Module C: Brave New World and the Dissident (part 2)
Brave New World Related Text: Gattaca (1997)
Our last post about Brave New World looked at the literary importance of the role of the dissident. The central character of Vincent in the futuristic film Gattaca shares some important qualities with John Savage. He, too, is born from the archaic practice of natural birth, his parents choosing not to have the genetically predetermined perfect child that science can provide. He then spends the film trying to overcome being outcast because of his ‘normality’ and aspires to achieve his ambitions despite not being genetically predestined. It is this practice that strikes a cord in our democratic conscience since we should all have the right to aspire to greatness; that it is not something we are born into. The film chronicles the great sacrifices Vincent makes to follow his dream of space travel, symbolic of a future based on merit rather than rigid systems of social class.
Both Brave New World and Gattaca show why we hold dear to the dissident; they challenge unjust systems of power, often with great self-sacrifice. Vincent’s personal integrity and sheer determination to live 10000 heartbeats beyond that predicted for him is a testimony to the flaws of the engineered hierarchical system within Gattaca. His rebellious actions appeal to a few good men around him who are able to turn a blind eye to the systematic discrimination towards InValids. But the final outcome for the Savage is nothing so triumphant. His sole ambition is to live a solitary if flawed life but the endless pursuit by what we would today call the paparazzi (one of Huxley’s disturbingly prophetic depictions) succeeds over John’s attempt at voluntary exile from the world of ‘perfection'. The centrality of the dissident character is one of the important grounds for comparison of these two texts.