Suffering in the Crucible and GattacaGet Your
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Arthur Miller’s play “The Crucible” and Andrew Niccol’s film “Gattaca” both present the idea that suffering can lead to growth through their main characters John Proctor (Crucible) and Vincent Freeman (Gattaca) and their very unique experiences . The authors then explore who their characters share the burden of their ordeals with and how they assist in turning their suffering into growth. Despite the fact John and Vincent live in two completely different worlds over three centenaries apart they both experience the same struggle against society and are both considered failures in their communities but grow by overcoming their inadequacies.
Miller uses John who is a man who holds a great belief in holding and maintaining a respectable title within the community to show how his suffering can lead to growth. John suffers through his own actions when his affair with young woman, Abigail Williams, sets in motion a series of events that eventually ends with him being accused of witchcraft. John is given two choices, either lie and offer a public confession to witchcraft and be saved from the gallows or tell the truth and refuse to confess.
Initially John signs his confession but not willing to allow to whole town to think he is a witch, ruining the reputation he has worked so hard to earn. He passionately tears the confession in two and when asked why he exclaims “Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! … I have given you my soul, leave me my name! ” Miller uses this tearing of the confession to signify the moment in which John’s suffering turns into growth as he rallies the courage to stand up to the court and retain his good name.
Unlike John, Vincent is born with his inferior genetic makeup and suffers from birth as he “…belonged to a new underclass, no longer determined by social status or the colour of your skin. ” The underclass Vincent is referring to is a group of people who are known as the ‘In-valids’ who posses an unaltered genetic code and are seen as inferior by those known as the ‘Valids’, people who are genetically engineered to be almost perfect. Niccol uses Vincent’s life of discrimination and his seemingly meaningless existence to show how he suffers in a society obsessed with perfection.
It is this prejudice and injustice that drives Vincent to overcome his inadequacies by taking on the identity of a ‘Valid’ and begin a new life living his dream of working at Gattaca. Niccol shows the audience Vincent’s growth is complete when he finally boards the rocket destined for Titan as he has succeeded in fooling society and has proven an ‘In-valid’ is just as capable as a genetically engineered ‘Valid’. Both Miller and Niccol use their main protagonists to show how their unique types of suffering can eventually lead to growth.
For both John and Vincent overcoming their inadequacies is no easy task and they are both aided by one other individual who is there to support them and help share their ordeals. Even though he was unfaithful to her, John’s wife Elizabeth Proctor is constantly there for him throughout his trail. Elizabeth is also accused of witchcraft but her execution is delayed because she is pregnant. By delaying her execution, Miller has allowed Elizabeth to support her husband and inspire him to choose the path of righteousness and truth.
When Reverend Hale pleads with Elizabeth to convince John to confess she instead replies, “He has his goodness now. God forbid I take it from him! ” Miller has uses Elizabeth’s quotation to show that John has grown enough to finally regain his goodness. Elizabeth doesn’t try to convince John to confess because she knows if he remains truthful at least he can die an honest man who is finally at peace with himself and by doing so has helped him in overcome his suffering.
Just like John, Vincent also has someone who helps him overcome his suffering and that person is Eugene Morrow. Vincent assumes Eugene’s former identity of Jerome Morrow and Eugenes aids him in by providing him with everything he needs to fool the world into thinking he really is Jerome. Eugene also stops Vincent from abandoning the whole scheme when they find Vincent’s eyebrow at the scene of the director’s death. Eugene shares all Vincent’s hard times and always rallies behind him and gives him the motivation to chase after his dream until he eventually achieves it.
