The Themes Of Discrimination And Determination In The Film Gattaca

Genetics, biology, genetic manipulation, these are words synonymous with Niccol’s film Gattaca. Despite this, they also represent how far science has come in our daily lives. The film’s hero Vincent Freeman is able to triumph over his predetermined fate of being an Invalid. He shows how an individual can fight the conformity and restrictions of a society to achieve his true destiny and inspire others to do the same.

In this world that Vincent Freeman lives in, he must overcome the structural limitations imposed by the society within it. However, he can only achieve this through his individual determination In his goal of overcoming this discrimination as he is an in-valid. In his steadfast progress to achieving this, he goes to extreme lengths such as having major surgery in the form of breaking and extending his legs, using DNA from Jerome Morrow in the form of hair, blood, skin and urine to hide his identity along with removing as much of his own DNA as he can by scrubbing himself and incinerating the remains. Vincent goes to such extreme lengths such as altering his body and “Borrowing a Ladder” because the society that he lives in cracks down severely on people’s freedom of identify for being in-valid. the simple protests such as being naturally born and beating his valid brother in a swimming contest also link the near-future SCI-FI world of Gattaca to today’s world in which individuals may need to use individuality to overcome issues such as conformity. Thus, Vincent succeeds and uses his individual traits and determination to overcome society and achieve his goal of travelling into space, despite the discrimination he faces, his physical attributes and lack of allies.

Though he heavily relies on his individual traits and attributes, Vincent would not have succeeded without managing to inspire others in and around Gattaca to trust him and his goal of travelling to space. Even from the start, Vincent is one against many; even before he is able to sustain himself, his parents and brother regard him as an annoyance and a disappointment, and when he wishes to go into space, he realizes just how difficult it would be considering his genetics. Thus, he needs the help of people like Jerome, Irene and Dr Lamar. Jerome’s valid DNA allows Vincent to bypass the security at Gattaca and trick Anton into thinking that Vincent was sick at home. Irene helps Vincent by showing him that he is not alone; Irene has a high risk of heart failure and is denied the wish to go to space because of it. Dr Lamar grants Vincent perhaps the largest favour as he identifies Vincent as an in-valid before he goes into the rocket but lets him pass anyway, allowing him his lifelong dream. Each person he inspires to help him has a trait or multiple traits that connect them together, usually relating to the topic of genetics. Like Vincent, Irene has a high risk of heart failure and is disallowed from entering space. Dr Lamar has a son who is an in-valid, and thus sympathises with Vincent. Despite this, Jerome’s story is the most interesting. He is a valid and was built to win, but still loses. He helps Vincent in his quest as he has lost a purpose in his own life. Therefore, without the help of others in and around Gattaca, Vincent could not have achieved his goal, he manages to persuade these people as they share similar traits with him that give them an opportunity to rebel against what brought them down, even when they were built to succeed.

Some, such as Vincent’s brother Anton and Vincent’s ‘Borrowed Ladder’ Jerome have the correct DNA and traits to succeed in this society but still fail, leading to a wish to defy the society or bring down those who succeeded against odds. Anton is given the gift of genetic selection and quickly becomes stronger and faster than Vincent, constantly winning a swimming endurance competition they call ‘Chicken’. However, Vincent eventually wins this competition and Anton holds a grudge against Vincent for many years. Jerome is also built to win and succeed, becoming a swimming champion, but he too fails; coming second place in a race, which leads to him throwing himself Infront of a car and becoming a paraplegic. These are examples of people who were lucky enough to be born as a ‘normal’ person in the society they live in but fail, leading to a dissatisfaction with the society and how it was unfair that they lost to someone inferior. This shows that the society’s belief that only valids can be functioning members of society, and they have come to believe that they are given a guaranteed one-up on invalids. Anton and Jerome’s reactions to this show how deeply this idea is indented into the people of the society. Thus, despite the society’s strong belief that only valids can be functioning members of society, they can be proven wrong, leading to a heavily dissatisfaction with what they believed to be the truth actually being false.

In conclusion, Gattaca shows that even in a strictly run, dystopian world where the uncontrollable factor of your genetics can shape your entire life, strong individual traits like determination and other factors such as influential allies can aid someone who is essentially expelled from society pursue their ambitions. If this is correct, it shows that themes such as discrimination, determination and the threats of a (near future) dystopian world are integral parts of Gattaca.     

16 December 2021
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