Reading Isn't Believing in "Gattaca" Ads

Geneticists say campaign for futuristic Ethan Hawke thriller is misleading

By Joal Ryan Sep 17, 1997 12:45 AMTags
Awful. Perfectly awful. This business about babies--"made to order." Did you see the ads in the newspaper? "At Gattaca, it is now possible to engineer your offspring." Ye, gods. First, it's Dolly the cloned sheep; now, people are using a checklist to determine the stature of their kid--small, medium, or "Shaq" size. What has the world come to?

Not this.

The ad, appearing last weekend in the news sections of USA Today, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, is a bunch of hooey--in spite of its official-sounding gloss, in spite of its toll-free phone number for appointments. Gattaca isn't a Gattaca, the lab, it's Gattaca, the Ethan Hawke movie about clone control. And any resemblance to the former is driving real-live geneticists batty.

"We urge Sony to change its advertising to make it clear this is only a movie and that the scenarios portrayed in the ads are not real," Dr. Benjamin Younger, executive director of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, said in a statement Monday.

Why the concern? Think of it this way: The group's genetic researchers and doctors don't want people reading the Gattaca ads, getting bent out of shape, calling up their Congressional representatives and pressing for legislation to end, or limit cloning. They already went through that sort of furor with Dolly.

Besides, the research that real-life lab techs are doing, says organization spokeswoman Heather Kowalski, is not about parents getting to choose a dainty nose and a set of blue eyes for their baby. It's, for example, about targeting the gene that causes cystic fibrosis, Kowalski says.

Sony Pictures, meanwhile, is not getting into a moral debate over the ad. Spokesman Ed Russell says the campaign was essentially a one-shot deal designed to accomplish exactly what it accomplished: Get people talking about Gattaca.

The futuristic thriller, about a world where genetically engineered humans are the norm, and regular, old imperfect humans are outcasts, opens October 24. Uma Thurman also stars.

Through Monday morning, 50,000 calls had come in to the Gattaca toll-free line (which for a good minute or so, continues to play the "We're the real deal" shtick), as advertised in the print ad, according to Russell.