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Headscratchers: Gattaca
  • Urine is sterile, it does not contain any genetic material (unless there is something seriously wrong somewhere late in the digestive tract, like internal bleeding).
  • Are Vincent's parents genetically enhanced or not? And if they are, where do all his bad genes like the ones that gave him his myopia and heart condition come from? His parents must have carried those genes or he wouldn't have inherited them. And they seemed to have been pretty well off, which contradicts the whole "non-enhanced people are so horribly descriminated against" idea the movie was trying to push. Yes, there are mutations, but that giant laundry list of bad genes they read off in the beginning of the movie when they scanned his genome? I have a pretty hard time believing those were all random mutations that happened in a single generation. I can think of a couple of possible explanations:
    • His parents weren't genetically enhanced. The discrimination against Invalids doesn't effect the older generation so much because by the time it got started they'd already been grandfathered into good positions. Yes, there was an older genetically enhanced character, but he might have been born at a time when it was still something that only relatively wealthy people could afford.
      • We don't know that the old guy was a product of genetic screening tech, only that he doesn't have "markers" for violence, which could occur naturally as well.
    • The discrimination against Invalids really wasn't all that bad. We get a distorted impression of it because Vincent wanted to be an astronaut, which from the looks of it is in his time still a highly "elite" position where there are lots more candidates than openings and they only take what they view as the best of the best.
      • Really? So it is "not so bad" to discourage children to go for certain jobs that they are otherwise completely eligible for just so that companies can only hire who they view as "perfect" based on a flawed view of human potential? I'm sure if you lived in a world like this, you would be just fine being relegated to a life of being a janitor, simply because hospitals or law firms feel that just because you weren't "optimized", you have no business being a doctor or lawyer, despite having the degrees, the grades, and the experience that make the real importance. It was not too long ago that some countries' educational systems would only let children with certain standardized test scores be prepared for certain careers. That system was done away with because they realized what this movie had been saying since the beginning: we never can tell exactly just what someone's potential is because there are more factors that determine success in life than what society values at that moment.
      • There's also the fact that "Jerome" didn't even need to interview for the position; obviously, genetic discrimination is a thing. Presumably there were tons of candidates who were highly qualified; "Jerome" could have been a complete idiot who didn't know or care about space, but his genes got him the job over those possibly more qualified candidates who were genetically inferior.
    • The enhancement seemed to consist of producing huge numbers of fertilized eggs, gene-scanning them, and picking the one with the best combination of genes. Which is really eugenics rather than actual genetic engineering. It's probable that fertilized eggs with deletrious genes might still get picked as long as the genes were recessive. Only picking the ones with no deletrious genes whatsoever would mean you'd have to use more embryos and that would be more expensive, and the thinking is probably that deletrious recessives don't matter because they won't effect the health of the child and when they want to have children of their own they will probably use the same procedure. In fact, leaving deletrious recessives in there would be very much in the long-term interest of the biotech companies. If they eliminated all undesirable genes then they'd probably lose most of their customers in the long run, as genetically "perfect" people wouldn't need artificial intervention to produce genetically "perfect" children. But if they leave deletrious recessives in there then the "perfected" people are going to have to go back to the company if they want to be assured of having "perfect" children of their own.
      • In fact, the above relates to one of the most glaring problems about this movie: Medical technology relating to correcting existing conditions seems to have stalled, or even went backwards from present day. Eye surgery is mentioned by the doctor, but nobody tries heal the heart condition. But this fits in with the message of the movie, since it isn't even established whether Vincent truly has a heart condition or not.
    • One, you don't get rid of genes. You can either turn them on or off, but they always exist within you. It's the combination of genes as well as the timing of the genes that determine your biology. Not to mention genetic drift which happens by mere act of picking and choosing (through evolution or otherwise). So even with 'perfect' parents, you can still end up with any number of tweaks and changes - after all, if you were simply a copy of your parents, you'd look and be a duplicate of them (Lamarck Was Right) rather than a unique individual. As far as Vincent and medical technology, he did -not- have a heart defect. What he had was something like a 90% chance of developing one. This was treated, thanks to the social mores of the film, as prophesy and truth rather than random chance. It's possible they did have the technology to assist his heart condition... if he had ever developed it. In this situation, he would be discriminated against for having the surgery akin to how modern society still treats going to a psychiatrist or a psychologist as a social stigma.
