Timely review of Gattaca

Gattaca is set in the vague near future. You have this guy who was conceived naturally, named Vincent, who is sort of chronically ill because he is a 99% chance to develop heart disease with a life expectancy of 30 and because of that he’s discriminated against and can’t get employment. Vincent uses the black market to shack up with a genetically perfect man named Jerome whose DNA he can use. Jerome is also useless because he broke his back and is now crippled so he wants the money out of it so he can sit around his inaccessible loft doing nothing.

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Why did this cripple guy move into a place with two stories and no elevator?

Vincent is that kind of bitter cripple that can overcome his disability. He works out enough that he’s incredibly able-bodied, but his bitterness also honed him into being brave and hard-working.

Jerome is the type of bitter cripple who had everything and was a normal entitled asshole but still wasn’t happy so he tried to kill himself by jumping in front of a car but fucked that up and ended up breaking his back and paralyzing himself.

Vincent’s love interest is also a normal elite born with hand-picked genetic material but was that 1% that became chronically ill anyway, coincidentally with the same thing that Vincent has. She seems pretty down to earth with the whole thing, she doesn’t keep it a secret and when he starts to court her she warns him about her illness. We also see her taking medication which was used as a bit of foreshadowing to say that she has “given in” to her disability but if you ignore that it was really cool to see, especially because she took it with alcohol which you should never do but any self-respecting cripple has done at one point. The foreshadowing was to a chase scene that happened right after, she and Vincent are running from the cops and she has to stop before long telling him that she “can’t” and even though he stops with her and they hide he tells her that “you just did.”

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Not really, no. She ran until she literally couldn’t anymore and nearly had heart failure. Luckily, she wasn’t encouraged by his being an asshole about it and actually stopped but the message was still clearly delivered: Vincent could do it because he worked out a lot and probably did yoga, she just wasn’t trying hard enough.

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That’s a cheap wheelchair for such a wealthy man

All of our cripple characters have a happy ending. Vincent doesn’t let himself be disabled and becomes an astronaut. Vincent left the planet so his girlfriend got left behind but one day she will look back and realize that was for the best because he was a complete douchebag. Jerome put himself in the incinerator and killed himself correctly.

Clearly the movie was extremely ableist both intentionally and unintentionally, but it was still a good movie. It comes across as extremely campy at this point with it’s “futuristic” technology. Gattaca was released in 1997, did we really think we would still have tube TVs in the “near future” back then?

I don’t think the movie can realistically be seen as an alternate future anymore, it has to have a completely different alternate history as well not just because of the gap in technology but because of the gap in social constructs.

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1 of 2 WOC left in the world

I find the idea like world without racism incredibly unlikely. You see the lower class is all white and the few people of color you see are 3 Asians and 2 black man in high positions. So supposedly only white and black and Asian people exist, black women exist or maybe just don’t have jobs, two Asians are astronauts and one is a nurse, and black men were all created artificially thus enabling them to have high ranking positions. You could say that it’s because society depends entirely on genetics and because genetic intellectual and physical capabilities between races is indistinguishable so race doesn’t matter anymore to anyone…but that’s just lazy. There is no way that racism would disappear so easily once the science was in. Furthermore, we know that even though eugenics is science-based it’s used to police social constructs like race and ability, actual science isn’t part of the equation, at least as far as governing people is concerned.

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Annoying little smirk, isn’t it?

The lack of the grid is also extremely distracting. You can forgive it, in a way, because there seems to be no Internet and identification is based on blood samples but I can’t believe that a society that interested in your personal information wouldn’t also keep constant vigilance over where everyone is at any given time. It doesn’t matter that Jerome is from a different country, has a different accent, has a unique medical history, and eventually has different scars than Vincent has. You could argue that the movie’s point was how dependent everyone is on genetics instead of circumstance but I don’t find it believable that you could remove yourself from the grid that easily. I suppose in 1997 there really wasn’t much of a grid but experts were well aware of where the technology was heading at the time.

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These props are adorable. I hope to someday by the storage locker they’ve been abandoned in.

A major point of the movie is that all opportunities in a person’s life will depend on their genetic makeup. If a child is disabled or is very likely to become disabled day care centers and schools won’t want to be held responsible for their safety. If a person has a high expectancy of disability or premature death companies will want to put time and money into training or hiring them at all. This all rings completely true, especially the part where it is actually illegal to discriminate but getting DNA samples is so simple that the law simply isn’t enforced. That was inevitable in 1997 just as it’s beginning now and is inevitable in our near future.

This would probably be a terrifying concept to most people, but because the movie makes such a point of telling its audience that they can simply not be disabled if they try it seems incredibly childish to me. The reality of how things worked for disabled people even in 1997 would have made this movie seem idealistic then to those who weren’t completely ignorant. I’d like to think most people who watch it now would also see it like this but then I think I might be a little too idealistic.

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2 comments

  1. I was the person who requested you do this review. Thanks a lot, it was hilarious. I wanted to hear your thoughts on it because as I was watching it I definitely noticed the ableist parts of it but, for some reason, I still liked it? I don’t know, it just made me happy that a movie with A-list celebrities exists which is very explicitly critical of eugenics and hopefully made some people think about that when it came out. I watched it with my dad who is AB but neurodivergent (and my sister who has a heart condition) and I felt so happy that it draws attention to the way disabled people are discriminated. Again, I totally noticed that Vincent “overcame his disability” and the other ableist tropes but at the end of the day, I still like this movie, I just feel bad about it.

    Like

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