The Criticism behind Gattaca's Genetic Apartheid Scenario
Seminar paper from the year 2016 in the subject English Language and Literature Studies - Other, grade: 1.3, University of Koblenz-Landau (Anglistik), language: English, abstract: The new advances and tendencies in the application of genetic science evoke ethical, social, and legal concerns, as the immense progress in genetics is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the completion of the Human Genome Project at the beginning of the 21st century and the recent progress in genetics come along with obvious benefits in genomic medicine such as better diagnosis of diseases and gene therapy. However, on the other hand, the new genetics bring along worries that the new genetics could lead to a society that is less tolerant of disability and (genetic) diversity. Moreover, after successfully having intervened in the transformation of animals and plants to human's liking, humans are now on the verge of manipulating the human genome so as to perfect the human species possibly, since the necessary genetic technology is now available.
The movie Gattaca builds upon the scientific and technological advances in genetics in the late 20th century and displays a dystopian "not-too-distant" future. In the portrayed future, excessive genetic screening and embryo manipulation have brought about a rigidly hierarchical society grounded on genetic discrimination. Undeniably, there is an insurmountable social gap between these two classes. Gattaca thoughtfully portrays the lives of different people trapped in these social categories and the special burdens they have to bear in such a society, which is obsessed with genetic perfection. A distinct two-tiered society structure is the result of liberal eugenic practices and the unquestioned belief in genes being the determinants of an individual's life.
Niccol constructs a profoundly dystopian future, which results from of the utopian quest to eradicate imperfections in society and genetically perfect humankind. As Nicolas Pethes postulates, science fiction possesses the possibility to "prearrange real science and to picture outcomes that have not yet happened" (177) and to "[articulate] the current cultural image of science" (169). Hence, I read Gattaca as a genetic apartheid scenario to show how it comments on the advance in genetics in a critical way. It is not possible to dismiss that the visions of the dystopian movie can be easily tied in with the contemporary genetic advances of our society and the hereby-evoked ethical, social and legal controversies and obstacles.