  • How about Vincent's "interview" consisting solely of a genetic test? Sure, it will say that he has "perfect" genes, but what about training, personality, knowledge of the subject-matter, or any of a hundred other characteristics that they would base their decision on? In fact, since there are an increasing number of Designer Babies, wouldn't the selection process be more, rather than less restrictive?
    • You just pointed out the whole Aesop of the movie. Congratulations!
    • The genetic scan was the entirety of the in-person interview - presumably the interest and knowledge requirements would have been determined in the previous parts of the application process (essay, etc). It's also estabilshed in movie that their genetic scanning supposedly includes personality screening - the director's "check my profile, not a violent bone in my body" (may not be exact quote).
  • What on earth are these guys training to do on their trip to Titan? I see no spacesuit training, piloting training, science training, anything!
    • We pick up the story just a few days before the scheduled launch- all the training they would presumably need would have been completed long before that, with all that's required being regular maintenence exercise in the last few days prior.

  • And also, why in space do they wear their business suits onto the rocket? Unless at the end they were just getting onto a transport that would bring them to the launch area where they would, presumably, change into proper flight suits. (But there was no mention of that.) And aren't real astronauts kept in quarantine for days before liftoff to reduce the risk of getting sick or injured?
    • Maybe Titan has already been terraformed? It'd be inhabitable but that kind of distance would mean it wouldn't be a picnic destination or anything.
      • Vincent's description of it as being a mystery world shrouded in fog that the mission is going to explore implies it's not terraformed or even settled yet. The astronauts traveling into space in their business suits and gearing up properly aboard a space station is almost certainly correct.
      • Maybe Vincent is hallucinating that he's wearing his business suit in the final scene? I mean, the guy was practically dying. (I dunno, I got nothin')
      • The space travel technology was significantly advanced - there are shuttle launches almost every hour, so it's not inconceivable that specialized suits weren't needed for takeoff. The Titan mission was special because it's a Long Way Off and they haven't been there before. They'll likely be doing their research via external sensors, and even if they do end up EVA, there's no reason those suits wouldn't be stored in the passenger cabins.
      • The simplest solution that I can think of is that the shuttle they are in just gets them into orbit, where they might dock with a station or transfer to another rocket for the rest of the trip, at which point they will get changed. Getting off-planet and traveling through space present very different engineering challenges, and with space-travel being so common, all those shuttle launches need to be heading somewhere, right? I admit there's not a single shred of evidence to support this, but if I'm remembering correctly, nothing specific to disprove it either.

  • Why does Jerome live in a house with stairs if he's in a wheelchair? The house was most likely provided by Tony Shalhoub's black marketeer - there weren't any single-floor apartments available?
    • Probably because he was living in that house since before his paralysis and simply didn't move out. Tony Shalhoub's character does imply that nobody knows what happened to Jerome Morrow - which is, as told to us, because Jerome doesn't want his condition known. This means he didn't leave the house or rent/buy another one, playing the role of the shut-in Valid who is mad at the world for ever being second best at swimming.
    • Also, Rule of Symbolism. The stairs resemble a strand of DNA. That means when Eugene was climbing up the stairs, it was a Visual Pun.

  • Putting up a whole manhunt due to one stray eyelash seems really overkill. Why doesn't anybody seem to consider the possibility that maybe the source of the eyelash never entered the building and it just happened to be caught in the clothing of authorized personnel or something similar?
    • Aesop again. It's... inconceivable for the investigators that a Valid could have killed the director. So, what does the investigating team do, they look for an Invalid. The eyelash is a link to an Invalid, found very near the crime scene, which makes it plausible (given their precondition to believe it) that an Invalid is responsible. If you think about it, a full-blown investigation into the authorized personnel and the Invalid staff does take place and it SHOULD. It wouldn't be a stretch to think, from the investigators' point of view, that the death of the director was an Invalid-related hate crime (rather than what it turned out to be.)
