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Written by Connie Skibinski
Utopia and Dystopia
On the surface, the society within 'Gattaca' appears to be Utopian. Through science, the society is capable to rid the world of disease and illness, a utopic notion. Life for the genetically engineered 'valids' also appears to be perfect, illustrated through the positive connotations in the quote "for the genetically superior, success is easier to obtain."
However, at its core, 'Gattaca' presents a deeply dystopian society. Jerome's plight and tragic end illustrate that life for the valids is not in fact perfect. Another dystopic element is the subjucation of the 'invalids', such as Vincent, trapped in a society that believes that "no one exceeds his potential." Hence, this society is by no means perfect, as both valids and invalids are led to believe that there is no point attempting to excel beyond the restrictions of one's genetic code.
The society is rich with discrimination. In the world of 'Gattaca', individuals are discriminated against on the basis of their genetic code. While genetically engineered individuals form the society's elite, those born by natural means are treated as inferior, second-class citizens. For example, 'invalids' are restricted in their ability to choose their occupation, as all 'invalids', despite their academic abilities, are only allowed to perform menial tasks. This is emphasized in the ironic quote "the best test score wasn't going to matter unless I had the blood test to go with it." This illustrates that the society is not a meritocracy, as an individual's self worth is calculated purely by their genetic makeup.
The human spirit
'Gattaca' celebrates the importance of the human spirit. In a society dictated by rules and conventions, it is only through will power and determination that Vincent, the underdog, is able to achieve his dreams. Vincent represents powerful notions such as humanity and perseverance, and his ultimate victory illustrates humanity's triumph over science. This is captured in the optimistic tag line "there is no gene for the human spirit", as well as Vincent's bold declaration that, despite his genetic makeup, he is "as god as any, and better than most." Vincent's plight is characterized by passion and drive, and his success despite every adversity emphasizes the strength of the human spirit.
The society within 'Gattaca' is obsessed with the removal of human flaws and aims for nothing less than human perfection. For this reason, the society is based on eugenics, altering an individual's genes to eradicate disease and illness and promote strength, beauty and intelligence. However, despite this scientific attempt to remove imperfections, even the 'valids' are deeply flawed characters. This can be seen through Jerome's apathy, alcoholism and bitterness regarding his fate. As well as this, the society is inherently flawed as it is based on judgement, discrimination and oppression. In this way, the fact that all of humanity contains faults and flaws, and that it is impossible to change this, is a key message of the film.
Science and Religion
Science plays a large role in the film, as 'Gattaca' builds upon the ideas of science and technology prevalent in the late 20th century to create an imagined futuristic society based on genetic engineering. Religion is another crucial theme, indicated by the biblical allusion to Ecclesiastes 7:13 in the title card. The film presents a tenuous relationship between science and religion, as the society's over-reliance on scientific ideals has undermined religion and spirituality. This is emphasized in the quote "I'll never understand what possessed my mother to put her faith in God's hands, rather than her local geneticist." Thus, Andrew Niccol causes the viewer to question and challenge whether an obsession with scientifically achieved perfection threatens to jeopardize "God's handiwork."
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The launches represent Vincent's dream of flying to Titan. He wants the freedom of leaving a world that confines him because of his birth. He wants live on his own terms and prove, mostly to himself, that he is extraordinary.