Designer Babies Are All the Rage

September 12, 2012 § Leave a comment

(yes, this is for B3. I just posted early!)

A/N: Mild spoilers for “Gattaca” below!

I went into Gattaca knowing absolutely nothing about the movie other than the fact that it starred Jude Law and Uma Thurman (if one is going to star in a futuristic Sci-Fi movie, what better name than “Uma Thurman,” am I right?). But within the first ten minutes, I was hooked.

I happen to also be taking a screenwriting class this semester, and in that class, we’ve been taught that the first ten minutes of any movie are enough for most movie-goers to decide whether or not they’re interested in continuing. By the time ten minutes are up, you ought to have an idea of where the movie is going, the main characters, the setting, etc.

I have a habit of watching all movies in a vaguely analytical manner now, so I know that at ten minutes in, Vincent has just been born: a “Godchild,” imperfect, with a high chance of heart disease, and already a reduced measure of his father’s love. At ten minutes in, I was still thinking this was some kind of “sabotage” movie, where Vincent had taken on Jerome’s persona (after, I guessed, killing or otherwise incapacitating Jerome) in order to do some evil at Gattaca. (think of all the “heist” movies that involve faking someone’s retinal scan or fingerprint)

It’s not until about twenty to twenty-five minutes into the movie that we realize what’s really going on, and it is, I think, after this realization that I came to really enjoy this movie rather than simply be intrigued by it.

“Gattaca” is an example of one of my favorite kinds of science fiction. (Before taking this class, I would have just said it IS my favorite kind of science fiction, but I’ve come to realize my taste for sci-fi is broader than I thought). It’s sci-fi that’s light on the science and heavy on the social effects of said science. We get little explanation on how this genetic engineering works, or how the doctors can tell a baby’s likelihood for heart disease—and life expectancy!—from a single drop of blood. We aren’t asked to question why all this has been made possible, yet computers and cars still look much the same, and society apparently went from “little to no genetic engineering” to “if you weren’t genetically engineered, you’re doomed to a life as a hobo or a janitor” in one generation.

(Let’s not even mention the weirdly bulky hand-scanners they’ve got going on, in addition to the oddly 60s hair/clothing styles, and the fact that Pluto is apparently still a planet. As my friend said when I mentioned the last bit— “I like to think they realized the error of their ways.”)

“Gattaca” is sci-fi in which the actual science is painted in broad strokes, and we are treated, instead, to the details of human life in the face of such science. Vincent faces a specific, vaguely fantastical problem that no one watching the movie (especially in 1997) faces. But his struggle—that of the underdog, the man fighting to prove himself in the face of all odds—is so very connected to the soul of the human experience.

In the end, I love science-fiction like “Gattaca” so much because while it makes us wonder for the future, marveling at some new-fangled idea, it roots us in the problems and heroics of the present.

-Kat Zhang

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