In the ‘not-to-distant future’, the world of Gattaca is where genetic engineering has become the normal approach to procreation. Gattaca’s society involves a culture of self-advancement through genetic determinisms, a caste system of valid and in-valids and social discrimination based on ‘genoism’. This sterile and cold society of elitist collaborations like Gattaca promotes competition, isolation and discrimination. This is something that is dangerous to individuals and relationships and shows an arrogant belief to the world of science.
Despite this hierarchical world it isn’t the technology that stands alone as dangerous to individuals, instead it is the human sprit or lack of it and the desire one has to reach their dreams that have an innate effect on ones future. The use of technology to enhance individual’s capabilities is what rules Niccol’s society of Gattaca. An ideology of success, linked with genetic engineering dominates society. ‘Genoism’ rules! ‘Ten fingers, ten toes, that’s all that used to matter. Not now. Now, only seconds old, the exact time and cause of my death was already known. Parents, choose, the ‘very best’ of themselves for their children, eliminating all their imperfections. These so-called perfect specimens are the unchallenged Alpha class in society, while ‘in-valids’- those whose genetic profiles lack something, languish in underpaid menial work. Faithful to genetic determinism, companies no longer conduct job interviews, rather relying solely on urine and blood tests to predict candidate potential. Society’s obsession with defining people by their genetic background magnifies the importance of genetic material.
In the opening scene, the thunderous crash of a fingernail striking the ground in extreme close-up, stresses the weight that is placed in a persons physical make-up. Irene steals hair from Vincents comb to gain a profile; a genetic readout from an eyelash makes Vincent a murder suspect; saliva uncovers the real murder. What defines humanity is purely body matter Genetic discrimination, labeling people forever, is depicted by Niccol as misguided, unjust and dividing within a society. Genes become destiny. Genoist society rejects the desires and dreams of un-enhanced in-valids like Vincent.
This dangerous world of discrimination is shown when in-valids segregated in ghettos, are rounded up after the Director’s murder, and the contemptuous attitude of the policeman towards Eugene, before learning of his genetic superiority. Ashamed of Vincent’s genetic ‘destiny’, his father gives his name to his next son, who is genetically engineered for the elite. Shots of Vincent’s childhoods show him separated from the family group, revealing class divisions and genetic descrimation even in the nuclear family itself.
Anton, fearful of ‘inferior’ blood, refuses to become Vincent’s blood brother, putting elite statue and ‘blood’ ahead of ‘blood’ relations. When Vincent isn’t allowed to attend school, because the ‘insurance’ wont cover it, it shows to us again the discrimating and dangerous world that uncontrolled technology created. Shadows criss-cross Vincent’s body like bars when he scrubs away his body materials, conveying a sense of imprisonment imposed by his genetic ‘destiny’ and society’s expectations of his potential and role. He is an individual who must rebel.
The falsity of predictive genetics is exposed through Vincent who rises above his ‘destiny’. His scrupulous scrubbing and falsying of genetic materials stress the struggle required to defy society’s imposed destiny. Proving ‘there is no gene for fate’, Vincent transforms and challenges the wisdom of allowing genetic potential to decide the future of individuals, while inspiring others, during his journey to the stars. Twice he beats Anton at swimming; proving genes are not the sole determinant- ‘The impossible happened.
It was the one moments in our lives that my brother was not as strong as he believed, and I was not as weak. ’ Vincent crosses the highway despite his blurred vision, whereas the police investigating the murder seem blind. Instead of the physiological fate, it is the strengths an individual psychological holds that determines the future of an individual, and Vincent proves this. Vincent’s defects give him the spirit Eugene, Josef and Anton lack. Niccol condemns the obsession with genetics as something which blinds people to reality.
The film condemns the false premises of genetic engineering and eugenics that aim to eradicate all ‘undesirable’ traits and imperfections. In this ‘manicured’ world, human passions still seek liberation; people quietly sabotage the rules, loyalty and love continue and individuality survives. The human sprit it suggest remains strong, and can act as a counterbalance to the negative tendencies of an oppressive, controlling society where uncontrolled technology is dangerous, but also overcome.