This is one of the promotional posters for the film Gattaca that released in theaters on October 24, 1997. This film was available in DVDs on July 1, 1998 and in recent times, available in DVD, Blu-ray, MPEG-4 or MP4 File formats on YouTube. I will be looking through the lens of race and exploring the issues in the film Gattaca. Race, as defined by Cambridge Dictionary, is “any group into which humans can be divided according to their shared physical or genetic characteristics.” The film showcases a not so distant time, where eugenics or manipulation of genes becomes common and is the standard in society. There are two types of people in this society, the invalids and the valids. The invalids are the ones who did not undergo genetic modification while the valids are the ones who underwent genetic modifications. The ones who decided if they underwent genetic modification are their parents. The invalids would be considered to have bad genes as they tend to contain genes that lead to inferiority in performance and higher risks in health issues. This kind of belief of superiority due to genes is a belief that persists in the 20th Century, modern society, and the future as it draws from Darwin’s Theory of Evolution.
In the late 80s and early 90s, the case of gene supremacy is shown by the treatment the African Americans had to suffer through. As Elijah Grote said in his History 110 Blog: Macro Essay, “The African American was still seen as someone who caused trouble –a Public Enemy…” The African Americans suffer scrutiny and bias in society, in which held dominantly by Caucasian Americans, who deem them as useless or invalid in due to their skin color. This bias is based on the genes that decide people’s skin color.
Similarly, another bias on genes is gender. Treatment of a human being is decided by their gender which is in turn decided by their genes. As Laura Mulvey said in the Visual Pleasure And Narrative Cinema, “Traditionally, the woman displayed … as erotic object…” (Mulvey 62) Women are viewed to be objects to be sexualized and can not do jobs done typically by men. Women are considered to be inferior in productivity as compared to men and the only thing women can do is to have sex and breed with. They face unequal salaries and face scrutiny in STEM fields. This sort of treatment is based on sex which is the result of their genes.
Gattaca expands upon the biases of genes and explores a future where genetic manipulation is prevalent in the world. The film centers around an invalid, Vincent Freeman whose parents decided to leave it up to God and not do the genetic modification. However, upon learning Vincent Freeman’s many and fatal genetic flaws like his expected lifespan of 30.2 years and high possibilities of disorders, his parents decide to have another son, this time with genetic modification by selecting the “best” from them and thus the valid, Anton was born with superior genes. The film shows throughout childhood, Anton (the Valid) would defeat Vincent (the Invalid) in everything ranging from physical activities to academics. Except, for one moment where Anton and Vincent race in the sea to see who would swim back first, this time Vincent won and ran away from home. In adulthood, where what kind of job you will receive will depend on your valid status and your gene aptitude, Vincent poses as a Valid in order to work as an astronaut by collaborating with a donor who is a disabled Valid. Vincent laters encounters Anton who is now a detective and could potentially expose his Invalid status. However, Anton challenges Vincent in the swim race again but again loss against Vincent. Anton who is the genetically engineered who has better growth specs than Vincent still loss. This was also the case for Vincent’s donor, Jerome Eugene Morrow, who was genetically engineered to be the best swimmer, but received second place in a swim competition and thus intentionally became disabled. Both Anton and Vincent are genetically engineered to have the best genes possible, but they still lost. Anton lost against Vincent who has, as society puts it as, inferior genes.
Genes as discussed in the film Gattaca, should not be the deciding factor for how well a person can perform. For it is the perseverance of the person that decides how far a person can go. It is perseverance how well the person will do in life. Gattaca has shown that despite having good genes, Anton lost against Vincent who has an unwavering perseverance. As the poster for Gattaca says, “there is no gene for the human spirit.” A complementary society where your genes, your race, and your sex decides your worth and place in it, will lack the human spirit. For genes do not define the human spirit, but the perseverance one holds is what matters the most.
Cambridge University Press. (2017). RACE DEFINITION. Retrieved September 29, 2017, from http://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/race
IMDb (1997). GATTACA (1997). Retrieved September 29, 2017, from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0119177/mediaviewer/rm2491619584
Grote, E. (2015, May 12). MACRO ESSAY. Retrieved September 29, 2017, from https://hackintohistory.org/2015/05/11/macro-essay-2/
Mulvey, L. (1989). VISUAL PLEASURE AND NARRATIVE CINEMA. Retrieved September 29, 2017, from https://blackboard.sdsu.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-3614204-dt-content-rid-59951207_1/courses/HUM409-01-Fall2017/Viisual%20Pleasure%20and%20Nar003.pdf?target=blank