Gattaca Observation (spoilers)

I liked this movie a lot, and more or less agree with it’s basic message (people should be judged by what they do and are capable of doing, not by who or what they are).

However, one of the plot points severely undermines one of the assumptions of the movie. The movie would have us believe that Vincent has the brains and the determination to be an excellent navigator, but solely because his genetic profile doesn’t meet standards, he has been denied the opportunity to prove his worth. For the most part, this is true. But Vincent also has a severe heart defect which would have washed him out of any space program in history. Limiting astronauts to people with healthy hearts isn’t predjudice, it’s a perfectly reasonable job qualification. If I were in charge of a space program, I would immediately get rid of anyone with a good chance of suffering heart failure when subjected to the 15-20 g’s of a launch.

Had they limited Vincent’s “shortcomings” to things not directly related to reasonable job qualifications for an astronaut(nearsightedness [easily cured], being too short, premature baldness, a low potential IQ, physical attractiveness, etc.) their point would have been much stronger.

I think you are missing the point of the movie. IIRC, the heart defect is possible not actual. His heart has a problem that may be an issue. I seem to remeber that Vincent beat his brother, who was genetically engineered to be perfect, in a swim race once the were grown ups. I could be wrong because I haven’t seen the movie lately.

I think the point of the movie was that gene typing is the the same as racism.

But I could be wrong.


IIRC Vincent wasn’t excluded as much because of the potential for heart failure as he was because he was a “godchild,” not being genetically engineered. The non-engineered, natural-born people were considered second-class because they existed, not because of any potential genetic problems.

Vincent beat his brother in the swimming race because his brother would always keep something in reserve to swim back to shore and Vincent didn’t.

I understand what the point of the movie was, and I agree with it, as I said in the OP. My point was that, in this particular case, the genetic predjudice is rendered moot by Vincent’s heart condition. In a system based entirely on merit, Vincent would not have been going into space. The heart defect was not just a potential one, it was established in the treadmill scene that this was an actual problem for him. After 20 minutes on the treadmill, when the recording runs out, his heartbeat is unusually rapid, and he collapses in the locker room clutching his chest.

I don’t think you agree with the main point of the movie as I understand it. (To be honest, I don’t either; I’m with you. But, I’ll play movie’s advocate here.) Whether it’s reasonable or not, discrimination based on anything which can be manipulated genetically is problematic. As an example, I’ll point out the fact that there isn’t anyone today who’s going to withstand 20 g’s. Suppose that space flights today expose someone to 6 g’s. Now suppose that one of the genetic enhancements that we could get at birth is the ability to withstand huge g-forces, and it was so cheap that everyone got it. Once half the population (the engineered half) were able to withstand it, the space people realize they can make space flights cheaper and faster if they use more thrust. The problem is that non-engineered people will no longer be able to go on space flights. Oh well, that doesn’t matter. There are still plenty of potential astronauts to pick from. Is that fair?

Truly a great allegorical movie. My take on it was along the lines of “a mutt dog is going to be healthier and better adjusted than a pure-bred” and that this applies to people, too, even if convention wisdom sez otherwise. The rest (the heart condition, the swim race, etc.) were illustrations of this basic concept.

hearts is funny things, they is.

I had a heart murmur in my youth/childhood,
that now seems to have disappeared.
The docs say this is not unusual.

It was so bad, at one time, that they put a Holter-monitor on me,
and were so alarmed by the readings that I was put on medication, told that it was necessary or I’d never get old,
more exams/tests necessary, possible surgery etc. etc.

Well my EKG’s clean now.
Totally steady.
No surgery.
Medication: I just quit it, one day, despite dire warnings that it was addictive-yet-necessary, and that sudden withdrawal would be dangerous
(and it was a bit rough. Scary. But not lethal, after all)
A few other personal adjustments, and the problem
seems to have cleared up by itself.

My heart is strong.
Okay, it still “dances” once in a while.
This little oddness is painless for me, and not weakening, but always caused consternation, and for some reason suppressed anger/irritation, from the physicians treating me . ( Probably was directed at my “attitude” toward the medication, rather than at the ailment itself. Understandable. I’m told I’m abrasive)
And now I seem to be unusually healthy…

Blah blah blah…
Sorry, didn’t mean for this to turn into a personal history.
BUT you can see why I relate to Gattaca particularly.

