literary criticism and the relatable humanity of Gattaca

I approach dystopias tiredly.

Though my experience with both the film and literary genre is limited, I find it repetitive. I include Brave New World in this judgment.

I don’t understand all the hype around Brave New World.

Well, let me specify: I don’t read Brave New World as a groundbreaking  novel. I understand completely why it was so innovative. Whilst not an English major I am keenly interested in literary history, and I find the Bloomsbury group fascinating.  Thus I can acknowledge that Aldous Huxley was part of a band of forward thinking intellectuals.  His thoughts on technology, economics, politics, and humanity were and still are inventive and visionary. However, when considering the actual act of reading the novel, it’s extremely elementary. As I can assume we’re all well-read individuals, we’ve had our share of dystopian novels and films. Brave New World might have even been the first, perhaps read in high school, and rightfully so. It was one of the originals and a well-done one, at that. Yet reading it now has no shock value. And that, I believe, is the primary dilemma with most dystopian books and films. The common threads that binds them into the same genre – the trademark socialist or totalitarian government, some kind of scientific breakthrough that dramatically changes society, people largely without emotions, one central protagonist who has revolutionary morals and ideals- have become so customary that they lose their effect.

Of course, my argument doesn’t hold much weight. I can read a million Jane Austen books, and even the countless books that try to imitate Austen, that all involve the same comedic romantic plot, and never get bored.  But I still believe that when working within in a tried and true genre, it’s important to inject as much innovation as possible. So while I yawn at Brave New World, I find Gattaca completely refreshing. I want to spend the remainder of this blog commending Gattaca for its true innovation.

I had actually seen it before, and I still watched it as an entirely new film.  It didn’t really make sense, exactly, why I would be so attracted to Gattaca, because it has all of the same exhausted elements that I lamented about earlier. But with some more reflection I was able to pinpoint what makes Gattaca different, and it’s something we discussed extensively in class: The use of old to create something very new. When you watch Gattaca, it feels more like a period piece than a futuristic sci-fi. And this does more than costumes and set décor, and the general aesthetics. It invokes a feeling of timelessness, and then humanity, into the story. Gattaca is exploring the world of gene designing and the social implications of this – a world where one’s entire destiny is determined on biological matter. Yet it is infinitely relatable when it chooses to be reminiscent of pre-war Germany . When it links to our past (even a past none of us experienced) we find it more relatable than if it tried only to link to our future.


– Erin A.

~ by eandrews2092 on January 28, 2012.

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