Review of Andrew Niccol’s Film Gattaca

Man has already landed on the moon, and Sputnik has enabled research on other solar planets. Lives have become healthier, longer, with modern hygiene, sanitation, medicine, and surgery, conquering more physical and mental illnesses by the month. Science has also presented a means of cloning and genetically modifying organisms and food, and shows little to slow it’s pace of evolution. I belonged to a new underclass, no longer determined by social status or the color of your skin. No, we now have discrimination down to a science. – Vincent

Gattaca, directed by Andrew Niccol, gives a perspective of what the future of discrimination is to evolve into: no longer determined by skin color, gender, or social status, but scientific DNA. The civilization portrayed is a discriminatory one, in which status and quality of lifestyle is determined solely by a DNA profile. Children are created by DNA manipulation to produce an impeccable genetic composition, with parents able to buy whatever traits are deemed fanciable for their child. The movie hypothesizes this as a potential practice in the not too distant future, as one where technology’s influence in everyday life is at peak.

True or False? It is impossible for our society to become like the one in the movie, ‘Gattaca’, because we don’t have the technology or the capacity to discriminate that way. This essay will argue false, that it is possible that our society is able to become that of Gattaca (sterile, genetically enhanced, and derogatory) although it’s morality is questionable in regards to pros and cons, due to various reasons such as the development of genetic engineering and IVF babies, as well as examples of genetic discrimination in the past presented. * * Recently scientists have made rapid advances in our knowledge of the human genome, as well as our abilities to modify genes. Nowadays, society is able to determine the gender of their child, just like that of Gattaca. An example of an advanced reproductive technique endorsed by society is the InVitro Fertilization (IVF), in which eggs are fertilized with sperm in test tubes to allow parents to reduce the chance of genetic disorder in the child – with the world’s first IVF child Louise Brown turning 30 this Friday 25th.

Parents are now able to choose the type of sperm that will fertilize an egg, which determines the gender and genes of the baby, and allow Pre-Implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) to screen embryos for potential disease. “We might see a move towards artificial chromosomes and genetic cassettes that can be inserted at the embryonic stage to correct particular diseases, including Huntington’s”, wrote Prof. Trounsen in the scientific journal nature. One day we may be able to choose cosmetic or desirable characteristics and cure genetic diseases, just like we can modify embryos and undergo surgery to change eye color successfully today. * * Make the child perfect in the test tube, and save money in the future, is a testimonial presented in Gattaca. The current technology of society is quite competent, especially in regards to future development. In essence, genetic engineering may be defined as the manipulation or alteration of the genetic structure of a cell or organism in medical, industrial, and agricultural fields. It has enabled the successful cloning of Dolly (1996 – 2003) the sheep by Ian Wilmut using a cell from a mammary gland, which is a revolutionary example of the windows opened due to genetic engineering; a hint at what the future could bring.

In fact, the successful cloning of many animals (including CC the kitten, Idaho the colt, and Snuppy the dog) will most certainly one day evolve into human gene manipulation at birth; due to this the foundation of Gattaca as humans artificially perfected is theoretically possible. * * * The main character, Vincent (Ethan Hawke) is discriminated against due to his ‘in-valid’ genetic makeup; he doesn’t have a chance in the society of Gattaca because potential employees were not tested for skills or knowledge, rather, their physical and mental possibilities.

This form of discrimination refers to treatment or consideration based on genetic status or category, rather than individual merit, and occurs when employers/insurance companies treat people differently because they have a gene ‘mutation’. Many examples in the past depicting this theory include a 1995 survey of people with a known genetic condition in family history found that 22% quoted being denied health insurance due to genetic status, regardless of whether they were already sick.

Another case of genetic discrimination is Terri Seargent’s, who, having Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, was abruptly fired after her employer received a bill for preventive treatment, despite having consistently referred to her job performance as exemplary. Furthermore, if society didn’t have the capability to discriminate genetically, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (2008) would need not be introduced. To the question of lacking the capacity to discriminate this way, it is justifiable to conclude that society is capable of such derogatory action. * * In conclusion, the genetically modified world presented in Gattaca is possible due to competent and developing technology in the fields of genetic engineering. Scientific advances like the IVF baby and successful cloning techniques have huge implications for future human reproductive technology: genetic diseases such as Huntington’s could be corrected using artificial chromosomes, and the production of replacement organs from a person’s cells made a reality. In addition, we are also capable of genetic discrimination, as is consistent with Gattacan society.