Surpassing our genes: The subversive post-human message of 'Gattaca'


The movie Gattaca is often referenced in public debates about the societal dangers of human gene editing. In the public imaginary, its message is clear: the dystopian future it portrays stands as a warning against the societal acceptance of genetic perfectionism and genetic discrimination. This article argues that such a reading misses a deeper message of this cinematic text. Rather than offer a bioethics lesson against the use of genetics to make better human babies, in our opinion, the film actually argues that such genetic tampering is unlikely to succeed, but that the genetic engineering of a superior post-human individual is both possible and desirable.


bioethics; genetics; rhetoric; film criticism; science fiction


Agar, N. (2005). Liberal eugenics: In defense of human enhancement. Blackwell.

Elshtain, J. B. (2004). The body and the question for control. In H. W. Baillie & T. K. Casey (Eds.), Is human nature obsolete?: Genetics, bioengineering, and the future of the human condition (pp. 155–175). MIT Press.

Evans, J. (2018, 27 November). The road to enhancement, via human gene editing, is paved with good intentions. The Conversation. Retrieved from

Green, R. M. (2007). Babies by design: The ethics of genetic choice. Yale University Press.

Isaacson, W. (2021). The code breaker: Jennifer Douda, gene editing, and the future of the human race. Simon & Schuster.

Lynch, J. (2019). Bioethics and Brave New World: Science fiction and public articulation of bioethics. Rhetoric of Health and Medicine, 2(1), 33–59.

Maslin, J. A. (1997, October 24). Film Review. The next bigotry: Privilege by genetic perfection. The New York Times, E18.

Niccol, A. (Director). (1997). Gattaca [Motion picture]. Columbia Pictures.

Von Burg, R. (2010). Cinematic genetics: GATTACA, Essentially Yours, and the rhetoric of genetic determinism. Southern Communication Journal, 75(1), 1–16.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
Texts in the journal are –unless otherwise indicated– published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License