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The texts “Scales Of Justice” and “Gattaca” are two texts which allow the reader to witness a variety of interpretations and explore the relevant issues that are visible within contemporary society. Such issues as corruption within the police force, racism, sexual harassment, discrimination and manipulation of power are shown to give different interpretations of issues which plague today’s society and potentially our future.
“Scales Of Justice” shows the corruption in the police force. It is a fictitious portrayal of organised crime and human weaknesses in an unstated Australian location. It is about the possible abuses of power in the police force and is a study of power and its potential to corrupt. The drama is concerned with organised crime both petty and at a high level, involving those in senior positions of responsibility.
Scales of Justice shows where corruption begins and allows us to see the many examples of the fine line our police must tread. The first act, “The Job” raises many issues. The issue of abuse of power and corruption is also shown with the politics of law enforcement. It shows the extent to which the Australian system of criminal justice conforms to our liberal democratic views of fairness, openness, accountability and efficiency. The discrepancy between the police image and police practice is shown by the act police put on in certain situations. Another issue is the paperwork load carried by the police officers and the effects that this has on their attitudes towards their work. The attitudes of male and female members of the police force towards alleged victims of rape is another issue which Scales OF justice rises in its portrayal of a corrupt police force.
Act One of Scales Of Justice is a study of the limits of integrity. It shows the naivety of a policeman in which his ideas bring him into conflict with his colleagues.
In Scales of Justice power and the abuse of it is shown mainly through corruption within the police force. It shows us that along with power there can be negative and positive effects on people lifestyles.
In Scales of Justice it is shown that there is a certain hierarchy and those in higher positions often dominate and control those in positions that are below them. A classic example of this is Sergeant O’Rourke and Probationary Constable Webber. O’Rourke is basically a bully in his position.
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Another issue of power and lifestyle demonstrated in Scales of Justice is that those in power are often secluded from the rest of society. An example of this happening is when Webber is not even on duty but on his way to work wearing his police uniform. As soon as he steps onto the bus, everybody suddenly becomes silent and look away as if he isn’t even human. They all feel a certain threat by him simply because he holds some power over them.
There are many different examples of the misuse of power in Scales of Justice. The misuse and abuse of power can in some cases actually mean a better lifestyle. At one stage of the show, Webber tells Borland he is thinking of buying a new car. In reply, Borland tells Webber not to forget to wear his “discount suit.” Webber has no idea what Borland is talking about. Borland explains that the discount suit is actually his police uniform. Later on in the show we see Webber pull up in a brand new sports car. Webber has used his position of power to get a discount on a car. This has demonstrated that Webber’s misuse of power has actually resulted in him being able to have a more lavish lifestyle. Another major misuse and abuse of power is when Borland pulled over a relatively attractive girl in a car. He can tell that the girl may be over the legal limit and judging from her car, he can tell that she most likely has little money. Borland takes sex as a bribe to let her off. However it wasn’t the girl who instigated the bribe, it was Borland.
Scales of Justice shows Caswell's interpretation of the false image the police could show. This discrepancy between police image and police practice is shown in the first scene of The Job. The Commissions speech highlights two important issues one being that the police force is a group apart, rejected by some and even hated. The first Act reveals that instead of being a model of morality the police force mirrors the double standards of society.
Techniques to show this interpretation is misuse of power by the police include characterisation, tone, colloquialism, dialogue, informal language and stage directions. There is a distinct contrast between police officers ideals and ways of doing things. Sergeant O’Rourke is fixed in his views, prejudiced, impatient and knows every shortcut. He accepts commissions from funeral parlours, deals in stolen goods and takes advantage of the position he is. He does this in a scene when comforting a widow. He uses the opportunity to drink her alcohol for his benefit. He misuses the power and respect his position holds. He is a prime example of a police officer using his position to manipulate and control those less powerful than himself.
The informality, profanity and colloquialism of the dialogue is another technique shown in Scales Of Justice. Characters refer to detectives as “D’s”, domestic disputes as “domestic’s” and are often racist and sexist in comments. Sergeant O’ Rourke refers to a fellow officer as a “dyke” and comments such as “bloody wogs” show O’Rourke to be a racist and sexist man. This interpretation of an officer who is meant to be a model of morality raises the question of if police officers are different to the image they portray.
