Gattaca essay questions


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The set designs are so successful in portraying a world devoid of imperfections that the word "Gattaca" has begun showing up as an adjective to indicate an object or place that appears sterile, flawless, or surgically pristine. In the same manner, the award-winning opening credits show individual names with A, G, T, and C highlighted e.

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Eugene, who is paralyzed after an attempted suicide, is constantly reminded that he is unable to climb the DNA staircase to the upper floors. Similarly, the recurring image of Vincent removing loose skin and hair to hide his identity is a reminder of his own genetic imperfections. Blood, skin, hair, eyelashes, urine, and saliva are all used in the film to collect genetic readouts on characters. A genetic readout from an eyelash, betraying his deficient genetic matter, provides the crucial piece of evidence that makes Vincent a suspect in the murder of the director.

Body matter is such a measure for genetic identity that in one scene a drunken Eugene mockingly offers his vomit to Vincent. Blood, skin, hair including eyelashes , urine, and fingernails are all shown in extreme close-up at least four times each during the course of the film. In close-up, the camera can magnify the minuscule.

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The opening shot in the film depicts in extreme close-up a slender crescent-shaped object falling to the ground in slow motion; the shot is so disorienting that it is not until later that we learn this object is a fingernail purged by Vincent during one of his bodily scourings.

Penetrating to the core of what defines humanity in GATTACA , these extreme close-ups of body parts and waste matter are extremely alienating, suggesting that human beings are valued less than their cast-off DNA.

Brave New World vs. Gattaca

There are eight extreme close-ups of blood droplets in the film, not including other important shots of blood in storage bags or covering the face of the murder victim. All of these close-ups show blood that is either being put into, or soon will be put into, machines designed to calculate genetic makeup. Blood is a common euphemism e. Vincent is constantly reminded that his body matter i.

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As with body matter itself, there are several extreme close-ups of Vincent chafing his skin, hair, and fingertips. These shots indicate that no matter how successful Vincent is at Gattaca, he will always be judged by his genes first and foremost. One key scene illustrates how Vincent can never escape his genetic makeup. After Vincent and Irene spend the night together, there is a fade-in shot of Vincent waking up in bed. Vincent then proceeds to search the bed and finds his body hair all over the sheets. The next scene shows him on the beach scraping his body with a rock and sand.

For Vincent, an intimate moment turns into another shameful reminder that he is seen and sees himself only in terms of his defective body matter. Although Vincent is constantly reminded of his defective genes, it is precisely his defects that have provided him with a trait Eugene and the other characters in GATTACA do not possess: inner strength or "spirit.

In a mixture of bravery and stupidity, he plunges across the highway, somehow making it to the other side. His desire to reach Irene allows him to overcome his defective vision, making this scene a microcosm of the film as a whole. An individual who has been engineered with no flaws, such as Eugene, has nothing to overcome and no apparent need to improve himself.

He thus lacks the "spirit" that Vincent has developed through the need to overcome his genetic heritage. American politicians are held accountable by the public for decisions they make regarding scientific legislation and the allocation of discretionary funds for research. This accountability gives public opinion a significant role in determining science policy and funding. Vernon J. Ehlers, vice-chairman of the House Science Committee, says that it is not possible to understand Congressional science policy "without understanding the American people, and the reason for that is very simple: Like it or not, Congress is representative of the general populace" Empirical evidence suggests that fictional representations in popular-culture narratives, such as motion pictures and television, have a strong influence on public attitudes towards science.

George Gerbner conducted a survey of people and found that U.

The society of Gattaca Essay

Gerbner attributed these beliefs and opinions to the overall negative depiction of science and scientists in popular culture as he analyzed it over a ten year period, from to Anthropologist Rayna Rapp observed genetic-counseling sessions over a two-year period and found that many of the women who went in for genetic counseling attributed much of their knowledge of genetic disorders to popular-culture sources Whether or not there is a link between popular-culture portrayals and governmental science policy, many politicians and scientists have argued that decreasing federal funding of the sciences is due in some part to negative portrayals in popular-culture sources.

Jon Turney notes that "biomedical scientists, in particular, have become very conscious of the way their science may be seen in relation to stories of mad scientists, and the need to develop political strategies for dealing with this" In discussing the debates over recombinant DNA technology in the s, Turney shows that biologists developed effective strategies for keeping negative portrayals of biology from swaying public opinion Anderson, who was at the June screening, says he found "no major flaws" in the science of the movie.

According to co-producer Gail Lyon, these audiences felt the ending was too heavy-handed and the last frame left them feeling "personally attacked" as presumed genetic defectives. Many geneticists judged it in their best interests to see the film given its subject matter.

Lee Silver, for example, said that " GATTACA is a film that all geneticists should see if for no other reason than to understand the perception of our trade held by so many of the public-at-large" Collins acknowledged that he went for a second viewing of the film because he felt that it was important for HGP researchers to know the "science fiction buzz" about human-gene therapy Groer and Gerhart 3.