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Niccol uses Eugene’s support to show how important a partner is when it comes to turning suffering into growth. John and Vincent both have someone there to support them to help them through their suffering and ultimately to grow as individuals. Arthur Miller and Andrew Niccol have both used their protagonists and their captivating journeys to clearly express their shared idea that it is possible for suffering to lead to growth especially when the target is aided by someone close to them who is willing to share their burden. 838 Words
Author: Eva Dockery
Suffering in the Crucible and Gattaca
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The film Gattaca explores the possibilities of future technology development, and the way in which these advances would affect society. For example, would a society composed of two distinct social classes, and the inequality between them really be an advance? Those who are not genetically manipulated to so -called perfection in a lab, but naturally conceived, are given the name ‘in-valid’ ‘god children’ or ‘de-gene-erates’ , and are treated as second class. Natural conception in the ‘not too distant future’ is rejected in the society of Gattaca, with genetic manipulation seen as “what has become the natural way”. Due to the discrimination of in-valids, what would present day’s multiculturalism and racial diversity be in a time such as that of Gattaca? Would the importance of individuality or personal identity be discarded? As Vincent tells the viewer: “Today we have discrimination down to a science”. Gattaca’s plot and character portrayal asks the viewer this, showing us that unique genetic makeup wouldn’t matter- infact, personal qualities would be scrutinised, pushed aside and unwanted. It is clear that director Andrew Niccol aims to inform the viewer of this through such examples as Irene’s heart defect which doesn’t allow her to pursue her dream, even though she is a valid. Another example is Vincent’s only way to be accepted into society is to lie and assume a valid’s identity. Technology enables Vincent to do so, but infact it is technology that first leads to Vincent’s rejection from his surrounding world, as he was naturally conceived, and therefore is constant suffering under the burden to somehow be equally accepted.
I believe Niccol’s message to the viewer is that in order to truly benefit from the power to change the environment, such as advances in technology giving us the ability to genetically manipulate, we first have to consider both the advantages and disadvantages of our actions to fully understand them. For instance, we must ask ourselves should equality, ambition and individuality be traded for catergorisation in an institutional system with distinction. As actor Jude Law, who plays Jerome, says: “Andrew creates this manicured world in which human feelings are trying to burst out, in which the quest to make a better society has destroyed individuality.” So if we were to live in a future such as that of Gattaca, wouldn’t we lose more than we would gain?
Explain the meaning of the quotes in the pre-exposition sequence. Which of these quotes is best supported by the film text?
‘Consider God’s handiwork: who can straighten what he hath made crooked?’ Ecclesiastes 7:11
I feel this quote is the moral to be learnt within the film’s plot, as it asks the viewer ‘why fix what isn’t broken?’ In the society of Gattaca, wealth determines fate; what parents can afford decides how ‘perfect’ their child will be. This raises the issue of in-valids’ separation from valids (and the whole surrounding society), and the suffocation of in-valids’ desires. This can be referred to with Vincent, as his longing to journey to space. The social hierarchy and racial differences in Gattaca therefore leave in-valids ultimately no reason to live. For instance, Vincent didn’t have high expectations set on him by his parents as he was an in-valid, but still managed to pursue his dreams- only by following society’s mould (appearing as a valid). This quote represents the idea that imperfections should be appreciated rather than dismissed, and that nature, despite its flaws is preferable to a genetically engineered existence due to its consequences. The viewer is shown that the importance of individualism in nature is too valuable and complex to be overridden by genetics. I therefore feel that this quote more strongly supports the film’s plot and character portrayal.
‘I not only think that we will tamper with Mother Nature. I think Mother wants us to’. William Gaylin
This quote, contradicting the previous, represents the opposing opinion that perhaps God himself is not perfect, as He created a flawed world, and that having the ability to change it means we should change it. The need to perfect Mother Nature is a temptation, which increases whilst technology continues to make this ability even more obtainable. By showing the viewer what the future may bring, Niccol is hinting that society is being constantly challenged whether to interfere with what has been provided for us even today, and that these early signs may lead to such manipulating in Gattaca along with its consequences. Surely we should take advantage of technological advances, but will correcting God’s mistakes really result in a more beneficial outcome? This quote is representing what is presented to the viewer directly through the film’s plot and character portrayal, asking the advantages of humans adopting a God-like power to be considered. But due to the “blurred line between health and enhancement” that Niccol informs us of, a constant need to perfect will always be present. So should we eliminate God’s mistakes if we are able to? Would grasping an opportunity in reach seem logical? This quote suggests the approach: ‘Sure. Why not?’