Probationary Constable Webber, is created by the composer to be a hard working Police constable who has not been ‘corrupted’ by the ideals of the brotherhood within the police force. The composer has used Webber as a means of contrast between the attitudes of the contemporary police force with that of the older police force. The contrast is made through the use of Senior Sergeant O’Rourke. He is police officer of the ‘old’ police force. The composer, by using O’Rourke has created the interpretation that with age and time within the force, comes the overwhelming effect of corruption.
The composer has also used characterisation to look at issues such as sexism and the attitudes of male members of the police towards female members of the police force. The composer through using Constable Callahan, demonstrates the hardships faced of a woman in a such a field of employment. It develops the interpretation of sexism, stereotypically for females within the police force and it also demonstrates the manipulation portrayed by the hierarchy of power. An example of sexism is shown within the text when O’Rourke calls Callahan a ‘dyke’. This action demonstrates also such issues as discrimination of sexual preference.
Through the characters we gain an interpretation of how such a corrupt environment could exist. Different values, perspectives and point of views conflict and often result in the abuse of power by the more powerful officers. There is a difference in perspectives between police who have being officers for years and have become part of the corruption and the new officers who have social conscience and have uncorrupted values and views.
Scales Of Justice shows a negative interpretation of the police force and the analysis of how the system allows crime and corruption to flourish is very perceptive. Police corruption is a crime most people gain an interpretation on from the paper, from news police commissions or inquiries.
The script shows how the abuse of power in an authoritarian position can cause widespread implications for justice. From the script we gain an interpretation of how easily police can abuse their power and become corrupt. The scene in which police brutality is shown shows the ironic behavior displayed by people we would expect to treat people fairly and not with violence. This shows the interpretation of corruption and violence the police force get away with it but that people do not know about.
The script brings to our attention the abuse of power held by people in authority and how they abuse their position in society. The text shows there are positive and negative effects of a person put in a position of power. It gives the interpretation of how power has the potential to corrupt and how corruption and misuse of power in the police force offers little justice. Whilst some people thrive on power otherwise such as Webber would prefer a simpler, less complicated lifestyle.
Gattaca is a futuristic story about a genetically imperfect man and his seemingly unobtainable goal to travel into space. The director has composed a modern piece of dystopic writing, which speculates on a future in which humankind has used a new found mastery over the human genome to create a better faster and perfect human. The film portrays the social ramifications of the human genome project and shows how through genetic manipulation this technology can eradicate the problems with human nature. The main theme of the movie focuses on the consequences of genetic engineering, which relates to the utopian idea of eugenics, on personal freedom and in creating a new kind of discrimination.
The director of Gattaca Andrew Niccol presents the film in a variation of different genres so he can accurately and clearly portray a numerous amount of themes and social issues. Living in a genetically perfect world is not necessarily a great achievement to mankind. It makes us think, "Where do you draw the line in the advancement of eugenics?" The world Gattaca shows an alternative future which is dystopic, and is written and shown in a believable way through the use of satire. The director incorporates the traditional elements of movie - a murder-mystery tied in with a love story plus a science fiction touch very effectively to show these themes. The main theme and issue presented in the film is how will genetic engineering change and effect mankind. Characters such as Vincent, Anton and Director Josef act as a warning to viewers that specific gene therapy used to predetermine attributes of a child isn't necessarily a good thing. On the other side of things Niccol uses Vincent to suggest that genes cannot gauge the determination of an individual.
Gattaca shows the possible implications of a world in which science has too much control over humankind. It is dystopic in the fact that it is not an ideal world due to the threat it poses to humanity. Director Niccol shows a dystopic interpretation of the future by showing the discrimination between valids and invalids and the opportunities they receive. Gattaca presents a society in which genetic engineering and perfection is worshipped and anything less is unacceptable and discriminated against. The increased focus on technology has decreased the human element and values have changed. It is when the suffering of both valids and invalids is recognized that the destruction of “mans perfect world” becomes evident.
Discrimination between the genetically perfect and genetically inferior is shown in the movie. Discrimination is a human habit. We treat people differently because of their religion, their race, their sex, their age, social status and even the colour of their skin. Gattaca shows a society where there have been many advances including advances in methods of discrimination. The elitist workers at Gattaca have learned from birth that they have superior genetic make-up and that they had no excuse to fail. On the other hand, in-valids knew they didn’t stand a chance. Those who choose to give birth to a godchild, for moral or economic reasons, are condemning their child to a lifetime of discrimination. This means they have restricted opportunities in their life. In Gattaca, the stifling effects of these restrictions are demonstrated. The main character, Vincent, is an “in-valid” who dreams of leaving earth and exploring space. However, he is not free to pursue this dream, because no matter how hard he studies, how good he becomes, he will never get the chance to follow his dreams because his genes are not “valid.” This is a very dystopic concept to most people, who are traditionally raised to believe that hard work and persistence are what it takes to achieve their dreams, not that their very destiny is entwined in their genome. . Gattaca is so totalitarian in nature, that human rights are dominated and individuality is suppressed.