    • Also, the eyelash belonged to someone not on the employee list meaning that, from the eyes of the investigators, it belonged to a non-employee meaning either a guest or an intruder.

  • These astronauts have no team spirit, no cameraderie. Do they even know each other's names?
    • Well actually, that sort of plays into one of the film's many messages, the dullness of a perfect society and the stripping of the human spirit and imagination. It is stylistic mechanism right? This is an artistic film - you should hopefully find this element thought provoking and if so, you will then recognize the wonderful poetic nature of the film as a whole - specifically that the film itself fosters imaginative thought and therefore (within the context of its theme) speaks directly to the strengths and vulnerabilities of you own human spirit ;)

  • Wanna know what happens when you swim out into the ocean and don't save anything for the trip back? You drown!
    • Unless a shark eats you first. But you still win the race. Plus, it was too late to turn back anyway. They were closer to "the other side." [[blah]] Swimming to the other side meant exerting all your energy into the mission at hand, and moving forward, not looking back. Its like a symbolic burning of bridges and the letting go of a crutch that is the security of the shore.
    • Besides it was a race... it wasnt just aimlessly swimming out into the sea or lake until you drown. It was about who had the passion to go all the way and who will panic first and give up.
    • So how does he have energy to get back AND save Anton from drowning if he didn't save any? Doesn't that just mean he's actually stronger than Anton?
      • It means this movie averts Exact Time to Failure-people in general are not good judges of how strong they are. Anton would turn back just when he started to get tired to make sure he could get back. Vincent got tired, and just kept going forward.
      • Except that still doesn't explain how Anton nearly drowned either time. There is a big difference between misjudging how much energy you have left and running out of energy.
      • This ties into the post below as well. Anton nearly drowned because of a panic and anxiety attack. He believed he knew exactly how far he could go and make it back. He believed he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt. He never had to push himself. When it came to that point and Vincent went further, he would have been overcome with fear - fear that to beat Vincent, he would cross that point that he believed would equal death. He also believed that Vincent was the less athletic of the two (aided by their past races). So when he saw Vincent go further out than he was, he believed Vincent was basically swimming to his death AND swimming to a point where he (Anton) could not save him because he would die as well. Imagine experiencing that kind of moral and emotional trauma and panic for the first time in your life out in the middle of the ocean. He believed he was watching his brother die. So Anton drowning was not about being out of energy but being in a situation he was never prepared to face because he'd always assumed that, thanks to perfect genes, he would never face a situation he couldn't handle.
      • Well that's the whole allegory of the line; Vincent just doesn't care anymore, society tells him he can't do it; he would rather die than not try at all; he's fighting the system so he doesn't need to play it safe, he will push himself to the limit and beyond. When he says that he's mocking his brother, who is self-assured and complacently relying on his superior genetic make up, while Vincent chooses to find out just how far can he go.
    • Prone floating can allow you to recover, as you only expend energy to pull yourself up to breathe. It helps that the ocean is 3.5% denser than fresh water, which works out to an extra five pounds of buoyant force.

  • Can anyone explain to me why the real Jerome committed suicide in the end?
    • Without Vincent on Earth he had no one to financially support him. At least that's how I saw it.
      • His purpose in life was fulfilled and he was gone. Vincent had fulfilled both of their dreams. I don't see it so much as a suicide and more as a symbolic sacrifice. Vincent has become Jerome and so the broken shell left behind disposes of itself. I'm not sure if that makes any sense. It's hard to articulate.
      • Am I the only one who was upset by his means of suicide? My first viewing, I figured the whole movie was leading up to Jerome swimming out to sea and drowning but I actually missed a bit of the movie and when I came back to see him burning, I assumed it had something to do with the flames of the rocket carrying Vincent. Second viewing, I found out Jerome fed himself into the garbage disposal! Yikes! I can certainly imagine a suicidal person doing that, as a final act of supreme self-contempt, but Jerome wasn't like that at all — he was just ready to "leave Earth".