Question 3: How have the film makers established the difference between the natural born Vincent and the genetically selected Anton in the sequence that shows them as children? (E.g. camera shots and angles, lighting and symbolism)
To convey the difference between Vincent and his brother Anton, certain lighting and camera angles are used. For instance, Vincent is conceived at the sea at sunset; in a natural setting expressing calmness. The waves gently lap the shore, also indicating calmness and serenity, and this Vincent will be a product of nature rather than a lab. The close-up of rosary beads and a Christian cross indicate that that a ‘God-child’ will be born to this couple, and that natural and religious beliefs have influenced Vincent’s conception. The fading light represents the beginning of a new day, but the viewer is given the impressions that Vincent’s birth will bring turmoil to his parents. By the doctors’ and Vincent’s parents’ expressions after Vincent is born, the beginning of Vincent’s rejection from society is immediately shown. This instant elimination from birth is emphasised when the viewer is told of Vincent’s life expectancy, a short 30.2 years, and his father reacts to this. Other negative data such as Vincent’s heart defect and ADHD probability is determined without delay to establish if Vincent is worthy of any acceptance. By only informing the viewer of Vincent’s probable deficiencies, and not the benefits, this again adds to Vincent appearing incapable and excluded ever since the moment he was born. The hospital scene uses the same low, hazy lighting as that of Vincent’s conception. This is not an expected light in a surgical environment, as it is gloomy, with the only light coming from the windows. This same washed out sepia tone is seen when Vincent, as a toddler, falls and his mother over-anxiously runs to him. In this scene, we are again shown Vincent’s incapability, appearing weak and dependent. This lighting used also portrays the characters’ emotions; for example, low, gloomy light indicates uncertainty and doubt when Vincent is born. The closing of the iron-bar gate at the preschool where Vincent is denied admission indicates not only Vincent’s rejections, but also the rejection his parents suffer, as they are made to feel ashamed to have brought such a burden into a perfect world. The bars represent exclusion; being locked in or locked out, and Vincent and his parents are definitely being almost banned like a contagious disease from which separation is necessary. The low gloomy light throughout Vincent’s childhood is used to express that these are not bright, happy memories, but a different recollection. This same light is again used when Vincent’s parents visit the geneticist. In this scene, one specific recurring motif is referred to. This is the helix, which can be seen extensively in the structure of staircases and also the toy that Vincent is playing with. Perhaps the playing with of this toy represents the question ‘should genetics be toyed with, and if so, should it be treated like child’s play?’ The use of the helix motif within the staircase at the geneticists’ perhaps represents Gattaca’s society rising to new heights and understandings of such things as technology and genetic manipulation.
When we are first introduced to Anton, a noticeable change in lighting is evident. When his father is measuring his height, Anton is bathed in a golden, glowing light; almost heavenly, as he is worthy of praise and his father’s name, whereas Vincent was not. The set’s colour is richer and the positioning of the characters in the scene indicates that Vincent is left behind, and that his parents and Anton have formed their own family unit that doesn’t involve Vincent. Infact, he has been pushed aside in his impurity. The viewer is shown by the measurements of the brothers that at age eight, Anton is taller, better looking and has a broader figure than Vincent, who at age ten is smaller, skinner and wears glasses. Through this comparison, we are shown which brother is stronger and ultimately, which is better. When Vincent erases is own name from beneath his brother’s it is clear that Vincent is feeling the impact of this constant judgment. The fact that Vincent’s parent chose to have another son adds to the competitiveness of this comparison. For example, strengths and weaknesses wouldn’t have been so obvious if Vincent was to have a sister. The family unit excluding Vincent that has been formed can again be referred to when Vincent is shown sitting apart from Anton and his parents eating breakfast. The viewer is shown Vincent feeding himself intellectually with a book, whereas Anton just eats; he “has no excuse to fail”, therefore not needing this source.
The first game of chicken, when Vincent and Anton are children, we see Anton refusing to be Vincent’s blood brother, as he fears ‘contamination’ by inferior blood. Whilst the boys swim, an aerial shot is used, showing Anton being more physically capable than his brother, strongly swimming ahead. A high camera angle is then used to show a defeated, helpless Vincent suffering in his difficulty. Genetics superiority is portrayed, and the viewer is shown Vincent in a defenceless position, again appearing the weaker. Also, when Vincent lays out his model solar system, Anton snatches Pluto (an apple), low camera angles are used when Anton is shown, giving a sense of superiority, in contrast to the high camera angles looking down on Vincent, giving the impression that that he is the impure; the son who wasn’t worthy of thus father’s name.
Question 4: Consider the implications of the names of the main characters: Vincent Freeman and Jerome Morrow.
