I love science fiction. I usually pin that on my brothers but I also think it’s because I’ve struggled with health problems for most of my life.
I dream of living in a world where things like fucked up intestines can be fixed.
There are all kinds of movies and shows I think about reviewing or discussing through a feminist lens, but haven’t been sure where to house that kind of content.
Well, I decided to just go for it here. Too much running around this brain. I’m gonna write whatever the FUCK I want on this site. I’m tired of corrupt tech companies profiting off my content anyway.
I don’t run into people that have seen the movie Gattaca often. I’m not a huge fan of Ethan Hawke (not even in the 90s!) but I LOVE this movie.
I haven’t seen it in awhile and I’m intentionally not reading about it on the Internet because I want my memories of it to be pure.
Without giving too much away in case you want to see it, it takes place in the future where a person’s entire life - including the kinds of jobs they can get - are determined after their blood and DNA are taken at birth.
As babies, citizens are divided into different classes based on this genetic information. Those whose bodies are deemed weak are given a lower class status.
Interestingly, in real current times, they are figuring out how to edit genes. It’s very possible that babies born in my family in the future could have the Lynch Syndrome gene edited and removed (Lynch is the genetic disorder in my family that causes a lot of cancer). There are a zillion ethical implications and I don’t think the science is quite there. However, breakthroughs in technology and medicine are happening at a rapid pace these days.
It’s scary as hell.
But also, it could be exciting to know that no one else has to go through what I’ve gone through.
I get why this is tricky. Is something that is considered disability necessarily a bad thing? What if Stephan Hawking had his gene altered? Would he have contributed to the world in the way that he did if he’d been able bodied?
Some of the greatest medical advances and technological breakthroughs resulted from someone desperately trying to help a loved one heal in some way. Or in his case, because he had so much more time than if he’d been traveling and teaching, according to his writings.
What would the world look like if we could prevent suffering from genetic “problems” - I put those in quotations because what if disability or something that doesn’t look “ideal” is actually how the world SHOULD look? Who is to decide what is a “genetic problem.” I mean, for me, it would mean NOT losing four organs, but it would look very different for other people who may have been born missing a limb. I follow several of these amazing advocates and I don’t want to make assumptions that genetic issues are a problem for everyone. For me, it’s been life altering. For others, it’s something that’s a big part of their identity and they feel pride about it.
On the end other end, if some genetic conditions cause a lot of pain and suffering like in my case, what if we could prevent that pain and suffering?
The scary part is that messing with mother nature always has consequences. Our country doesn’t like to think about consequences. I’ve noticed some (not all!) older wealthy, white men seem super confused about having to face consequences. And it’s a pervasive way of thinking in our country.
Why shouldn’t I be able to live and do whatever the fuck I want without consideration of the planet and vulnerable people? Why shouldn’t I be able to do and say whatever I want to women? Why should I think about the consequences of my actions?
In the movie, Ethan Hawke’s character is considered weak and small. He is determined, though, and dreams of going into space.
He doesn’t belong to the right demographic to join the space program. So he decides to take matters into his own hands. He finds someone from the correct “class” and convinces him to switch identities. The only significant problem is that they are different heights.
Of course, everything is digitized and recorded so he has to go through pretty drastic lengths to assume the identity of Jude Law’s character, a despondent young man who has all the opportunities in the world, but doesn’t have the - the only word I can think of it to describe this is “chutzpah.” Or joie de vivre. I can’t think of an English word that describes a thirst for life.
I can understand how maddening this felt for Ethan Hawke’s character. To watch people with so many opportunities do nothing with their power to change the world…. it makes my heartache like nothing else.
At one point, him and his brother swim out in the ocean, racing each other as they have since they were boys. They keep swimming and swimming away from shore until one decides to turn back and start swimming back. His older brother is in the “strong” class while Ethan’s character is supposed to be the weaker one. Somehow, though, his brother always turns around and starts to swim back sooner than Ethan, thereby losing the race.
Near the end of the movie, when we’re not sure if he is going to pull off his new identity so that he can get into the space program, his brother asks him: “How do you do it? How do you always beat me?”
Hawke’s character says calmly “I never save anything for the way back.”
This is one of my favorite movie lines of all time. It says so much in so few words - which is always the dream as a writer, right?
I resonated with this movie then and of course, i do now as well. I’ve always known I wasn’t born with a great immune system. I needed glasses in 4th or 5th grade (? Shit I can’t remember - around that time). I was sick a lot as a kid. I had bright red hair and pale skin. My nose was always running. I was the smallest kid in my family (both my sister and female cousin are 5’7” and 5’8” respectfully, I’m barely over five feet). I loved reading, and was made fun of for always having my nose in a book. I was diagnosed with a chronic disease at age 17 and the fun times just kept on coming.
I look at photos from my life and it’s so clear to me that I knew that I might not get a full, healthy life.
Some people have told me they are a bit jealous of my “balls out” style of living and how I don’t let fear get in my way. I never quite know how to respond because what I really want to say is: you can do it too. I feel terrified all the fucking time, but I know that there might not be a tomorrow or something might stop me from being able to share those words, or speak, or write, so whatever I want to do, I better do it NOW.
Urgency is highly motivating. I wonder why comfort does the opposite. I know people think I’m nuts for not pursuing money all these years. I told you, I often regret that.
But I also trust that my younger self knew what I was doing. I look around now and the cluelessness of so many people, and I can’t say I’m jealous of being asleep and not understanding my fellow men.
I often think of that line in the movie Gattaca. It’s often a common theme in movies and books: people with the most obstacles end up teaching the healthiest people with so many opportunities how to truly live life.
I’ve never forgotten that scene with the brothers and I’m sure the movie is around 20 years old. I only know that because Uma and Ethan met on that movie and their kids are around college age now! YES I’m up to date on my Hollywood trivia. I read a lot of interesting things. And some junk too.
I’ll read up on the movie and likely re-watch it after I’ve posted this here. So much of what we “think” now is based on shit we read on the Internet. It bugs me. I like to think for myself, thank you very much. Always have, always will.
As I enter yet another challenging chapter of my crazy-ass story, I think about how I’m going to approach it.
But I already know the answer.
I’m going to swim as fast and far as I can without saving anything to come back. Like I always have.
When you don’t know how long you have to live, there’s really no point in saving anything for the journey back.
Lots of able-bodied people think it’s nuts. It’s interesting how many people think their view is the right view.
Whose to say it is?
I think living a life that doesn’t fire me up or feel meaningful sounds way more crazy than going after impossible dreams.
All that’s ever mattered for this funny looking little redheaded girl inside me is to make sure that whenever my time ends here, they say about me when I’m gone “she knew how to truly LIVE and she never, ever held back.” (And damn it, we should have listened to her earlier, I’m sure they’ll also say. Yes you really should.)