Gattaca and Nineteen Eighty Four are Social Commentaries

Image result for gattaca imagesFor Year 11 students studying AOS1 Unit 2 Reading and Comparing Texts look carefully at the context of the futuristic dystopian science thriller film Gattaca directed by Andrew Niccol and the dystopian totalitarian state novel Nineteen Eighty Four written by George Orwell.

Pay particular attention to the message of the Author/Director when you write your comparative text essays.

Social Commentaries in Context

Both Gattaca directed by Andrew Niccol and 1984 written by George Orwell are social commentaries which explore the broad social wrongs of a totalitarian government.  Both texts depict a futuristic, dystopian society in which individuality is destroyed in favour of faceless conformity.  Protagonist Winston in 1984 cannot understand the rhetoric of the government party and on a similar note, Vincent in Gattaca is trapped, unable to achieve his dreams because of his imperfect genome.  Both characters demonstrate individual rebellion against society and explore the significant social injustices of their respective totalitarian states.

Destruction of Individuality

Destruction of individuality is explored by both Niccol and Orwell to expose the broad social wrongs of an oppressive society.  In 1984 Winston fights to maintain his individuality in a society that has eliminated “love, friendship or joy of living” by making him hollow.  As Winston is tortured in order to be psychologically broken down by O’Brien’s relentless interrogation in Room 101, he is eventually made to accept that 2+2=5 and that he ‘loves’ Big Brother.

Similarly, in Gattaca destruction of individuality and the consequences of an oppressive society are found in close up shots focusing on Vincent’s cleaning process and the constant DNA checks to reinforce how authoritarian societies can demolish all sense of self.  As an ‘Invalid’ Vincent must take extreme measures to overcome the prejudices of a genetically controlled society if he is to achieve his dream of joining Gattaca and going into space.

Message of Niccol in Gattaca

Director Andrew Niccol celebrates the power of self-belief in the film Gattaca to inspire individuals to scale the heights of their desires and dreams to motivate them to succeed against the odds.

Message of Orwell in 1984

Writer George Orwell was deeply disturbed by the widespread cruelties and oppression he observed in communist countries and he wrote 1984 as a warning to the West of totalitarian regimes who used powerful measures to control their citizens.

The Most striking differences between Gattaca and 1984

The most striking difference between Gattaca and 1984 is the total victory of the Party over Winston and Julia’s attempts at resistance/rebellion against Big Brother compared with Vincent’s ability to undermine and find the flaw in the Gattaca DNA system to achieve his dreams of going into space.  Another important difference is that Winston is broken by the absolute power of the Party to suppress his individual happiness and thoughts of any freedom against the oppression.  Whereas, in contrast, Vincent proves that the philosophy underpinning discrimination by DNA is flawed and that his success is determined by other variables that are not within the control of science.

Resistance, courage and determination of Vincent against the regime in Gattaca

Vincent possesses a dream, an ambition and is willing to use courage and determination to do whatever is required to achieve it, even in the face of insurmountable odds.  Vincent is able to undermine the discrimination of Gattaca by purchasing his ‘Valid’ status with the use of Jerome’s DNA in order to circumvent the Gattaca system.  His metamorphosis into Jerome allows him to join the elite Gattaca space program.  Yet he stays true to himself, maintains his vision and integrity to achieve his goal in spite of a society that is designed to ensure he fails in any attempt to better himself.  He does use a process of deception to join Gattaca but he does not aspire to be one of them, rather he uses Jerome’s DNA as a tool to achieve his dream of flying in space.

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Introductions for Comparative Texts On the Waterfront and The Crucible

Image result for pictures of on the waterfront DVD coverFor Year 11 students studying AOS1 Unit 2 Reading and Comparing Texts it is important to be very clear in your Introductions to make your Main Contentions and Message of Author/Message of Director answer the essay prompt.

Image result for pictures of the crucible book coverPlease see 3 prompts comparing the film On the Waterfront directed by Elia Kazan and the play The Crucible written by Arthur Miller.

For clarity I have colour coded the Main Contention / Message of Author / Message of Director

Prompt #1            Both The Crucible and On the Waterfront explore how easy it is for one group to control an entire community.  Discuss.