Vincent Freeman, being an in-valid, is not as his name implies. The name Vincent, meaning ‘victorious’ and ‘to conquer’, could be an oxymoron, as is Vincent’s surname. Freeman, meaning ‘one not to be forbidden by law’; in other words, free to do as he pleases, is not how Vincent is seen as through society’s discriminative eyes. Vincent cannot turn his dream into a reality without changing the way in which he is observed by surrounding valids (assuming the identity of a valid). Therefore he is not victorious or conquering in the beginning, but by the end of the film, he does manage to journey to Titan despite being discovered a ‘broken ladder’. So, perhaps the name Vincent Freeman is an indication of the character’s journey throughout the film’s plot; Vincent tells us: “it all began” when he first saved Anton’s whilst playing chicken. This is the moment when Vincent discovers he has the strength and determination to excel in his hostile world, and the instant he realises that his goal is possible to be achieved, he doesn’t once look back. In the end, it seems this name may well be suitable for Vincent, having the ability to fulfil his desire of journeying to space, conquering and breaking free of restraint set upon him (his family, for instance) and victoriously overruling genetic superiority with the power of the natural human spirit. “For what it’s worth, I’m here to tell you that it is possible”, Vincent tells Irene. Vincent journey of aspiring and determination shows the viewer this.
Jerome Morrow: The name Jerome, meaning ‘holy’, indicates Jerome as being the desires result; a valid. The meaning of Morrow is ‘sea warrior’. This relates to Jerome’s swimming past and him winning silver instead of gold. The meaning ‘sea warrior’, no longer appropriate as he no longer has the physical ability to swim, could be a taunt towards Jerome, indicating that he is drowning in a sea of defeat and self-pity due to not meeting his genetic profile by coming second. Also, the fact that his suicide plan didn’t go to plan indicates his failure to win. Perhaps Morrow may be an intentional rhyme with ‘sorrow’; as Vincent tells: “He (Jerome) had everything except desire”.
Alternatively, Jerome’s surname may also be related to the question ‘do we really want ‘tomorrow’ to become what we see in Gattaca?’ with genetics ruling over human spirit and individuality. This is perhaps a slight warning to the viewer: would this be a new hope or burden? Jerome has no intention of seeing ‘tomorrow’. Infact he has wanted to, and tried to, escape from tomorrow every since he was “second best”. Jerome realises that having helped Vincent pursue his goal, he no longer needed to exist in ‘tomorrow’, and decided to leave on a high note taking his failures with him, rather than falling back down into his sea to drown in ‘sorrow’.
Later, Jerome asks Vincent to call him Eugene. This is extremely close to the word ‘eugenics’, which is the study and practice of selective breeding applied to humans. Also, the meaning of the name Eugene is ‘well born, noble’, which is exactly what Jerome is. Vincent tells Jerome: “Jerome Morrow. It’s a nice name”. To which Jerome replies: “It’s my name”. “But I can’t be you without it”, Vincent says. So even though Jerome is giving away his first name (meaning ‘holy’) to Vincent, he still owns a sense of superiority by using the name Eugene. This allows him to still feel he has an identity, although most of it was given to Vincent.
Question 5: What is the significance of being an in-valid?
Imagine a society in which there were two distinct groups: valids and in-valids. Suppose you were born an in-valid; you were a victim of discrimination, or ‘genoism’. How would you truly feel? We can see that the in-valids are assigned the menial jobs- the jobs they cannot escape from due to their imperfections at birth. No matter how hard Vincent tried and longed to be accepted for his difference, being an in-valid would never allow him to be. Fate was never on Vincent’s side right from the start, as the constant comparison between him and Anton was the underlying discrimination that was the foundation of Vincent’s segregation from society. For instance, Vincent tells us: “Today we have discrimination down to a science”. Also, both Vincent and Irene had heart conditions, although Irene was a valid and Vincent an in-valid. Perhaps Irene’s ‘validness’ is an indication that genetics’ perfect creations don’t always guarantee ideal results. The definition of in-valid, ‘weak and sickly; one who is incapacitated by a chronic illness or disability’, is strongly related to Vincent’s incapability to live up to the desired result: a flawless being who fits comfortably inside the mould created for them ever since their new ‘natural’ conception. The definition of valid is ‘producing the desired result, having legal force, legitimate’; all of these things Vincent cannot aspire to as he simply forbidden to even try. For instance Anton tells him: “I have a right to be here, you don’t”. To which Vincent later replies: “Do you have any idea what it took to get in here?” This is an indication of Vincent achievement of entering Gattaca, but there are still further stars to reach for (journeying to space).