      • Think about it - any other way of killing himself would have left a corpse that would have been eventually investigated. The investigator(s) would have taken tissue samples and would have instantly figured out Vincent's ruse. He used the garbage disposal not for psychological/symbolic reasons, but purely for practicality - by being turned into ash and presumably disposed of/recycled, he left no trace of himself.
      • I was left with the feeling he was done being second best. I feel like he accepted the deal with Vincent so his name wouldn't be tarnished with "second place" forever, and that's why he got so mad when Vincent tried to back out. At the end, he could die content knowing he would be remembered for something besides his silver medal. Also, he must have felt like trash during the entire operation, existing only to supply Vincent with his genetic material (aka, being second best). With his pride, it must have tormented him to the point where it would be a relief to die. What haunts me is if Vincent knew when he was presented with a lifetime supply of materials that Jerome was going to kill himself.
    • Also bear in mind that he was unable to do most of the things he enjoyed due to his disability and probably desperately lonely. And he probably felt like, with Vincent being gone, he'd outlived his purpose.
    • For that matter, who builds a trash incinerator with an on-button on the inside?!
      • He reached through a slit of the door and pressed the button.
  • Jerome says that he has produced a life-time's worth of genetic material for Vincent to use when he comes back, and we see a bunch of stuff. But can you really produce, say, a lifetime's worth of urine samples within a few months or a year or two? Did Jerome really have enough skin and hair to provide a lifetime of skin flakes and hairs for Vincent's comb?
    • How long is Vincent's lifetime?
  • Why does Gattaca (the facility) keep testing its employees' genetic material once they've been certified as genetically pure? This wouldn't be a problem if they did it to catch Vincent, but they've never had this problem before.
    • They're actually drug tests, but the movie's Applied Phlebotinum is ubiquitous instant genetic screening - the computers analyze genetics at the same time just as a matter of fact.
    • There's also the drop of blood employees have to give via finger prick upon entering the building, which replaces photo IDs.
      • Exactly: In the world GATTACA sets up, genetic material is used as the primary form of identification. That's why Vincent is INVALID (that is, he's not in the database of Gattaca babies, so his identification is "not valid") but Eugene is VALID despite being an ''invalid.'' (Invalid- n. 1. an infirm or sickly person. 2. a person who is too sick or weak to care for himself or herself.) The daily drops of blood are equivalent to the access cards used by some secure buildings, while the more intrusive blood and saliva testing seems roughly equivalent to looking at a driver's license.
    • Jerome must have been quite famous in his time. So how come nobody seems to know that he ended up in a wheelchair after his suicide attempt, and it's absolutely okay and not questionable to see him (or Vincent, actually) walk?
      • Think of the last Olympic swimming race you watched. Do you remember who the second place guy was?
      • No, but I bet his competitors and others in the swimming community did. On the other hand, it does seem likely that he could quietly announce he was tired of swimming and would be pursuing something else, and be done with the matter without much question.
      • And how many professional swimmers are really working at Gattaca?
      • Social stigma perhaps. He gets second and so people forget him. When he tries to kill himself, he gets admitted to an invalid hospital or gets treated like one because no one believes a valid would attempt suicide and fail. So as far as the valid community goes, he just kinda left. This kind of situation is echoed in Vincent's interaction with the head janitor. Merely by wearing the suit and being shown the door as a valid, Vincent gets completely different treatment from someone he's already met before (and even worked for!) who also shows no signs of even recognizing or remembering him. This situation is not as far-fetched as you might think - there is a famous story of a journalist talking with Marilyn Monroe while they're walking down a busy New York street. He asks her why no one seems to be recognizing her despite wearing little in way of disguise. She replies along the lines of "Oh, you want to see her." and affects her Marilyn Monroe persona. Instantly people begin flocking to her and recognizing her.
  • The 'Geneticists' would eventually put themselves out of business because the 'Valid' children would produce 'optimum' children thus removing the need for them.
    • But the valids could have even better kids with more genetic playing.
    • Even if you could perfectly screen everyone's DNA sequence at birth, new mutations in one's germ line could still pop up spontaneously. Unless science has gotten to the point where they can completely eliminate all new mutations, there's still potential work for geneticists to do.
    • Not to mention recessive alleles. Unless science has gotten to the point where they can get around THEM, too.