Kevin Davies, who reviewed the film for the prestigious science journal Nature , concluded that GATTACA was a "surprisingly pedestrian affair" that "has a moral in there somewhere" Lee Silver, for example, complained that the anti-genetics viewpoint of GATTACA was "a strange message indeed to come from those able to spend more money than most on advanced technologies to provide better lives for themselves and their children" Although this criticism may seem warranted, these critics are ignoring the fact that there is an inherent difference between a technology that allows scientists to manipulate the genetic makeup of future generations, and technologies that permit us to make realistic-looking dinosaurs and spaceships.

In his review of GATTACA , Silver complained that the extreme genetic determinism portrayed in the film is "a straw man that is set up to be demolished by the [Vincent] character. It is a straw man that no geneticist I know believes in" Although Silver is correct in saying that GATTACA sets up an extreme genetic-determinist society that is unpalatable to many scientists, he is incorrect in claiming that no current geneticists adhere to this ideology.

Now we know, in large measure, our fate is in our genes" qtd.


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According to critics of the genetic-determinist ideology, the human genetics community has an interest in gaining societal acceptance of genetic determinism, whether that interest be financial, political, or professional e. In other words, closing the black box of genetic determinism is in the best interests of human geneticists.

Jeremy Rifkin attributes most genetic- determinist comments on the part of scientists to a need to convince the federal government to maintain funding for human-genetics research, such as the Human Genome Project. According to Rifkin:. Much of the rhetoric is no doubt politically motivated, designed to keep public attention focused on the great potential benefits that are likely to flow from the Human Genome Project. As I have argued in this essay, GATTACA is a bioethical text that addresses the issues associated with gene therapy and the new eugenics by questioning the ideology of genetic determinism.

Given the stake that molecular biologists have in "black boxing" this ideology, it is not surprising that GATTACA received so much attention from the human genetics community. Possibly the biggest complaint among human geneticists regarding GATTACA was not directed at the film itself, but was aimed at the advertising campaign associated with it. Believing that the ads were "too real," the Society asked Sony to change the ad "to make it clear that this is only a movie" Voland The notion that the world of GATTACA may soon be a reality was reinforced by the comments of many human geneticists even before the release of the film.

The LabCorp ad also includes a baby staring at the camera, encircled by a pair of denim jeans.

Above the baby is the phrase: "We may not be in the fashion business but we can tell you which genes fit. This notion is even more relevant in a decade that has seen technological breakthroughs in the biological sciences that would have seemed unthinkable even a decade ago. As evidenced by the successful cloning of Dolly the sheep and the threat by Dr.

Richard Seed to use cloning technology on human specimens, the time to think about bioethical issues is before, not after, the technology becomes possible. In the case of gene therapy, the Frankenstein story warns us that the time to address the ethical implications of this technology is before we actually apply it.

GATTACA is a bioethical text that brings the issues associated with gene therapy to the public before the new eugenics becomes a reality. Unlike most bioethics texts that discuss gene therapy, however, GATTACA maintains that many of the problems associated with the new eugenics, such as genetic discrimination, genetic prophecy, and the homogenization of society, are not due to the technology itself.

Rather, GATTACA proposes that these problems will only arise if the belief that individuals are no more than the sum of their genes becomes a matter of consensus: a black box. Many of the films that address biotechnology can be classified as either horror or science fiction, or a combination of both. Although horror and science fiction are considered separate genres, the differences between the two have little bearing on my arguments, and I will refer only to science fiction. The various scientists in Zardoz , Ssssss , and Goldengirl all hope to improve the human species, but do so using selective breeding, snake venom, and drugs, respectively.

One exception is the low-budget British horror film The Mutations , in which a scientist tries to create a better human race by inserting plant genes into human beings. For a fuller discussion of the downfall of the eugenics movement in America, see Pickens. Although Cohen and Boyer were the first to use restriction enzymes to construct DNA hybrid molecules, their work built upon the ideas of Paul Berg at Stanford.

For a complete scientific and social history of the early days of genetic engineering, see Lear and Krimsky. For an admirably objective review of the current state of behavioral genetics, see Mann. Moreau According to Prada, "masculine and feminine looks are mixed with a modern twist" in the new designs Klensch.

For examples of politicians and scientists citing negative portrayals of science in popular culture as a reason for decreasing funding in the sciences, see Ehlers, Hawkes, and Singer. The ending is included, along with other "lost scenes," on the DVD release of the film. Beckwith, Jon. Clute, John. Science Fiction: The Illustrated Encyclopedia.

London: Dorling Kindersley, Davies, Kevin. Nature : Davison, Charlie. Theresa Marteau and Martin Richards. Cambridge: U Cambridge P, Ehlers, Vernon. Friedman, Wayne. Sony Pictures, Written and Directed by Andrew Niccol. Dumb ways to die. Chapter 1 Part 2. The world of Gattaca is focussed on genetic. Download advertisement.

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gattaca essay questions Gattaca essay questions
gattaca essay questions Gattaca essay questions
gattaca essay questions Gattaca essay questions
gattaca essay questions Gattaca essay questions
gattaca essay questions Gattaca essay questions

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