Growing up Gattaca
When watching Gattaca, you can see an obvious thread of perfectionism running through the film. After all, the whole movement towards genetically engineered children (and adults) is to improve upon Nature. As the geneticist tells the Freeman parents, “Keep in mind, this child is still you. Simply, the best, of you.” So here, we see a clear move towards perfecting the human body and mind. And yet, when I was watching the movie I noticed that not everyone is really, shall we say, attractive, in this movie. In Sex Education, Mollie’s physical traits are practically cliche–she’s the all-American child, with her curly blonde hair and blue eyes–even the newspapers refer to her as “Shirley Temple” in their headlines. But in Gattaca we have a different situation. People still look like, well, regular people. Of course the lead characters are all movie stars, so of course they’re handsome/pretty/whatever…just stay with me for a bit while I explain this.
Basically what struck me as strange was that not everyone in Gattaca was, I don’t know, super good-looking. But when you look deeper you can see why this isn’t so. Well for one, everyone’s idea of perfect is different. Apparently Irene (Uma Thurman’s parents) really liked weird faces? Who knows right? I think I just might. You see, unlike Brave New World, where society has reached a stable and static equilibrium, the world of Gattaca has not yet reached its climax point. I think that’s why, if I had to pick, I’d live in Gattaca-world. In Gattaca, there is still a space program, a desire to explore and gain new knowledge that has been squashed flat in Brave New World. The other major difference here is that Brave New World has pretty much perfected the science they need to live the way they do. Bokanovsky processes, alcohol in the embryos, Pavlovian conditioning, hypnopaedia…they’ve got it covered. Gattaca, on the other hand, hasn’t gone quite as far down the rabbit hole as its counterpart, and that’s why you get faith-births like Vincent, but also mistakes. I mean if everyone was getting genetically engineered to be the best, they wouldn’t need sketchy boyfriend-DNA testing facilities and random pee checks instead of interviews. That cool doctor guy, whose name is Lamar, apparently, proves this point: “…unfortunately my son’s not all that they promised.” The promise of the world of Gattaca–a world without diseases of the body and mind, a world where *everyone* has enormous potential–has not yet been reached. What’s really weird is that when I wrote that sentence, I immediately thought of the Cyprus experiment. The whole point of Gattaca-world is to try to make everyone an Alpha. But, in Gattaca, no one gets brainwashed into being happy with their lot in life (case in point….the whole movie, really).
I’m not exactly sure where this is headed (actually I do. We’re going in another circle guys, get excited). Read this way Gattaca becomes a teenaged version of the more fully realized genetic dystopia we see in Brave New World. And in that world, physical beauty doesn’t matter (except to John the Savage). When you think of a “perfect” person, you’d include beauty in that package, wouldn’t you? But in neither Gattaca nor Brave New World does this happen. We even have straight-up comparisons of men by Lenina in one scene. So, just like last time, I’m not entirely sure what to make of the lack of a trend towards beauty in both worlds. That sounds more like a paper topic, if you ask me. *shudders* But I’ll leave you with this fun little tidbit I picked up off of IMDB:
When Gattaca was first released, as part of a marketing campaign there were adverts for people to call up and have their children genetically engineered. Thousands of people called, wanting to have their offspring genetically engineered.