    • The advertising would be pushing "Better safe than sorry!"
    • Short answer: Unless you can stop all factors that influence genetic drift, you're not going to stop mutations. Only some of those factors involve your parents. In addition, you're also making the assumption that there are some sort of Evolution Levels involved which there aren't and/or that perfect/optimum is some objective standing. In context of the film, it isn't - they're called designer babies for a reason and not perfect babies. They're being designed for what their parents want based on social pressure. This can mean if people want babies with purple hair, that becomes a thing. And in the movie itself, there is mention of a 12-fingered pianist - additional digits are genetic anomalies but either the parents of said pianist wanted him/her that way OR like Vincent, he passed it off as a 'superior' genetic trait and people flocked to him because of it. Lastly, look at Vincent himself - it's not that he had a heart condition but rather he had a high chance of a heart condition - a chance that he would develop one before the age of 30. This applies in reverse too (See Doctor Lamar's son) - it's impossible to strictly control what's happening since they're not building a machine (like their marketing line says), they're just stacking the odds. So the companies would always have business because people are fickle.
    • Additionally, the scene in which Vincent's parents "order" his younger brother shows the geneticist offering choices such as hair color and eye color. The geneticists clearly expect purely cosmetic factors to be part of the package, which means there's always something to market.
    • What we see here is really just scratching the surface of what genetic engineering could do. Once they had the process down specialized body types (eg, body builder vs. swimmer), increased endurance, etc. would be viable options. Once it becomes accepted there's no real reason to stick so closely to the norm.
  • Was I the only one bothered by the fact that no-one seemed to mention (or care) what the actual reason was for the warnings against the flight that the guy was murdered for? This seems to closely echo the Challenger disaster, in which it was implied that NASA officials were 'leaning on' the makers of the ceramic tiles to certify them fit for launch at lower temperatures. I kept expecting an ending in which the rocket failed catastrophically.
    • The guy who was murdered was in charge of budget cuts, his objections to the mission were on the basis of cost.
  • The message of the film is supposed to be that the discrimination against Invalids is bad, but if you think about it wasn't the space program pretty justified in rejecting Vincent? The man had a heart condition. He seems to have had a minor heart attack (or at least serious chest pains) at one point in his training. Wouldn't a bad heart probably have washed him out of today's space program too? His myopia would have been a significant liability too. If you're choosing people for a long mission to the outer solar system where they will have no help if anything goes wrong it's perfectly justified to only pick the healthiest candidates. The message would have worked a lot better if they'd had him be physically healthy but the space program rejected him simply because they felt it was safer to go with an enhanced candidate, or for some other reason that didn't involve him actually having a potentially life-threatening medical condition.
    • Not to invalidate your point, but it's implied that the technology that predicts your life with your genes isn't accurate at all, and also negatively affects the lives of genetically enhanced people anyway. It's possible that the predictors become a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy. And in my estimation, it's not that discrimination is bad, but that charting the course of someone's life for them based on their genes is wrong is closer to the film's Aesop.
      • The Aesop holds due to the fact that it wasn't his heart condition or myopia that kept him out. He's not being kept out of Gattaca (or, as implied, many other things) because of his medical condition, he's being kept out because he is an Invalid. They don't even care if he'll have a heart attack or not, just the fact that he's not a Vitro, a Valid, is enough. Therefore, had Vincent been in perfect health and no chance of heart failure whatsoever, they would still keep him out. They pick the healthiest candidates, sure, but even those candidates have to be Valids in order to be chosen. It's kinda of Anvilicious, I know, but hey. Nothing's perfect.
      • While it's assumed he has a heart condition, this is never actually confirmed - the genetic scan at the begining announced a high-ish probability that he'd have one, and he grew up with everyone treating him like it's true. Also, the incident in the gym wasn't a heart attack, it was a panic attack - the investigators had just come into the gym while he was working out and started pulling out people for additional genetic scans.
      • If he'd been raised under the "Gasp! Careful of your heart!" assumption, it may very well have been an unconscious gesture he has or a fear of his.
      • And he would've fixed his eyes with surgery, if it wasn't for the telltale scars.

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