Think about the word ‘in-valid’. Why the hyphen? The hyphen turns invalid (an adjective) into in-valid (a noun). But maybe the use of the hyphen is deeper than that. Perhaps this is another indication of the isolation of in-valids. The hyphen separates the two; those apparently pure and impure.
Question 6: Discuss the frequent references to swimming in the text; in what ways have the film makers given this significance?
Swimming is a recurring motif in Gattaca and significant indications of this can be referred to several times throughout the film. The first time is when Vincent and Anton playing chicken, and when Anton wins, the impression is given that his determination to be the superior brother is already present. This is implying genetic superiority mainly on a physically level. The second game of chicken was when “it all began”; Vincent is shown as a product of a natural world, thriving in the few aspects of natural world that still exists in an artificial world. Thus this is why Vincent finds his inner strength in the ocean, something too large to be manipulated by mankind’s ignorance. Also in the second game, clearer water symbolises fewer obstacles for Vincent in achieving his goal.
Although we are asked to consider the ‘survival of the fittest’ idea, by Vincent saving Anton, ‘the ‘survival of the mentally fittest’ is suggested. Through the games of chicken we are shown that swimming is still a familiar physical activity in the future, despite technological advances, genetic manipulation and social hierarchy that may occur. The recurring swimming theme is also an indication of a source of equality between valids and in-valids, as swimming is something that surprisingly doesn’t require the correct genetic makeup or physical ability (well, perhaps it does in Jerome’s case).The viewer is told that adaption is necessary in order to survive- this is referring to the unpredictability of evolution, and again the survival of the fittest is referred to. Next we discover Jerome was a champion swimmer, as he had the ideal genetic profile, but becoming paralysed meant he was no longer physically capable. When we see Jerome climbing the stairs, we could say it was almost a swimming action, with the use of his arms pulling him forward.
As swimming gets one from A to B, maybe a journey is to be acknowledged. This may be Vincent realising the power of his determination and inner strength. We first see this when he rescues Anton in the first game of chicken; Vincent has the capability to win despite his in-validity.
When Anton, as an adult, is shown swimming in a tank alone, the viewer is given the impressions he is racing against himself, trying the make up for his earlier losses to Vincent. Perhaps he is trying to erase the fact that an in-valid somehow was able to defy his genetic perfection- twice. In his tank, Anton is going nowhere. Here the viewer is again being shown that once a genetically manipulated human, a valid, reaches their full potential, they neither feel the need to reach higher, pushing themselves to mentally be the best, or have the ability to. On the other hand, we could argue that Anton’s case is different, as he believes he is the stronger brother, and that if he continues to push himself he can be better still. Another example of this is when we see Vincent intellectually feeding himself at breakfast, whereas Anton was eating food.
Finally, with Vincent winning again the third game of chicken, this delivers the film’s main theme, telling that human spirit along with the creative chaos of individuality will overrule genetic superiority and a ‘perfect’ society no matter what.
Question 7: What is the significance of the recurring ocean motif in the text; in what ways have the film makers given this significance?
The ocean motif in Gattaca represents the one thing that remains natural, as its vastness, power and unpredictability make it impossible to be influenced by the genetic and scientific manipulation of this artificial world.
We are first given reference to the ocean at the time of Vincent’s conception, and this is the first connection between Vincent and nature that is represented. Also, as water can represent uncertainty perhaps this is a suggestion of the unpredictability of Vincent’s birth, as his parents left fate to deal him an unpredictable genetic profile. Next, the ocean is involved in Vincent and Anton’s first game of chicken. In this scene we are shown not only the strength of the characters, but also of the ocean. In the second game of chicken we see the ocean’s ability to cause danger, even leading to death. Also, Anton beneath the surface of the water perhaps indicates deeper meanings; entering the next layer of understanding. For example, after Anton is rescued by Vincent, this is when Vincent realises that although he may be an in-valid in a ‘sea’ of valids, he has the determination to keep afloat and succeed in his natural setting.
