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Gattaca Movie Poster
Theatrical Release Poster

Gattaca is a science fiction film released in 1997. It is set in a fictional future where biometrics and genetic testing dictate the development of society. The film was written and directed by Andrew Niccol and features actors Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman[1]. The film's title is spelled using only G's, A's, T's and C's - in reference to the initial letters of the four DNA nitrogenous bases (guanine, adenine, thymine, and cytosine)[2].

Plot summary

Set in a future world, the movie follows a young man named Vincent Freeman, who is of inferior genetic make up. He was a naturally born baby, something rare in this world where genes are systematically manipulated to create more perfect humans. Following Vincent's birth, his parents decide to create another son with better genes. As he continues to grow up, Vincent faces discrimination for his genetic inferiority, most of which comes from his brother, friends, and others to whom he becomes close. Because of this discrimination, Vincent assumes the identity of a paralyzed, yet genetically elite man named Jerome Morrow. Vincent uses Jerome's blood, skin, and hair to deceive the Gattaca Corporation into giving him a job. As Jerome Morrow, Vincent is well on his way to traveling to space, his childhood dream. Soon before his mission to space, the mission director is murdered, delaying the mission until the death is investigated. Vincent must avoid compromising his true identity during the investigation to not miss his chance to go to space.


The cast is listed in order of significance.

Name Character Name Character
Ethanhawke.jpeg Ethan Hawke Vincent Anton Freeman
(Jerome Eugene Morrow)
Uma.jpeg Uma Thurman Irene Cassini
Jude.jpeg Jude Law Jerome Eugene Morrow Loren.jpeg Loren Dean Anton Freeman
Xander.jpeg Gore Vidal Director Josef Gore.jpeg Xander Berkeley Dr. Lamar
Jayne.jpeg Jayne Brook Marie Freeman Elias.jpeg Elias Koteas Antonio Freeman
Maya.jpeg Maya Rudolph Delivery nurse Blair.jpeg Blair Underwood Geneticist
Ernest.jpeg Ernest Borgnine Caesar Mason.jpeg Mason Gamble young Vincent Freeman
Vincent.jpeg Vincent Nielson young Anton Freeman Chris.jpeg Chad Christ teen Vincent Freeman
Will.jpeg William Lee Scott teen Anton Freeman Tony.jpeg Tony Shalhoub German
Alan.jpeg Alan Arkin Detective Hugo Dean.jpeg Dean Norris Beat Cop
Ken.jpeg Ken Marino Sequencing technician Cynthia.jpeg Cynthia Martells Cavendish

Ethics of genetic profiling

One of the themes that Gattaca brings up is the idea of creating a perfect society. In the film, the achievement of genetic engineering is that parents can order a "perfect" baby. After Vincent was born, the doctors tested his blood and were able to analyze his DNA, projecting Vincent to live only 30.2 years [4]. As previously mentioned, Vincent's parents decide to order a baby which will be genetically engineered. Society deems naturally born humans like Vincent inferior and assign them jobs such as janitors.

On the contrary, prestigious jobs are given to genetically engineered humans such as Jerome. The film's depiction of society was criticized for its emphasis of creating a perfect race and a perfect society. In addition to genetic discrimination, Gattaca brings up other ethical implications such as the loss of human diversity and altered lifestyles due to genetic prophecies [5]


Eugenics is defined as "applied science or the bio-social movement which advocates the use of practices aimed at improving the genetic composition of a population."[6] New developments in eugenics could lead to humans being able to tailor their children to fit their specified requirements, which some people call "designer babies." Parents would be able to compete with other couples to design the best babies who have the highest chances of succeeding. This may indicate that people would be interested in creating better opportunities for their children, instead of society as a whole.

Another application of eugenics is to prevent children from acquiring certain diseases, or preventing them from acquiring certain traits, such as homosexuality. Given the advances in genetic technology, there are more opportunities for individuals to "customize" the genetic makeup of their children. While some people argue that individuals should have the right to pursue genetic engineering opportunities, others argue that it is inhumane and unethical. Furthermore, the process of genetically engineering babies is incredibly expensive and it is generally an option that wealthier individuals consider. Typically, these individuals are already privileged in society yet they have the opportunity to create more "superior" offspring. Some ethicists argue that this is counterproductive to societal development and progression whereas other state that reproduction is a private manner. [7]


Dysgenics is defined as "the study of factors producing the accumulation and perpetuation of defective or disadvantageous genes and traits in offspring of a particular population or species."[8] Dysgenics is considered more prevalent since the addition of industry because survival skills are not just based on positive traits. In addition, it is found that convicts, on average, have more children than the rest of society. Thus, if some negative traits are genetic, the prevalence of these traits is going to increase as those populations carrying the trait reproduce more than the rest of the population.

In Gattaca, this theory is applied because it is viewed that the society as a whole more prevalently carried defective genes. Thus, the desirability of having advantageous genes increases in order to have an upper hand in society. Gattaca is an exaggeration of the current scenario and in theory what the future holds. China has attempted to counteract this by imposing a "one-child per family" law.


  3. Gattaca. Wikipedia. Retrieved 2011-12-18.
  4. Rees, Cynan. Plot Summary for Gattaca. IMDB. Retrieved 2011-12-18.
  5. Perriman, Symon. GATTACA: The Future of Genetic Engineering? Julie Reynolds's Homepage. Retrieved 2011-12-18.
  6. "Eugenics", Unified Medical Language System (Psychological Index Terms) National Library of Medicine, 26 Sep. 2010.
  7. Drexler, Peggy (2009-07-07). "When Gay Comes Home". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2009-08-01.

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