Gattaca shows that categorizing people into a hierarchy of castes ("superior" and "inferior") is both false and dangerous. How does this relate to real life?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Andrew Niccol's Gattaca is a fantastic film. It does all kinds of great things for discussions about genetics, the future, discrimination, etc. The question correctly brings up the society's ranking and discrimination of people. The caste system, as the question states, is a two-class system. A person is either a "valid" or an "invalid." The valids are people that have been genetically engineered to supposedly be superior, and the invalids are natural births. They are referred to as "God Children," "Faith Births," or even "Degenerates." The invalids are kept from higher-paying jobs, such as law enforcement, medicine, and space travel for Gattaca.

In an early scene in the movie, Vincent describes all of this to his audience, and he tells us that things like racism, classism, and sexism have been eliminated from society. That sounds like a good thing until he tells us that the new form of "ism" discrimination is "genoism":

I belong to a new underclass, no longer determined by social status or the color of your skin. We now have discrimination down to a science. . . . Of course, it's illegal to discriminate—"genoism," it's called. But no one takes the law seriously.

People are discriminated against based on their genetic profile.

Gattaca is a good science fiction film because it uses a futuristic concept to highlight current societal issues. The film shows that something like genoism is ridiculous, and that is conceptually the same thing as racism. Why should the color of someone's skin make a difference in what he/she is capable of, and whose decision is it that says one color is supposedly more capable than another?

Gattaca essentially shows a society that makes snap judgments about a person based on looks (the looks of their DNA helix). That's no different than what happens in today's society, except that we might be looking at a different part of a person. Too often, people judge based on looks instead of what a person has done. Time and time again, Vincent shows that he is incredibly capable of doing difficult and demanding tasks, but nobody bothers giving him the chance because of his appearance. It's not that Vincent was given a test and failed. He was never given the chance to take the test in the first place, and that is something that needs to be avoided in today's society.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Don't forget feminism in thinking about a superior/inferior caste system.  In the movie Gattaca, people were treated differently  based on things they couldn't control-- whether they had natural genetics, or superior, altered genetics.  Similarly, we cannot control our race or our gender, but our society CAN control how we treat people with such differences equally.

If you have ever read The Giver by Lois Lowry, you can apply the lessons in Gattaca to that book as well.  In The Giver people are given jobs based on their ability and there is a very rigid, and widely accepted, caste system.

What is more ethical about their caste system than ours, or the fictional one in Gattaca, is that their rankings are based on ability, and not on things that are out of a person's control.  They are ranked in society by the skills they could perform-- if we are going to rank people, the lesson we could learn is that we should base our rankings on ability and not race, gender, etc.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial