GATTACA Movie Questions Introduction GATTACA is a science fiction movie about a future in which genetic technology determines your success or failure. Using what you’ve learned about DNA and genetics from class, answer the questions below. The questions must be answered in whole. Please use complete sentences to fully answer the question. Movie Questions
1. The title “GATTACA” is composed entirely of the letters found in which type of biological macromolecule? Describe how these “letters” are arranged in the molecule.
2. What biological structure does the winding stairs in Jerome’s apartment resemble? What do we call this arrangement? What components of the molecule are represented by the “steps”? What components are represented by the rails?
3. The FBI agents are called “Hoovers,” a reference to legendary top G-man J. Edgar Hoover, but also a clever reference to a vacuum cleaner brand. There are numerous shots of vacuums being used to gather hair, dead skin cells, and nails. What are these materials being collected? How would these materials be analyzed?
4. The surgery that Vincent undergoes to increase his height is called the Ilizarov procedure, named after the Russian doctor who invented it 40 years ago to treat dwarfism. This painful operation adds length by allowing new bone to grow in the gap left by gradually separating ends of the broken bone. The patient’s shinbones are cut in two, a brace is applied and metal pins would pull apart the ones a millimeter a day. Risks include feet permanently turned at odd angles, twisted legs, and weakened bones that break again and again. Why is Vincent undergoing this procedure? How does it relate to his designation as an “invalid”? How is the connotation of the word “invalid” in this movie different from the current connotation?
5. When GATTACA was first released, as part of the marketing campaign there were advertisements for people to call up and have their children genetically engineered. Thousands of people actually called the phone number, believing the advertisement to be true. Do you think scientists should be working on genetic engineering? Why? Note: technology has advanced since this movie came out. We currently have the capabilities to do some level engineering of gametes. This debate is no longer science fiction, its reality.
6. The film’s working title was “The Eighth Day,” an allusion to the days of creation described in the Bible’s book of Genesis. In the bible God created the earth from nothing in six days and rested on the seventh. Why do you think, The Eighth Day, was considered as a title? Why do you think it was rejected?
7. The beginning of the movie has a quote from Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament, “Consider God’s handiwork, who can straighten what He hath made crooked”. If we can choose the characteristics of our children in the future, then should we? Why or why not? Which characteristics would be OK to choose? Which would not? Who would decide and how?
8. The real Jerome is expected to be perfect because of his “superior” genes. Is this superiority a blessing or a curse for him and why?
9. The Mission Director at GATTACA says, “No one exceeds their (genetic) potential.” Do you agree? Did genes predict Vincent’s success (or failure)? What else might affect someone’s potential? What is the movie’s definition of a “de-generate”?
10. The piano player in the concert scene is playing a musical piece that can only be played by a person with 6 fingers on each hand. How feasible would this characteristic be to genetically engineer?
11. In movie, what do you think was scientifically feasible today? What do you think will be feasible in the future? After you answer this below to see what some of the science the movie got wrong.
Bad Science in GATTACA • Vincent tells Irene that he’s already 10000 heartbeats beyond his expected lifespan. No
doubt he means some much higher number; the human heart beats about 90000 times a day!
• Healthy individuals do not shed nucleated cells into their urine, so DNA cannot usually be obtained from it. If you pee out nucleated cells, then go to the hospital!
• The so-called “electric” cars have tailpipes which produced exhaust. • Here are some famous people who may have not been born if “genetically inferior”
children were discarded in the past: Abraham Lincoln (Marfan’s syndrome), Emily Dickenson (Manic Depression), Vincent van Gogh (Epilepsy), Albert Einstein (Dyslexia), John F. Kennedy (Addison’s disease), Rita Hayworth (Alzheimer’s disease), Ray Charles (Primary Glaucoma), Stephen Hawking (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), Jackie Joyner- Kersee (Asthma). Of course, the other birth that may never have taken place is your own!
12. Describe two other examples of “Bad Science” that you observed in the movie.