At the request of a friend (and work colleague), I watched the film, Gattaca starring Ethan Hawke, Jude Law and Uma Thurman among others.
For those of you who haven’t seen it, it’s based in the future where babies are genetically modified and programmed during pregnancy in order to bring to this world, children who are free of illness and defects that would normally limit their potential. The protagonist in the movie was a “God child”, someone who did not receive genetic intervention before birth. Due to his heart condition that was due to kill him at age 30.2, he was unable to gain professional employment like the elite manufactured humans of his time. This person’s dream was to work in a NASA-like institution, ‘Gattaca’. To do this he would need to use the identity of an elite-human for the rest of his career.
The movie portrays two brothers who are on either side of the birth arrangements. One brother – the naturally conceived one – always wanted to achieve something greater than his potential, the other brother, while expected to excel effortlessly was overwhelmed and eventually decided that he did not want this. The dilemma is that one could not have what he wanted and the other did want what he had. It brings into question whether the fact that he wouldn’t be allowed a professional career, motivated the protagonist to actually pursue one? Just as valid, is the question is does having the potential or ease of achieving something make it less desirable?
I can see why many people identify to the film. We can all try to relate to the fact that we want something specific in our lives but there is an external or imposed barrier put in place to stop us despite our efforts. The protagonist was this reflection. A model human who was always going to be denied due to circumstances outside of his control, due to discrimination.
What I found interesting about the film is that it easily leads you to side with and empathise with the protagonist, the victim. To identify with him. It’s only after great thought that you realise that most of us are like the protagonists brother in the film. The person who had every chance to be the best, yet didn’t deliver, causing him to doubt himself and the goals that were placed in front of him. Taking the easy way out and trying to kill himself, not succeeding and being destined to a life as a paraplegic.
It’s easy to see why no one easily identifies with the more flawed character but most people who are self critical enough should. Unless we were street kids when we were young, disabled or addicted to drugs, we all are more likely similar to the second character. The person who is expected to do well but throws it all away. On the first day of kindergarten each year, every child is given the attention and expectation that in 20 years time, they’ll be able to achieve anything within their desire. Year by year, this possibility begins to diminish. Maybe one day, we make a realisation that we no longer want what we once did. That the pursuit of excellence is no longer as appealing as it was.
For me, as much as I could probably justify the times I didn’t succeed, I think it’s more probable that I too am like the flawed brother who perhaps has more potential that they have strove to pursue. In the end, I think it’s a film worth watching and/or re-watching.
I began this post in March 2012. I have only finished it now. My, how two and half years have flown by me.