Sep 17, 2018 in Analysis

Gattaca: Self or Subject?

Just like in Gattaca, Klages essay “Interlude: Self or Subject” gives a summary of how thinking about various individuals has alternated between the binary self or subject. This is done through the various genetic manipulations in which individuals who have not undergone any gene changes are referred to as “self” while those who have undergone various pre-implantation genetic alterations are referred to as the “subjects”. Gattaca is a science fiction film produced in 1997 which presents viewers with a bio punk vision regarding the future society which is driven through liberal eugenics in which potential children are selected to ensure that they have their parents’ hereditary traits. Through the use of biometrics, the “real” and the “subjects” or the “valids” and the “in-Valids”are identified and created. In Gattaca, the characters continually battle with not only themselves but the society as well in order to find their rightful place in the society and where they are destined to be based on their genes.

Given the fact that Vincent Freeman was conceived and born naturally without the use of liberal eugenics and DNA known to ascertain social class, Vincent is a self who is finally converted to a subject in order to achieve his desired dream. The culture in which Vincent lives in is myopic and possesses a high probability of getting mental disorders, heart defect and life expectancy is 30.2 years only. Because of constant screening, Vincent is faced with prejudice and genetic discrimination which makes him to “borrow a ladder” and thus impersonate an individual having a “valid” powerful genetic profile in order to achieve his dream to be an astronaut. As a result, Vincent assumes Jerome Morrow’s identity, a former prominent person in the swimming profession. Jerome’s identity is bought by Vincent who uses his genuine or valid DNA in hair, tissue, blood and urine samples in order to pass the relevant screening. In order to keep his own identity secret or hidden, Vincent must meticulously scrub and groom down daily so as not only to remove his own genetic materials but also dust or adorn himself with genetic materials from Jerome.          

Gattaca portrays that who you are is more vital than how one was born. Through “Gattaca”, a world of ideology in which genetic enhancement and self advancement greatly prevails. The audience is shown, just as the scene opens, the importance of genetics through the fingernails that have been enlarged and which eventually crash to the ground. In addition, the letters G, A, T & C are highlighted to imply the 4 basic nucleotides comprising of the DNA. Despite the fact that this suggest that individuals having better genes actually have higher potential, Vincent’s character who happens to be of natural birth, portrays that despite the fact that this character has limited potential, he also supersedes the characters who are genetically enhanced. Throughout the essay, Vincent is depicted as an individual having passion and spirit a compared to other characters like for instance Anton and Jerome. This is therefore a clear suggestion that “who one is is actually more vital than how one was born” (Niccol 1997).

Binary oppositions structure the way individuals perceive, think and act in the world. Self is a concept which was constructed from and within the language while selfhood is an illusion which is produced by language. The entity that inhabits the language structure is subjected to limitations and rules of language and thus the “self” concept is misrecognition of the position of an individual as being a subject in a language. The “Self” as defined in the humanist model refers to “… a conscious being which had the rationality and logic of discovering the truth regarding the world workings and which was able of acting and thinking for herself or himself independently and without eternal influences”. In addition, the “self” is able to reflexively think regarding the status of her or his own being. On the other hand, the poststructuralist notion regarding the notion of “subject” decenters the radical idea of stripping “self” of its inability and autonomy of deducing the truth (Klages 2006).

Through Gattaca, Klages’ themes of binary self or subject in “Interlude: Self or Subject” are clearly reflected. The debate regarding the tempering of human genetics is clearly crystallized through Klages essay and in the film in which the societal acceptance of liberal eugenics and genetic determinist ideologies are brought to the limelight. Through both the essay and the film, the idea of self and subject are given prominence through drawing concerns regarding various reproductive technologies. Such reproductive technologies enhance eugenics and possible effects of using such technological enhancements or developments for the society while at the same time exploring the idea of destiny and the means through which it can and actually do govern human life. For instance, having no place in the world and saddened to leave, Jerome mused “…they say every atom in our bodies was once a part of a star. May be I’m not leaving: maybe I’m going home…” (Niccol 1997).  

At one time in my life, I was also forced to transform myself from being a self to a subject. There came a time when an advertisement came up in which young men having good high grade were being sought for to be given lucrative jobs. Given the fact that I attained low grades, I was forced to take up my friend Jeff’s papers and assume all his characters in order to be given the work. As a result, I ended up getting the work in the pretext that I was Jeff yet I was not. I also, just like Vincent ended up thanking Jeff because of the success I achieved through using his names.   

Works Cited

  1. Klages, Mary. Literary Theory: A Guide for the Perplexed. 2006.  
  2. Niccol, Andrew. Gattaca. 1997. Retrieved on 9th October 2012 from

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