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'Gattaca' Has a Problem With Genetic Engineering, but Why?

A genome doesn’t reveal the positives in your negatives.

Columbia Pictures  Poster

You ever notice that people who completely dismiss the idea of genetic engineering always have a luscious head of hair? So what would be so wrong if I still had my perfect Beatles hair to shake about? I say nothing. But Gattaca relegates all future male pattern pain to an ivory tower that will always have sufferers such as myself looking up. Thanks a lot.

In the not too distant future, medical science figures out how to siphon off unpleasantries such as heart disease, mental illness, and hooked noses. I don’t see a problem, especially since my genetic profile obviously ran afoul of these three specifically. Let me tell you: go try losing your mind. There’s nothing fun about it. The same goes for catching your profile in the mirror as scores of pretty girls look the other way.

Not to worry. The film’s science makes sure society still has an element of surprise. “Believe me, we have enough imperfection built in already,” the fertility specialist ensures Vincent’s parents.

Vincent Is In-Valid

But Vincent (Ethan Hawke) was unfortunately left out in the cold with me. He was conceived the old fashioned way—in the back seat of a car. So at birth, his parents knew that a number of maladies laid ahead for what society calls “in-valids.”

They, along with valids, are registered in a biometric database, and insurance companies, future schools, and employers are not privy. Of course, plenty can be foretold by the saliva found on the envelope of your job application or other readily available methods. “We’ve got discrimination down to a science,” laments Vincent in voiceover.

Vincent’s options are clearly limited, and it’s only fair. Why should an employer invest time and money in a worker who will die or be disabled before reaching their potential or providing a reasonable return?

Sibling Rivalry

Fortunately, Vincent’s parents were not as irresponsible the second time. They utilize the available science and make sure the act of love applies only to making love, not babies. Anton gets dad’s name as reward for his parents seeing the error of their ways.

The disadvantage is never far from Vincent’s disposition, and sibling rivalry is also down to a science. “Our favorite game was called chicken. Each of us would swim out to sea, and the loser would turn back first,” Hawke dismisses the danger.

Predestined, so to speak, Vincent always swum for shore first. The younger brother—I know how that feels. Imagine Vincent’s pain as the elder, but I’m sure being valid enough in our society probably makes that pretty hard for you.

Determination can’t be measured.

Nonetheless, it doesn't keep Vincent from looking up. The stars are his aspiration, and he doesn’t hesitate to go the distance at Gattaca to mask his faulty genes.

Enter Jude Law and his broken back. “There’s no gene for fate,” instructs Vincent. This leaves Law exchanging a steady stream of blood and urine to Vincent at Gattaca. In turn, the steady paycheck provides the upkeep on Law's lofty ivory.

It really sucks turning into an in-valid. All the more reason science should have stepped up long ago to spare the loss of my mind and the entirety of the 1990s.

No matter. Vincent is always up against it. Given the continual genetic checks, the omnipresent database can undo his dream at any moment and pigeonhole his genome to a dust bucket.

As Vincent reaches escape velocity, though, the only certainty is that determination is a trait that doesn’t so easily tie to the swab of a Q-tip. I know because surviving was only a symptom of the resolve that continues to drive me.

Plus, bald is definitely in.

For more Rich Monetti Movie Commentary

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