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Deciphering GATTACA: A Cinematic Vision of a Future Dominated by Genetic Control

Gattaca depicts a future where genetic editing enables the selection of embryos based on optimal hereditary traits, striving for perfection.

Have you ever contemplated the extent to which genetic editing can reach? The movie Gattaca presents a future driven by eugenics, where children are conceived through genetic selection to possess the best hereditary traits of their parents. This process also involves predicting the likelihood of developing diseases and estimating life expectancy from birth.

The film revolves around Vincent Freeman, who wasn't conceived through the eugenics program and must overcome genetic discrimination to achieve his dream: traveling to space. To do so, he must assume the identity of Jerome Morrow, an individual genetically modified for perfection. The characters in this story grapple with both society and themselves in their quest to find their destinies. Will humanity ever reach a point where such a society exists?


GATTACA and genetics

The movie "Gattaca" presents a futuristic view of genetics, where genome sequencing is instantaneous and efficient, unlike the current reality which requires hours or even days even with advanced technology. The film highlights the astonishing immediacy of genetic identification, raising questions about the current capabilities and limitations of technology.

In the world of Gattaca, genetic samples require no prior processing; a simple blood prick or urine sample is enough to identify a person within seconds. This swiftness contrasts with current procedures, prompting reflections on the feasibility of similar technologies in contemporary reality.

La forma de identificación personal en GATTACA es mediante pruebas de ADN, si la luz es verde tu ADN se corresponde con el de tu persona en el registro y si es roja al contrario.
In GATTACA, personal identification is through DNA tests: a green light indicates that your DNA matches your identity in the registry, while a red light signifies the opposite.

The plot reveals a society divided between genetically enhanced individuals and those deemed "invalid," predetermined for their job opportunities based on their genetic makeup. This can be correlated with CRISPR, a current technique enabling precise genome editing. While Gattaca presents a more extreme vision, CRISPR exemplifies how current science can alter genes for therapeutic and investigative purposes, sparking ethical and social debates.

The movie is grounded in one of the current trends in science: personalized medicine. This field aims to provide each patient with the most suitable treatment based on their genetic code. Presently, research investigates genetic predispositions to diseases, markedly contrasting with the film's premise, where this determination is made directly on a newborn.

Despite being a work of science fiction, Gattaca prompts us to question the ethics and social impact of genetic manipulation as technology advances. The film underscores the importance of addressing issues of access and equity as genetic manipulation becomes more commonplace, blurring the line between reality and fiction.


Symbolism in the film

Las escaleras mostradas en esta escena hacen alusión a la doble hélice de ADN.
The stairs depicted in this scene allude to the double helix structure of DNA.

The movie Gattaca is steeped in symbolism right from its title, as "Gattaca" represents a sequence of DNA. Even the setting where the protagonists reside contributes to this symbolism. The main characters' apartment includes a spiral staircase, which serves as a clear visual reference to the genetic backdrop of the plot. This symbolism reinforces the film's central idea about the importance and influence of DNA in the depicted society, emphasizing how genetics dictate not only individual opportunities but also the very structure of life in that dystopian reality.

The choice of the name adopted by the protagonist, Jerome Eugene Morrow, adds another layer of meaning to Gattaca's storyline. The term "Eugene," derived from Greek, means "well-born." This choice is a direct allusion to eugenics, a social philosophy advocating for improving hereditary traits through genetic intervention and selective methods. By assuming the identity of Jerome, a genetically enhanced individual, the main character Vincent Freeman not only tries to conceal his true identity but also symbolically delves into the pursuit of genetic perfection associated with eugenics. The name choice reinforces the film's critique of the ethical and social implications of genetic manipulation and the obsessive quest for perfection.


"A distant future... or maybe not so distant after all"

In the 21st century, genetics has advanced by leaps and bounds, and we're already capable of creating genetically modified organisms. Even today, the first treatments using the CRISPR genetic editing technique are being approved, bringing us closer to the future depicted in the movie. Would it truly be ethical to live in a society where genetically modified individuals are regarded as valid and naturally born individuals as invalid? Is it ethically justifiable to enhance our genes in laboratories to become more perfect humans?

El avance genético plantea dilemas éticos sobre la equidad en el acceso a la modificación genética.
Genetic advancement raises ethical dilemmas regarding equity in accessing genetic modification.

The unequal accessibility to this technology could generate conflicts and inequalities, likely being restricted to the more affluent social classes, impacting the healthcare system and widening social divides.

Superficial details in the movie mirror present-day realities, such as the covert acquisition of genetic data through DNA samples, fueling paranoia and the culture of appearance fostered by social media. Therefore, if such a situation arises in the future, it will be crucial to ensure that all individuals have equitable access to these advancements.

Written by Alberto Molero

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