Science fiction texts use futuristic conventions to explore fictional futures that work together to generate a commentary on the present. The film Gattaca (1997) directed by Andrew Niccol and short story Movement (2012) by Nancy Fulda both explore the detriments of technology that contribute to identity loss in fictional futures, focusing heavily on perfection rather than human ingenuity. Gattaca utilises these themes to suggest that human spirit will triumph against science and in circumstances of discrimination whereas Movement conveys the idea that identity should not be altered to fit the status quo.
Science fiction texts utilise the theme of technology to explore fictional futures to comment on the present. Gattaca portrays a society defined by pre-birth genetic engineering, which develops class segregation with those who have been naturally conceived, labeling them ‘Invalid’. On the other hand, Movement explores a world of technological advancement, with the ability to cure spectrum disorders – in this case, Hannah’s autism. In Gattaca, the audience is introduced to Vincent, an ‘Invalid’ who purchases the identity of a paralyzed ‘Valid’ athlete, Jerome Morrow, to fulfil his dream of going to space. Throughout the text, Niccol uses the cinematic technique of dialogue to convey that human experiences such as spirituality, love and respect cannot be determined by futuristic technology. For example, this quote by Vincent’s father “The only way you’ll see the inside of a space ship is if you’re cleaning it!’ depicts the lack of faith he has for his son due to his genetics not being altered by technology.
In Movement, there is also a futuristic element regarding the use of technology to eradicate disorders, however, Fulda explores the way Hannah perceives the world and her vulnerability to challenge this. Hannah’s father is very adamant on “fixing” her autism, placing hope in the experimental technological method of synaptic grafting proposed by the neurological research institute. In the text, Fulda creates many “lines” which highlight the extended observations Hannah makes, which she would be denied if she was to undergo the treatment. In the line, “The blossom lies crushed against the sidewalk, overshadowed by the smaller, sturdier plants that crowd above it”, the imagery provided to reflect Hannah’s thoughts present her unique generation of insights to the reader, proving that her condition allows her to create expansive thoughts that she would no longer possess if she was subject to the use of technology.
Thus, focusing on the use of technology as the focal point through which both composers tell their story, both texts construct fictional futures to generate a comment that genetic engineering and neurological technology will hurt, rather than help the human race.
Additionally, both texts use the theme of loss of identity to comment on the present in their respective fictional futures. In Gattaca, Niccol uses characterization to convey the reversal of roles between Vincent and Jerome – that Jerome being genetically superior, thus being advantaged initially in life becomes inferior to Vincent who was initially disadvantaged. Camera angles are used to convey the difference in power the characters possess, Vincent from a low angle to establish his authority and Jerome from a high angle to show his secondary status, even though Jerome was born with modified genetics. Niccol conveys that, since Vincent’s loss of identity has worked in his favor, he generates a commentary that regardless of a future involving a perfect genetically engineered population, human nature will still come out on top.
Similarly, Movement also uses the theme of loss of identity to explore the mind of someone with autism but however, Hannah is given the option of mediocrity in exchange for her identity, and in Gattaca, Vincent is given the chance of greatness. Movement comments on the stigma around autism, which is conveyed through the specialists’ predictions for Hannah’s future if she does not opt for treatment – a miniscule chance of success and a large chance of being institutionalized for the remainder of her life.
Hannah makes her decision by exploring and uncovering her identity through ballet, then confirming that she does not want to continue with the surgery in this quote: “I do not want new shoes.” Fulda uses the shoes as symbolism for Hannah’s identity, conveying that she does not want to alter herself for her parent’s happiness. Through this, Fulda generates a comment that people living with autism do not view it as a burden that society believes it to be, hence change and normalization should not be imposed upon them. Therfore, unlike Gattaca where the character, Vincent gains success from his loss of identity, Hannah in Movement chooses to remain as herself, but both texts use this theme to convey their message.
Overall, the science fiction texts Gattaca and Movement explore fictional futures to comment on the present in a range of ways. Both texts use technology and loss of identity to imagine future worlds where diseases and disorders are eradicated. Effectively, Gattaca creates a world where genetics trump talent and passion and Movement explores the mind of someone living with autism and suggests that they should not be forced to change.