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GATTACA - Zer Netmouse
September 28th, 2006
04:13 pm

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GATTACA
Last night I watched Gattica with matt_arnold. It was a very interesting movie. It didn't really work for me, except for a few scenes, partly because it was one of those movies where almost every moment is suspenseful somehow and even when the characters are relaxed I was thinking "oh, the risks they're taking!" or "what's she doing that for?", etc. and I get physically tense during movies like that. Last night in particular, that seemed to really tire me out. I'm glad to have seen the movie though.

If you haven't seen it, it's the story of a natural-born fellow in a time of genetic engineering, someone who wants a job whose requirements include being genetically without flaw and who hopes to follow his dreams of going out into space despite the fact that a genetic predisposition (99% likelyhood of a heart condition, Matt reminds me) disqualifies him from even trying.



So in this movie they keep judging people by genetics and doing IDs based on small scraps of body matter or fluids.

I found they made interesting decisions in terms of how future workspace and technology were represented in the film - very old-school futuristic, 1950s meets 2100. (Matt commented on the look as well, and how the clothes were almost 1920s). Why there would be static or a flickering search on the little hand-helds they were using, for instance - purely a ploy for suspence, not an interface design I buy. But it worked for suspense. Similarly I couldn't *actually* believe people who operate keyboards for a living would put up with having a finger tip pricked for ID every single morning. But it made for a security measure one could believably dupe (though in general the saving of fluids for pretending to be someone else only worked if the viewer knows nothing about how blood breaks down over time and action -- the device that was always spinning the blood in the background was purely a mystery to me; you use such things to break blood down, not preserve it, especially the next-to-last scene where a large supply seems to be expected to last for years merely by refrigerating it. But my dad is a biomedical engineer who designs blood pumps, and I donate blood regularly (note also, a person only has 5 liters of blood and is severly debilitated by rapid blood loss, as one of the characters doesn't seem to be, unless he was hiding something that he was working on for a really long time). So I'm sure I know more about such things than the average person, but still. I hate it when movies, especially scifi movies, distract me with things like that.

I'm not really surprized that I wasn't too keen on the movie. None of the actors are people I tend to enjoy watching. But some of the ideas were interesting and important, especially the cross section of insurance and liability with genetic profiling.

As is typical, though, it was a movie with only one substantial female character and a slew of male ones. Maybe two women, if you count the main character's mother. There was an active attempt to display a society that was integrated in terms of white and black folk, but the primary cast was all white, and 90% male.

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[User Picture]
From:matt_arnold
Date:September 28th, 2006 08:57 pm (UTC)
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He had a genetic predisposition that gave him a 99% probability of a heart condition.

It's interesting that you found it so consistently suspenseful, given that your first comment during the movie was that all the characters seemed bored.

It's spelled GATTACA, all upper-case. Just remember there is no "i" in the G A T C code.

I wish you had seen the other cut which isn't on this DVD. The mother is a much more important character, especially in the abortion clinic scene. I noticed that every Invalid (a non-genetically-engineered person) was a white male. I think this is because that is the priviledged class in the modern day, and they wanted to emphasize that those who were discriminated against in this future were, by modern expectations, seemingly impossible to discriminate against.
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From:netmouse
Date:September 29th, 2006 05:00 pm (UTC)
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That other cut sounds interesting. And as I've said, I like your comment about the invalids all being white males. Still, at the end of the day it's the female character who is stuck on the ground due to her heart condition, only able to enable the man to follow his dreams (though there is a slight suggestion that others could follow his example, and that she could be one of them).
[User Picture]
From:matt_arnold
Date:September 29th, 2006 05:22 pm (UTC)
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The illicit doctor, the fertility clinician, the murdered mission director, the chief of GATTACA, or the subordinate detective could have been made female characters to add this dimension to the film. However, one may as well complain that the film wasn't also about gay rights, or animal cruelty, or the environment.

Imagine a different ending in which Vincent gives up and doesn't go to the stars. It would still be a good and thought-provoking drama. That did happen in this movie. It was Irene.

She's certainly not unable to do more than enable others; she could also enable herself. She had the gifts to do more than Vincent did, but bought into the messages she heard from the culture about the inadequacy of her body.

I would be hard pressed to believe Andrew Niccol (the filmmaker) thought the enabling role was her proper place, or that he wanted it to be. One of the lessons of the movie was that the genetically advantaged could benefit by following Vincent's example. I think that was the point of her thread of the narrative. I would have liked the script to add: "I'll see you when I get back." "I might not be on this planet when you get back."
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From:netmouse
Date:September 29th, 2006 08:31 pm (UTC)
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However, one may as well complain that the film wasn't also about gay rights, or animal cruelty, or the environment.

Not really. A film needn't be about womens rights or feminism in order to have women in it in roles that it's reasonable to have them in. Women are over 50% of the population, yet it doesn't strike you as a strange, conscious choice to have them be less than 20% of the total cast, and only 10% of the main characters.

By your logic about invalids, I guess the head of the janitors (who I presume was an invalid) couldn't have been female, but the doctor could have, or anyone Vincent interviewed with. Or one of the other police checking IDs. There was another woman who went to the DNA place to set up the understanding that you could take a sample of a lover from her mouth from a kiss. She and the woman at the day care are the only other women with lines that I can recall besides the Mother and the Lover, unless the voice that says "nice catch" is female.
[User Picture]
From:minnehaha
Date:September 29th, 2006 03:54 pm (UTC)

Gattaca

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For us privacy advocates, that's an important movie.

B
[User Picture]
From:netmouse
Date:September 29th, 2006 04:57 pm (UTC)

Re: Gattaca

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I imagine so. I'm curious, do you (or does the community of privacy advocates) take a stance on the involuntary use of DNA in the course of a criminal investigation? (by involuntary, I mean something like going to my workstation and picking up tissue samples without my knowing, to see if I match something found at a crime scene. Or, of course, the kind of forced search and seizure done in the movie)

Is the US justice system actively compiling a database of DNA information? At Jenny's last week we ended up watching a bit of TV - one of those investigative shows, I don't know which one. They were checking DNA against known records. Does this happen, do you know? If someone gets a DNA test done in order to be exonerated of something, does their DNA profile stay on file (especially in a searchable format)?

In the show, one of the suspects declined to submit a DNA sample, stating "That is the ultimate invasion of privacy." Do you think that's true?

I was a little sorry the character saying that was such a radical type, but I thought it was interesting that the show mentioned the belief, even if it wasn't in that positive of a way.
[User Picture]
From:minnehaha
Date:October 1st, 2006 02:30 pm (UTC)

Re: Gattaca

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We're in favor of the police intruding on the most intimate aspects of your life, as long as they get a warrant first. What makes this dystopia a problem is the routine privacy invasion.

Yes, the FBI is collecting a DNA database, just as they collected a fingerprint database.

And yes, routine DNA collection is an enormous -- and very intimate -- invasion of privacy.

B
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