This kind of discrimination takes place in Gattaca; except those who are genetically perfect work the intellectual office jobs and those who are not work under class manual labor jobs. You cannot conceal what type of genes you have because getting screened is an everyday procedure. You either have superior genes and live a great life or are a natural born and struggle to get by. This ends our equal opportunity society. We would not determine positions on merit but of genes. There could be an intelligent person with a heart failure, such as Vincent, who has great intellectual power, but is discriminated due to genes. Discrimination of any kind is an evil to society. This can be drawn to today’s society where people are discriminated against on sex, social status and disabilities. This is similar to today’s society where there is a glass ceiling effect in job promotion. Females are still provided with less opportunity despite new legislation. This discrimination against genetic makeup is also present in today’s society with insurance companies unwilling to cover people with defective genes that may develop heart disease and other diseases.
Visually, director Andrew Niccol emphasizes the repetitive nature of valids jobs by showing static and compositionally balanced shots in which the valids perform the same drills, within identical cubicles, while wearing similar dark suits. Niccol also presents the idea that even though the valids have better occupations than the invalids do, they do not have more freedom. This is expressed through several shots in which the valids are seen entrapped behind the images on their computers or walking behind the prison-like architecture of the Gattaca Aerospace Corporation's main building. Invalids are only allowed to have demeaning, low-paying jobs. For instance, before assuming an alternate identity, Vincent is only allowed to work at the Gattaca Aerospace Corporation as a janitor. In addition, invalids are forced to take jobs in which they perform manual labour. Similar to the valids, the invalids also have jobs that are tedious and repetitive. Yet, the invalids have more freedom. For instance, their hair isn't combed in the same way, their uniforms are often untidy, and they are allowed to let their minds to wander while working. Although Niccol reveals that the occupational lives of the invalids are significantly disadvantaged when compared to the valids, he also suggests that appearances can be deceiving. The valids undeniably control society in Gattaca. Yet, they must sacrifice their freedom and humanity in the process. Furthermore, this sacrifice for the valids' vision of a perfect society is ultimately pointless because, as Vincent demonstrates, human nature and human desires cannot be suppressed.
Gattaca shows how science has been able to eliminate physical imperfections but even the strict and harsh environment of Gattaca cannot remove or limit human emotions and frailties. This film shows that while technology can eradicate many physical imperfections it is actually Gattaca itself that forces people to resort to ‘flawed’ behaviour. The first scene in which we see Gattaca we see expressionless, robotic workers, uniform in manner and dress. Although there is no dialogue here we are aware the Gattaca is a sterile and emotionless environment, no body talks to anybody else and there is no social interaction. Irene’s comment, “Can you please make sure that I don’t lose my place” is indicative of the extreme competitiveness of this society. Another example is the scene where we see the fitness training. Irene is dismissed summarily “You can go back to your work now Irene” when she does not perform well physically. The Directors comments “maybe there should be a new measuring stick” and “No-one exceeds their potential” are suggestive of Gattaca society that only the best is acceptable.
In Gattaca the belief of what it is to be human has changed and diminished, with human life not valued in the same way that it used to be. The term human life takes on a new meaning. Human life is simply a commodity to be bought and sold. Gattaca's society now sees life as expendable. The director of Gattaca shows no compassion in murdering a colleague who opposes his vision. He shows no remorse or conscience in this. This is indicative of the declining morality of civilization.
“In-valids” are a new genetic underclass in Gattaca – considered inferior because of their genes, they are judged as next-to worthless before even being given a chance due to their genetic profile. “In-valids” do the dirty work in this future vision, and in general, society as a whole believes that these inferior people should stay in their place – at the bottom of the hierarchy. This means that those with the money to pay for it can have the “best” children with the most competitive advantages, while those that can’t pay for genetic designing will have less competitive children. Therefore, the system of inequality will continue itself because an “in-valid” will not have the money to pay for top-quality genetic engineering for their children.
