In an age where technology is advancing rapidly, there are those who argue for slowing it down so it can be critically and ethically examined. However, there are many who believe there should be as few restrictions as possible, if any.
Gattaca presents a society in which genetic engineering and perfection is worshipped, with anything less unacceptable and discriminated against. The increased focus on technology has decreased the human element, and values have changed. Yet even those genetically superior suffer, as Vincent so aptly puts it, they suffer from “the burden of perfection”. Gattaca is so totalitarian in nature, that even human rights are subjugated and individuality is suppressed. Surely this is not a perfect world.
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Certainly Vincent bemoans the way in which society has changed due to the ongoing attempt to create perfection. Old values no longer contain the same message and relevance, “They used to say a child conceived in love has a greater chance of happiness. They don’t say that anymore”. Furthermore, Vincent adds, “Ten fingers, ten toes, that’s all that used to matter. Not now.” The belief of what it means to be human has changed and diminished, with human life not valued in the same way that it used to be. That term, human life, takes on a new meaning. Human life is simply a commodity to be bought and sold. This is displayed by German, who makes a handsome living trading in genetic material. Gattaca’s society now sees life as expendable. The director has no qualms in murdering a colleague who opposes his vision. He shows no compassion, remorse or conscience in this, simply pride in that he has successfully achieved his goal of launching the mission to Titan. This is indicative of the declining morality of civilisation.
The destruction of “man’s perfect world” is also evident, when the suffering of both “invalids” and “valids” is recognized. Vincent, a faith birth in what is no longer “the natural way”, is discriminated against by schools, organisation’s such as Gattaca and even his own family. This is apparent when Vincent is refused his father’s name, the removal of his name from the measuring pole and the symbolic exclusion of the gates shutting him out from school. In a society where perfection and faultless DNA credentials are idolised, morality has little place.
Due to this pressure placed on individuals to be “the best”, even valids such as Jerome and Anton suffer. They both have a neurotic sense of failure which gnaws away at their insides. Despite these two being given the best possible start to their lives by their local genecists, they are unable to fulfill their own and society’s expectations, and the pressure becomes too great a burden. Irene, also a valid, has a heart defect. She waits for her death. All three lack inner strength and spirit, that only Vincent possesses. Gattaca, through its characters, displays constant suffering, certainly not a credential of a perfect world.
The lack of individuality and distinctiveness in the occupants of Gattaca is alarming at best. With the constant pressure to succeed in life, manufactured or “valid” human beings are sapped of their spirit, ultimately leading to a discontented and empty life. The culture and image of Gattaca influences this, with strongly similar and sometimes identical designs of suits, workstations, and employees in general. Add to this the lack of communication and constant competitiveness between staff and the result is a chilling, depressing workplace, which is a valuable indicator of life itself.
Not only is the value of the individual debased, human life itself is denigrated. The use of genetic engineering to achieve a physically superior human being reduces humans to machines, simply required to perform particular functions.
Ironically, Gattaca, through its obsession with perfection, has created a world more imperfect than the one it preceded. The value of human life, individuality, relationships and morals appear corrupted and dejected, as the inevitable search of perfecting one’s self proliferates.
Discrimination and suffering of humans beings is frequent yet ignored in Gattaca, where the one predominant norm in society-do whatever is necessary to be the best, conquers all.
Together, the opening epigraphs, “I not only think that we will tamper with Mother Nature, I think Mother Nature wants us to (William Gaylin)”, and “Consider God’s handiwork; who can straighten what he hath made crooked (Ecclesiastes 7:13)” offer insightful philosophies on “the not too distant future’ demonstrated in Gattaca. Gaylin shows the obvious temptation in tampering with technology, yet Ecclesiastes emphasizes the impossible task of creating perfection.
Inevitably, the content of Gattaca ultimately demonstrates that the search for perfection can only lead to an imperfect world.
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