NCEA 1.5 Formal Writing, Literary Study

Structure 1
Writing about: Film Gattaca Warning
Message: History repeating itself
Ideas supporting warning:

  1. Ayra master race: The race to trump all races, based on a single person’s ideology. A race of people who look the same, beautiful, strong, intelligent. Eugenics is an extreme version of natural selection, controlled by humans, we pick what we want to survive. Since they can also splice genes, they can remove genetic defects, reducing what someone can die from. How the selected genetic features were chosen was by using aktion T4. Aktion T4 was an extermination action, T4 was used to give reason for exterminating humans with mental or physically injured and it was incurable. To enforce that this was OK also was that they also called it a mercy killing, because they thought that it was better to not live with such burdens, but also to not let the burden fall on anyone else. 

  2. Modernist architecture: The buildings having function over form. Similar to the buildings that were made during WWII. The people being the buildings: not being unique but just functioning; “There is no gene for the human spirit”, no one who was made using eugenics has the drive to be great, because they already are. Early 20th C clothes, car and hairstyles, function over form, the society decided that they didn’t need to change the way they make clothes, cars or how they dress their hair, they decided to focus on forwarding science instead of fashion. The filter over the whole film giving it a sorta brown, yellow tinge, the viewer associates that colour with the past.

Andrew Niccol’s film Gattaca presents a warning about the future, for centuries humans have been interested in the development of technology to make there lives easier. While technology gives society strength to explain there ideas and opinions, helping people connect from either side of the globe. With all these great developments occurring so rapidly and only being able to notice the short term affects, we don’t pay attention to  whether the long term effects are positive or negative until it is to late.  

Gattaca is a film demonstrating the long term affects of a particular technology on society. Development of technology hasn’t only focused on things that we come to use in our every day lives, we have even developed technology to alter us before we are born, making use live longer, grow stronger or think smarter. Eugenics being the science or belief of improving the genetic quality of the human population.

In the film Jerome is one of the main characters demonstrating the ideals of eugenics. He was born from eugenics, having high cheekbones, blues eyes, strong chin. Society deeming these as the most desirable traits, being the most attractive. These ideals are similar to even identical to the ideals of Nazi Germany.

Vincent is another main character in the film, being the polar opposite to Jerome. Being born naturally (GodBorn), having a random selection of facial and body features. He demonstrates that even within a society that discriminates against people like him, if you have the drive to achieve you can beat anyone, whether they were born naturally or born specifically. There being no gene for the human spirit.

After returning from a celebratory night out, Vincent helps Jerome into bed. Jerome explains to Vincent that on the day he stepped in front of a car, he was as sober as he has ever been. This informs the viewer that his decision was completely voluntary, giving us the impression that when someone is given everything from the beginning we don’t have that drive to become the best we can be because we already have everything we would strive for.

The connection between Gattaca’s eugenic’s and history is the connection to eugenics science during the early 20th century specifically the scientific research occurring during WWII by Nazi Germany. During this time Aktion T4 was declared and anyone that was classified with a mental or physical disability that was genetic would be take and killed. They did this to clean the gene pool of any genetic impurities, so to make the perfect race, the Ayran Race. This is similar to the film but instead of people being killed the people with genetic impurities were either never born or they would be known as “InValid”, giving them less opportunities to succeed and generally being known as inferior.

Eugenics being good in theory but be negative in practice,
this being a warning to us that if we keep focusing on whether we can, instead of whether we should we as a society might be heading down a long and dark road.
who wants to be perfect, not being perfect is what makes us all ourselves,

if we did have eugenics do you think you would have been born?

*Jerome was drunk and said that on the day he lost his legs he was the soberest he had ever been, showing that even the perfect person from eugenics wouldn’t be happy because he wasn’t striving to achieve to be unique because it was all given to him at the start.

Throughout the film we can see several buildings all designed with form over function in mind, this still of architecture is commonly know as modernist architecture.
This concept of architecture was mainly used in the early 20th century during WWII, these structures were generally made of concrete, steel and wide open windows, which was very unusual for the time period.

Geneticist: We want to give your child the best possible start. Believe me, we have enough imperfection built in already. Your child doesn’t need any more additional burdens. Keep in mind, this child is still you. Simply the best of you. You could conceive naturally a thousand times and never get such a result.

Gattaca Tag Line:  There Is No Gene For The Human Spirit


  1. Eamon, I suggest you ask your reader/writer to slowly read this feedback to you and give you time to make sense of it. They may then also wish to read through some of our class materials and example paragraphs so you can listen to these too, before you go back to your piece. Then – have them read all of your piece to you before you carry on.

    There are real strengths in this piece in relation to the ideas you’re conveying.

    Where it needs work is in its structure, and in some cases its language.

    You’re currently writing your piece, it appears, where you structure each paragraph around an event or idea in the film and how it connects to the 20th century. This is pushing you into writing excessive re-telling of the plot, which is a distraction from the main emphasis of the question.

    Remember that the essay needs to be about how Niccol uses visual references to draw our attention to the resonance of the events in the film to the 20th century – particularly the early 20th century references and the Eugenics experiments that went on then.

    I would encourage you to structure your piece around each of these visual references (the helix staircase, the modernist architecture etc etc) where you deal with one per paragraph.

    All of the proposed structures and notes on visual references are available on the class website. You can go there and review this material outside of class time so you can make the most of your time with your writer during class this week.

    Please speak to me if you’re confused.



  2. Hi Eamon,

    Are you thinking you’d still like to complete this piece?



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