“What is genetic engineering, after all, but preemptive plastic surgery? Make the child perfect in the test tube, and save money later. “ Roger Ebert
“Imagine a society where everyone is more intelligent and healthier than you. Imagine a society where your genetic makeup-engineered or natural-determines the job for which you are eligible, whether or not you can be insured, and who associates with you. “-Dave Rettig
At a time when we read about cloned sheep and the unraveling of the human genome, the science in Gattaca is theoretically possible.
In the futuristic world of Gattaca, society has developed the technology to manipulate human procreation and design children with impeccable genetic compositions. When parents can order “perfect” babies, will they? Would you take your chances on a throw of the genetic dice, or order up the make and model you wanted? How many people are prepared to buy a car at random from the universe of all available cars? That is how many, I suspect, would opt to have natural children. Everyone will live longer and healthier in the Gattacan world. As a result, a new social caste system is created in which the artificially created, genetically superior humans, called “valids”, dominate all major aspects of society.
In contrast, the naturally born humans, called “invalids”, become a mistreated minority. Although all aspects of society are affected by the new genetic technology, the greatest impact is on the job market. As a result, the easiest way to analyze the job market is to compare the occupations of the valids and to the occupations of the invalids. Valids are instantly granted powerful, high-paying jobs, regardless of their training or background. For example, when applying for a job at the Gattaca Aerospace Corporation, Vincent, under an alternate identity, is only required to provide a blood test before he is hired and prepped for flight missions into space.
Valids also tend to have computer-based jobs so that they make full use of their genetic intelligence. The jobs of valids are not interesting or exciting though. For instance, in the beginning of the film Vincent is seen continuously and unemotionally practicing flight simulations for his mission into space. And even after performing the drill perfectly, he is forced to repeat the program again. Visually, director Andrew Niccol emphasizes the repetitive nature of valid’s jobs by showing static and compositionally balanced shots in which the valids perform the same drills, within identical cubicles, while wearing similar dark suits.
Niccol also presents the idea that even though the valids have better occupations than the invalids do, they do not have more freedom. This is expressed through several shots in which the valids are seen entrapped behind the images on their computers or walking behind the prison-like architecture of the Gattaca Aerospace Corporation’s main building. Invalids are only allowed to have demeaning, low-paying jobs. For instance, before assuming an alternate identity, Vincent is only allowed to work at the Gattaca Aerospace Corporation as a janitor. In addition, invalids are forced to take jobs in which they perform manual labor. Similar to the valids, the invalids also have jobs that are tedious and repetitive.
Yet, the invalids have more freedom. For instance, their hair isn’t combed in the same way, their uniforms are often untidy, and they are allowed to let their minds to wander while working. Although Niccol reveals that the occupational lives of the invalids are significantly disadvantaged when compared to the valids, he also suggests that appearances can be deceiving. The valids undeniably control society in Gattaca. Yet, they must sacrifice their freedom and humanity in the process.
Furthermore, this sacrifice for the valids’ vision of a perfect society is ultimately futile because, as Vincent demonstrates, human nature and human desires can not be suppressed. Doesn’t the essence of human nature reside in our flaws? .