Vincent is an example of human nature triumphing over technology. He shows that what matters is in fact effort, perseverance and determination in accomplishing one’s goals, not the quality or source of a person’s DNA. This is captured nicely in a final scene in which Vincent plays a game of chicken with his genetically engineered brother Anton. The two set out from shore swimming side by side until one turns around from fear of not being able to make it back. Anton, engineered with superior physical capacities, has won against Vincent every time when they swim, except for once. With Anton trying to prove to himself that Vincent’s one previous win was only a fluke, they compete one last time. Unable to go on any further, Anton stops swimming and asks, ‘How are you doing this Vincent?’ Vincent replies, ‘this is how I did it Anton: I never saved anything for the swim back’. This scene shows clearly, that there is no gene for the human spirit. A high level of genetic perfection means nothing without the will to achieve. Although the viewer of Gattaca will recognise this important theme, the characters in the movie, especially the valids, seem to be obsessed with the perfection of themselves and their potential partners.
The lack of individuality and distinctiveness in the occupants of Gattaca is alarming at best. With the constant pressure to succeed in life, manufactured or “valid” human beings are sapped of their spirit, ultimately leading to a discontented and empty life. The culture and image of Gattaca influences this, with strongly similar and sometimes identical designs of suits, workstations, and employees in general. Add to this the lack of communication and constant competitiveness between staff and the result is a chilling, depressing workplace, which is a valuable indicator of life itself.
Not only is the value of the individual debased, human life itself is denigrated. The use of genetic engineering to achieve a physically superior human being reduces humans to machines, simply required to perform particular functions.
Ironically, Gattaca, through its obsession with perfection, has created a world more imperfect than the one it preceded. The value of human life, individuality, relationships and morals appear corrupted and dejected, as the inevitable search of perfecting one’s self proliferates. Discrimination and suffering of humans beings is frequent yet ignored in Gattaca, where the one predominant norm in society-do whatever is necessary to be the best, conquers all.
Together, the opening epigraphs, “I not only think that we will tamper with Mother Nature, I think Mother Nature wants us to (William Gaylin)”, and “Consider God’s handiwork; who can straighten what he hath made crooked (Ecclesiastes 7:13)” offer insightful philosophies on “the not too distant future’ demonstrated in Gattaca. Gaylin shows the obvious temptation in tampering with technology, yet Ecclesiastes emphasizes the impossible task of creating perfection. Inevitably, the content of Gattaca ultimately demonstrates that the search for perfection can only lead to an imperfect world.
Part of what makes Gattaca a dystopian vision of the future is the dependence on money to create perfect children and the system of inequality that this system causes. The movie shows a capitalist future. In Gattaca, you get what you pay for, if people choose to pay they can have super children with genes carefully selected to provide superior intelligence and physical capabilities. If parents choose to have a child the natural way then they are branding their child “in valid” and disqualifying them from excellent jobs and bright futures.
Compared to other science fiction movies which use genetic engineering to make better humans it is clear what a negative view that director has of Gattaca towards the future. Other movies show healthier long-lived humans with none of the down sides displayed by Gattaca. The movie is more based on the downfalls and traps that could lead to corruption and a dystopic future.
In an age where technology is advancing rapidly, there are those who argue for slowing it down so it can be critically and ethically examined. However there are many who believe there should be as few restrictions as possible and the composer of Gattaca is clearly against this. His interpretation is pessimistic and feels such advancements will demean the human race. He also comments on the declining morals of humanity. This is evident in today’s society as people kill without conscience, put themselves before all else and are seemingly becoming obsessed with perfection as Gattaca shows.
Gattaca presents a society in which genetic engineering and perfection is worshipped, with anything less unacceptable and discriminated against. The increased focus on technology has decreased the human element, and values have changed. Yet even those genetically superior suffer, as Vincent so aptly puts it, they suffer from “the burden of perfection”. Gattaca is so totalitarian in nature that even human rights are controlled and dominated and individuality is suppressed. The director suggests that this surely is not a perfect world.
The film follows themes of friendship, loyalty and commitment. The film makes a connection in today’s world because of its irony. Genetic engineering of the human race is not far off where scientists are aiming society towards today. Niccols makes this perfection of society a way of life and leaves the decision up to the individual to have an opinion regarding this subject matter. Will genetic engineering entirely dominate society or is it like Vincent’s case, where will and determination play a role in changing one’s destiny.