Throughout both texts it is fear that enables the mob boss Johnny Friendly in On the Waterfront and the judges and court in The Crucible to influence their respective communities and control the majority.  Predominantly it is fear of unemployment which leads to poverty that controls the longshoremen making them vulnerable to the power and corruption of Johnny’s mob.  However, it is fear of the unknown, in particular the Devil, that enables Deputy Governor Danforth and his court to manipulate and control the Puritans of Salem.  The desire for individual freedom stands in stark opposition to the powerful authority of the mob boss and the totalitarian authority of the theocratic state.  In both texts those authorities in power are willing to ruthlessly crush any hint of rebellious thinking but underestimate the resolve of a select group of determined individuals who are prepared to stand up rather than bow to the corrupt actions of those in power.  In The Crucible it is those characters like John Proctor, Rebecca Nurse and Giles Corey who pass the most severe test of all in the ‘crucible’: death; by choosing to maintain their personal integrity and refusing to justify an unjust court to save their lives.  On a similar note, in On the Waterfront it is those characters like Joey Doyle and KO Dugan who show moral integrity and courage to stand up to Johnny Friendly and speak out against the corruption on the waterfront, but their murders show the risks for others to see the world in terms of moral choices.  In the end it is left to an unlikely character Terry Malloy to abide by his conscience and need for justice to testify against the mob at the Waterfront Crime Commission and stand up for what is right and good.

Prompt #2            Elia Kazan’s film On the Waterfront and Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible tell similar stories when you compare the characters of Terry Malloy and John Proctor.  Discuss.

Both texts On the Waterfront directed by Elia Kazan and The Crucible written by Arthur Miller highlight similar stories with their respective protagonists who are plagued by their sins and desperately seek redemption.  Miller’s protagonist John Proctor views himself as a highly flawed man who has sinned against God and man’s laws by his adulterous affair with a teenage servant girl Abigail.  As a consequence of his ‘single error’ Proctor is a tormented character, unable to forgive himself for succumbing to temptation and as a result publicly confesses his sin to the court in order to save his wife Elizabeth from going to jail but in doing so damns himself.  Miller presents Proctor as a heroic man who maintains his integrity even to the point of death, in the face of a demonstrably corrupt authority.  On a similar note, Kazan presents the redemption of his protagonist Terry Malloy and his transformation from a self-confessed “bum” to a symbol of the power an individual can exercise even in the face of seemingly insurmountable corruption.  Terry’s journey towards a moral perspective allows him to grapple with questions of loyalty and conscience only to discover that ultimately one’s greatest loyalty must be to what one knows to be right.

Prompt #3            Compare how Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible and Elia Kazan’s film On the Waterfront parallel the McCarthy era of the 1950’s in America.

During the McCarthy era of the 1950s in America, countless individuals, some innocent and some guilty, were subjected to a wide range of injustices and punishments, ranging from ridicule in society to the loss of their lives.  Two dramatic works, a play The Crucible, written by playwright Arthur Miller and On the Waterfront, a film directed by Elia Kazan can both be seen as parables that are illustrative of the events of the McCarthy Era itself.  The play and film have similarities dealing with power, corruption, executions, fear, hearings and trials.  Both texts have their own relative strengths each revealing different facets of McCarthyism in their own unique ways and are representative of the different experiences and reactions of Miller and Kazan to the phenomenon of McCarthyism.  In both the play and the film, the protagonists, the environment in which they are placed, and the situations and trials they endure, are closely parallel to the events of 1950s America.  Kazan testified before Senator McCarthy’s Committee, naming names and giving details of people he knew were affiliated with the Communist Party and his personification of Terry Malloy was Kazan’s parallel to his own positive interpretation of identifying wrongdoers.  In direct contrast Miller viewed Kazan’s testifying as a betrayal and considered the tyrannical judges in Salem to be in parallel with the HUAC.  Miller’s personification of John Proctor was a parallel with his own negative interpretation and refusal to slander and black list Communist screenwriters to the McCarthy Committee.

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