The love scene between Vincent and Irene also involves the ocean. This could represent a new beginning of calmness and trust, as the waves in this scene are gentle and placid, unlike those of the third game of chicken in which we again are shown links between the characters’ emotions and the ocean’s chaos, manipulation of fears, brutality and ability to take lives. When we are shown Vincent scrubbing himself on the shore at Irene’s, the ocean’s ability to cleanse and revitalise is symbolised. This could also represent the timeline of a typical day in Vincent’s life; the ocean washes away the struggle of the day to prepare Vincent for another day of treading water in his vicious sea of genetic manipulation and genoism, in which he feels he is slowly drowning.
Question 8: Set in the ‘not too distant future’ the film has a very retro look. Why is this?
The retro theme consistent throughout the film is used to subtly hint that society regrets its decision of adopting a god-like power allowing the ability to genetically manipulate, and wishes to return to the past days when “the natural way” was natural conception and social equality. By living in a futuristic world combined with aspects of life trying to act as those true of the past, we can see that the society of Gattaca won’t accept their mistakes, believing they weren’t made to begin with. Genetic manipulation hasn’t resulted in the outcome they expected, and they are now clinging to all that is left of the untouched past. Infact, society didn’t really have an expectation of what genetically manipulating would bring; the disadvantages obviously weren’t considered, because if they had been, the segregation between valids and in-valids wouldn’t have been so strong. Through this, the film makers are portraying the message that if we were to tamper with genetics, assuming superiority over the environment, we would most likely regret it.
The definition of retro is ‘reminiscent of things past; not old but harking back’. This relates to the society of Gattaca imitating fashions of the past whilst simultaneously incorporating modern twist. We can see this through such fashions, for instance the circa 1950s dresses worn at the piano recital, Irene’s hairstyle while she is with Vincent at the nightclub and the cars of the time, especially Irene’s. These imitations indicate future society’s wistful longing for something (this being returning to the past) but not being able to as the line has been crossed and changes already occurred; ‘perfection’ now divides humanity- if we can still call it humanity, that is.
The retro look maybe also be used to allow the viewer to relate to the feelings of the characters and film’s plot, indicating that aspects of a Gattaca future are already present in our everyday lives today, and that if society isn’t careful a similar future is perhaps as not as far away as we expect. Hence the used ‘not-too-distant-future phrase. We must also not forget that this film was filmed in the early 1990s, and that the fashion influences of this era may have affected the film’s set and props.
Question 9: Vincent challenges the dominant ideology of the time whereas Irene accepts it. Give evidence to support this statement.
There is a clear difference in the way the characters of Vincent and Irene are portrayed. For example, Vincent tells us: “I was never more certain how far away from my goal (of journeying to space) than when I was standing right beside it”. Through this quote, Vincent’s determination to break free of the stereotypical mould that has been created for him and all in-valids is shown. A subtle hint that he rebels against society’s control and manipulation is that he has lived past his life expectancy of 30.2 years. We can see that Vincent constantly questions the orderliness and precision of the world of Gattaca when he asks such things as: “I don’t need rescuing, but you did once”. Here Vincent is fighting for an answer, perhaps not from just Anton, but from society as a whole; as if saying ‘how do you explain that? Use your technology and genetic manipulation to figure that out’. Another example of Vincent’s longing to escape from the judgement of belonging to the contaminated world is the comment he makes after his janitor boss tells him not to “clean the glass too well”, as Vincent “might get ideas”. Vincent, who has had enough of being left below with his lower class by valids on ascending escalators into Gattaca, smugly replies: “You’ll be able to see me when I’m on the other side of it”. This is yet another indication of his continuous fight in this losing battle, which does pay off for Vincent in the end.
Irene on the other hand ‘accepts’ the genetic hand she was dealt. Director, Niccol tells us: “I think of Irene as someone who would lie down at the allotted minute as she would feel guilty for a minute longer than her profile proscribed”. Vincent, who has lived past his 30.2 years, obviously doesn’t feel the same way as Irene, does he?
Irene first seems attracted to Vincent due to his perfect genes. But she doesn’t act on her feelings for him immediately, as her obedience to society’s ideology means that spontaneous relationships would be out of the question; almost impossible. Irene checks Vincent’s (Jerome’s) genetic profile as she is interested in him, and is disappointed when she finds he is “9.3, quite a catch”. As her thoughts are driven by the manipulation society’s ideology has over her, she immediately presumes the curiosity wouldn’t be mutual; that Vincent could do better than someone with a heart defect.
