Historically, 'Freeman' is a title given to former slaves who, through their effort and hard work, have been granted freedom and acceptance in society. This is ironic because, despite Vincent's great determination, he is destined to remain an 'invalid' forever, hence, in the society of Gattaca no amount of hard work can grant a genetically inferior individual freedom. It is especially ironic because Vincent ultimately attains his freedom and wish fulfillment by impersonating the genetically superior Jerome Morrow, and thus excels in Gattaca on the back of Jerome's renown rather than his actual achievements. As well as this, having any mention of freedom in relation to he discriminated 'faith-births' is bitterly ironic as it highlights their subjugation.
Jerome's second place medal
After being genetically 'guaranteed' athletic success, it is ironic that Jerome, a 'valid,, receives second place in a swimming contest. This shows that life for the valids is not as easy as society suggests, and that they too struggle with the expectations placed on them by their genetic standing. This is emphasized through the critical tone in the quote "Jerome Morrow was never meant to be one step down on the podium."
The valid's lack of desire
In the film, Jerome represents the plight of the valids. His lack of determination and drive—"Jerome had been genetically modified with everything he needed to get into Gattaca, except the desire to do so"—ironically illustrates that the only individuals deemed capable of holding high positions in the society do not aspire to these positions. This illustrates the importance of facing obstacles and challenges, and how overcoming difficulty and adversity builds character.
Irene's risk of heart failure
Irene Cassini is a valid who works in the Gattaca Institute, but is unable to become an astronaut as she has "Unacceptable risk of heart failure." It is ironic that she, a genetically modified valid, suffers a similar fate to Vincent, whose natural birth gives him a heightened chance of heart failure. This further reiterates that valids struggle with similar issues as the invalids, even though they are supposedly guaranteed "success."
Jerome's advice to Vincent
Jerome advised Vincent "If at first you don't succeed... try, try again." It is ironic that this advice is coming from Jerome. After one failure (coming in second place), Jerome gave up all hope in life, attempting suicide by running in front of a car. His permanent wheelchair-bound state throughout the film is a constant reminder of this. The irony is also reiterated through Jerome's constant pessimistic mindset throughout the film and his alcoholism.
The mock-meritocratic nature of society
The elite within Gattaca claim that the society favors those who are most capable, alluding to the meritocratic nature of the society. However, the film illustrates that the society in Gattaca is far from a meritocracy. This is because a person's chance at success is determined purely by their genetic code, at the expense of their character and ambition. The quote "No matter how much I trained or how much I studied, the best test score in the world wasn't gonna matter unless it had the blood test to go with it," clearly illustrates this.
The society's clinical approach to love
During a flashback, Vincent states "They used to say that a child conceived in love has a greater chance of happiness. They don't say that anymore." This is ironic as it completely usurps contemporary ideals of love and family. It removes the human aspect from birth, presenting it as a scientific feat. This causes the viewer to critique the society and begins to raise issues regarding its dystopic nature.
Vincent's ultimate success
It is ironic that Vincent, an invalid, becomes the most successful character in the film. His success is emphasized in the final scene, as the camera pans at eye level to provide a point of view shot of Vincent walking confidently into the spaceship. Bright lighting and light classical music plays and Vincent is joined by his fellow astronauts. Vincent's success despite all odds emphasizes the film's focus on the human spirit and the importance of determination and perseverance.
Gattaca Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Gattaca is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.