of its focus on this negative aspect throughout the movie, genetic alteration is almost given an overwhelmingly negative image. While the film gives the audience both a negative and positive light on genetic modification, the audience needs to view how these aspects could transfer over to the distant future of our planet. The science of genetic alteration could be beneficial to humanity in different ways. A future where people can be born with no birth defects and longer lifespans could be seen as a positive progression. As stated before, there are thousands of people born with birth defects, and with genetic engineering, those birth defects may not necessarily have to exist in the future. However, the negative light that the film shines on genetic modification is necessary to view as well. Several times in human history, people of all races have been oppressed in one way or another because of factors they cannot control. (To be clear, none of the people in the film GATTACA had any control over whether they are genetically enhanced or not before they were birthed. Their parents are making this decision for them, and they live with the decision made.)
Knowing that humanity has before slipped into the mindset of genetic discrimination can make it difficult to argue that a future of genetic engineering has no chance of regressing into that. In the end, the film GATTACA is right to show the future of genetic modification in both a positive and negative light. By presenting both the positives and the negatives of genetic engineering, the audience can see the pros and cons of advancing gene science in the future. It is the responsibility of the human race to wield science carefully, and we must be cautious to not cross any moral lines in the name of science. GATTACA allows the audience to make their own decision on genetic manipulation, and how it may play a part in the future of humanity.
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