Table of Contents
- Thinking Sociologically
According to the film entitled Gattaca by Andrew Niccol, the director presents the life of Vincent Freeman, “a genetically unenhanced” individual, who has been alienated from society due to his imperfections in genes (Niccol). In Gattaca, genetically engineered individuals were considered to be more powerful (held a higher social status) than those who were born with imperfections (“invalids”) because they had inherited the ideal traits and genes (Niccol). Since Vincent had not been genetically engineered, he had endured several hardships and was unable to fulfill his dream of working in the Gattaca Company (Niccol) unlike his younger brother who is genetically engineered. In order to fulfill his ambitions, Vincent manipulates the genes of a another genetically engineered individual Jerome Morrow (also known as Eugene, a disabled athlete), and acquires his appearance/identity (Niccol). For instance, Jerome provides different packages of blood and urine to help Vincent conceal his identity (Niccol). This film addresses the prevalence of genetic manipulation and how Vincent combats the suppression he had faced previously while maintaining a new identity in the hopes of achieving his dream and living a better life (Niccol).
In the film Gattaca, for scene one, Vincent and his other genetically unenhanced colleagues are shown to be performing unskilled jobs such as janitorial work (cleaning the buildings, walls, and roofs) of the Gattaca Company (Niccol). During this scene, Vincent dreams about his ambitions to work in space as he is cleaning the walls of the Gattaca Company, but realizes that due to his genetic imperfections (not ideal genes), he is unable to achieve a higher social status (Niccol). The first sociological concept that will be discussed in this paper is social stratification, which occurs when individuals are divided into different groups based on their “social class and status” (Ritzer 2019 Page 170). For instance, this scene relates with social mobility because it depicts how Vincent is hoping to “move up [in the] hierarchy” – upward mobility – to fulfill his ambition of working in the Gattaca Company (Ritzer 2019 Page 182 and Niccol). In this particular scene, Vincent experiences downward mobility mainly due to his genetics and thus, providing him an unskilled job, since the society values genetically engineered individuals to be more successful and competent. Social mobility plays a very important role in this film because it highlights the struggles and challenges an individual endures in order to successfully pursue a career in the Gattaca Company (Ritzer 2019).
Furthermore, this concept is applicable to the content of this scene because it highlights the disparities that are present between genetically engineered individuals and “genetically unenhanced” individuals and displays the different classes and statuses; genetically engineered are known as the upper-class with higher social status while others are deemed as the lower-class with lower status (Niccol). Additionally, individuals who have been genetically engineered since birth have an ascribed status since they have inherited the ideal traits/genes and therefore, deemed to be more superior than those who were not genetically modified. Since Vincent had not been genetically engineered (ascribed status) prior to birth, he had encountered downward mobility since society did not accept “genetically unenhanced” individuals (Niccol and Ritzer 2019 Page 183). Moreover, this scene does speak to my sociological imagination because it provides one the opportunity to examine the differences that are present in Gattaca’s society and learn more about social stratification ideology.
For scene two, Vincent is working in the Gattaca Company and about to get on his flight to “travel to space” (Niccol). However, before Vincent can get on the flight, he is required to provide a sample of his blood to confirm his genetic identity (Niccol). Although the doctor realizes that Vincent is not genetically engineered, he allows Vincent to get on the flight and fulfill his dreams. The second sociological concept that will discussed in this paper is racism/discrimination, which occurs when certain groups are considered to be more superior and preferred over other inferior groups (Ritzer 2019 Page). This particular scene relates with the “majority-minority population” because it displays how Vincent who once belong to the minority group (individuals who were not genetically engineered) has now become a member of the majority population though genetic manipulation (Ritzer 2019). For instance, Vincent’s journey from being a genetically “invalid” to becoming genetically “valid” depicts how Vincent had fulfilled his dream of working in the Gattaca Company (Niccol). Another important aspect that Vincent endures due to his lower social status is discrimination, since he had not inherited the ideal genes (Niccol). Since Vincent had not been genetically engineered, he was initially unable to accomplish his dreams and had been suppressed by the beliefs and norms of society (Niccol). After obtaining another identity through genetic manipulation, Vincent had successfully achieved his dream which is shown when he enters the plane to “travel to space” (Niccol). This particular scene also speaks to my sociological imagination, since I learned more about social class, social status, and genetic discrimination in this film.
This film is very interesting because it effectively displays the prevalence of genetic engineering and gene manipulation in Gattaca’s society. Social stratification has allowed me to assess this film from a sociological perspective rather than watching it as a lay-observer because it helped me analyze how social status and class plays an important role in genetics (Ritzer 2019). For instance, genetically engineered individuals were considered to be the most dominant (“elite”) group and thus, held a higher social position in society primarily due to their ideal characteristics (Niccol). Conversely, individuals who were not genetically engineered were seen as “invalids” and therefore, held a lower social position/class in its society (Niccol). The first time I watched this film, I had observed that genetically engineered individuals and “genetically unenhanced” individuals were enduring discrimination mainly due to their imperfect characteristics (there were no alterations in their genome/DNA). After watching this film from a sociological perspective, I observed how social class, social status, and social mobility had played an important role in genetics (Ritzer 2019). For example, Vincent had initially encountered downward mobility and performed unskilled jobs since he was not genetically engineered and oppressed by the upper-class members of society (Ritzer 2019 and Niccol). After Vincent acquires the identity of another genetically engineered individual (Jerome Morrow), he experiences upward mobility through gene manipulation (Niccol).
How can social bonds and relationships reduce the prevalence of genetic discrimination in society? This question is sociologically significant because it presents an issue – genetic discrimination – which impacts all individuals who are not genetically engineered on a personal level; ultimately this becomes a “[global]/public issue” that affects the entire human population in Gattaca’s society (Ritzer 2019 and Class Notes). This question may be helpful for sociologists because it provides them the opportunity to gain valuable information and determine if social bonds and relationships aid in the reduction of genetic discrimination and manipulation. For instance, sociologists may analyze if maintaining stronger social bonds strengthens the relationships between genetically engineered individuals and those who are not genetically engineered (Class Notes). Additionally, this question also analyzes whether maintaining stronger social bonds and relationships eventually decreases the genetic discrimination that is present in society.