Any good M.D. will tell you:
they don’t know everything. Even today.
The human body has a wonderful, and often unrealized, ability to heal itself.
This quality is what makes the prediction of potential

The swim-race in Gattaca illustrates this perfectly.
His “not saving anything for the return trip”
(sorry quote not exact)
just may be the definition of heroism.

Ok, so maybe I’m off on the g-forces present at a space launch. That wasn’t the point I was trying to make. Vincent has a physical defect that would prevent his being included in a space program regardless of what his genetic profile says, and this renders any discrimination that might take place moot. If he were being denied a job as a ground-based flight planner, which doesn’t have any physical requirements, this would be a case of unfair predjudice.

Achenar: Yep, I’d say that’s fair. People should be chosen for a job based on their ability to do that job. Being able to withstand high g-forces is a job qualification for being an astronaut. If genetic manipulation at conception were able to give people the ability to withstand higher g-forces, this would have the effect of making more people able to meet this criterion for space work. It would harm no one (see below).

Generalize this idea to any rarely occurring trait that can be genetically enhanced at conception. We would now have three groups of people:

A: Those who naturally posess the trait.
B: Those who would not naturally have posessed the trait, but now do.
C: Those who would not have posessed the trait, and still do not.

Groups A and C are not affected. Their status regarding this trait is not changed for the worse or for the better. Group B is better off than they were. No one is harmed. The potential for harm comes from people being judged on their genetic profile rather than their performance regarding whatever the particular job qualification might be.

If the point of the movie is that genetic manipulation of the kind depicted is inherently bad, then I disagree.

If it is a cautionary tale about the potential danger for abuse of genetic information, I agree. I think the point is the latter, but I can see how it could be interpreted the other way.

What I want to know is…

What fool designer builds a house furnace that can be operated from the inside? You’d think that would be a big negative selling point with parents.

I think the point of the movie was as sleestak originally pointed out: A society that is permeated with genetic profiling. Vincent is excluded not because he actually has a heart defect, but because his gentic profile says he will , with a 90% probability, have a heart defect. Remember, nobody in the movie actually tests that he has the defect, or observes that he has it. They don’t need to; they have his genetic profile: both as Vincent (in which he is rejected) and as Jerome (where he is accepted). That’s the point the movie is making: society is accepting or rejecting him based on an entry in a database , not by finding out who he really is or what he’s actually capable of.

I think the treadmill scene needlessly complicates the point of the movie, but then real life is not simple either. OK, so he actually does have the heart defect, which as Number Six rightly points out should disqualify him. But that’s not what Gattaca used to disqualify him as Vincent or* qualify * him as Jerome. As Vincent, he would not event have the opportunity to get on the treadmill. And ironically, the real Jerome would not even be able to get on the treadmill (although, as the movie points out, you don’t need legs in the weightlessness of space).

Don’t forget Uma Thurman’s character. Even though she’s engineered, she really does have the heart defect. She’ll never go up, but she’s still got the cushy job and the nice apartment.

Vincent, on the other hand, is preferred out of any educational or job opportunities, not because he has a heart defect, but because his genes say he may have a heart defect. I don’t think the treadmill scene proves he has a defect–it just proves he isn’t in as good a shape as Jerome is expected to be. Which isn’t the same as saying he’d have washed out if they tested him on his actual qualifications instead of his gene profile.

You’re absolutely 100% right. Plus it was established that his heart was so bad that listening to it would give him away.

As a matter of fact most of the movie undermines the situation set up. If you give the situation the slightest thought, the entire film is just plain stupid. Why bother to spend all that time checking all your employees every day? It’s a complete waste of effort. And how the hell do you hire people without even seeing if their competent for the job? Do they hire doctors merely on their genetic profile? I sure as hell won’t want one of them treating me.

And the company doctor is ridiculous – he’s upholding a system he doesn’t believe in, and when he realizes Vincent is a fake, he doesn’t have the sense to tell him “I know what you are, but I’ll keep your secret.”

It’s only a thoughtful movie if you don’t bother thinking about how stupid it really is.

That was my problem with it. The daily finger poke would be easy to fake. In addittion, having blood drawn from the same spot each day would be bad for the finger. I figure that you’d eventually end up with a heck of a bruise. The diabetics I’ve known generally go through fingers in series. By the time you get back to your right index, it’s had nine days to heal.
Retinal scans would be much harder to fake.