We should say that Irene unwillingly accepts the ideology of society. She tells Vincent; “The only trip I’ll take in space is around the sun on this satellite right here.” This is a sign of Irene’s subtle jealously that Vincent excels in what she could only dream of obtaining- true perfection. After she asks Vincent about watching every single launch and tells him that he is the only one who watches them, she says: “If you’re going to pretend that you don’t care, don’t look up”. Her saying this indicates that the small things that seem trivial to valids, as they are in reach to them, seem unavailable (like a goal they will aim to achieve in time) to in-valids, as they have been excluded from such things. Irene supports and protects Vincent, even perhaps slightly undertaking a motherly role towards him. For example, she tells him to leave work and maintains the deception with Jerome when Anton investigates. Admiring his refusal to accept his genetic fate, this allows her to challenge her own flaws, especially her weak heart. Vincent tells Irene: “You are the authority on what is not possible, aren’t you? They’ve got you looking for any flaw that after a while, that’s all you see”. Perhaps Vincent is referring to the flaws she sees within herself, and how she continues to allow these deficiencies to dictate her life, forcing her to abide by society’s rules. He later tells her: “It is possible”. Yes it is, and Vincent’s journey and achievement is proof that it is possible.
Question 10: Do the right genes guarantee success? If not, then what does?
The characters’ journey and experiences throughout the film show that genetic manipulation won’t necessary result in ‘perfection’; infact, the viewer is shown that the diversity of untouched human nature will always be preferred over an institutional, influenced society. As producer, Stacey Sher says:
“In this society, there is no triumph because everything is predicted from birth, so there is always a hollowness to success. This is a world in which everyone is so obsessed with living longer that they no longer know how to be truly alive.”
Instead of manipulated fate, it is the strength an individual intellectually holds that truly determines the future of an individual. For instance, we can compare Anton and Vincent. Anton, the favourable brother, turns out to work for the police force; not an over-successful role, just a middle class job. In other words, Anton doesn’t live up to his pre-determined future as he only becomes a detective. Not to mention, he lost two out of three games of chicken, which shows that genes are not the only thing that determines fate. Vincent on the other hand manages to achieve the impossible. Surely this should be seen as successful? Vincent reaches his goal, whereas Anton never set any in the first place; this doesn’t show any willpower and aggression on Anton’s behalf. He was supposedly the son worthy of his father’s name, but he wasn’t so worthy in the end.
The next valid, Jerome, also shows genetic manipulation to be unfavourable. He lacks spirit and strength of character to succeed, as Niccol tells us when he says: “He (Jerome) was the very antithesis of Vincent.” Vincent inspires Jerome, who overcomes suffering under the “burden of perfection”, with “everything except desire”. If a determined fate is such a miracle, why didn’t Jerome come first in his swimming race? Also, it is obvious that trying to commit suicide isn’t very successful. We are told that “even before his accident, Jerome was lacking in the attributes that make life most worth living” by Sher. So it seems that the pressure of being expected to meet such expectations in a way impacted Jerome’s life heavily. Perhaps he felt that whenever he was not perfect, when he made a mistake, that his actions were scrutinised; that the manicured world he belonged to was constantly analysing him as an experiment or the closest thing to flawlessness. In-valids wouldn’t suffer under this burden of perfection. This is therefore another indication from the film makers that human nature will always triumph over eugenics. It took the satisfaction of helping Vincent achieve his dream for Jerome to realise what really mattered in both the valid and in-valid world. I think this is why Jerome’s silver medal changes to gold in the end, as this is the moment he truly succeeds, realising that genetics don’t rule over everything.
Irene, a valid, had her own flaws too. She not only had a heart condition, but also the ability to feel the emotion of jealousy, and she had no self-motivation. A valid, like Jerome, she also needed the inspiration of Vincent’s aggression and strength of mind to become inspired herself.
Discrimination against in-valids is only supported by the assumption that genetic manipulation ‘perfects’ without a doubt. So where is the proof that pre-determined fate is truly an advantage? In contrast, there is proof that individuality can and does survive, despite all discrimination of in-validity. This proof is Vincent, his experiences of fighting in a faultless world, and the journey he goes on to accomplish his dream.