The Body as the Place of Identity in Fiction Film: Body Changes as a Way of Addressing Societal Fears

Monica MITARC─é


While debating the extent of bio-technological invasion and its ethical implications, media offer, through its fictional products, ways of understanding, visualizing and accepting these practices and their theoretical correlations. My hypothesis is that some of the stories in fiction film worldwide (but mostly in Hollywood films) express a legitimate social concern towards the use of technology to impact, alter or define personal identity, especially since its representation through film gives scope for both debates and acceptance/naturalization practices.
Used as a topos of change, while remaining the center of a person’s identity, the body undergoes vast technological changes, while technologies are used as a tool in an identity re-definition process. The films analyzed—Face/Off, La piel que habito, Gattaca and Minority Report (and two others)—may be seen as elaborate narratives of the quest for personal identity and agency in times of technological cha(lle)nge. We shall assess agency in corporal change which alters identity, as well as other identitary traits (facial features, iris, blood, skin, sex etc.), in order to show how “hot issues”, such as genetic inferiority, social control through iris scan and other biometrics and the quest for human perfection reflect back from society into film.
If studies regarding fictional violence conceive it either as a “physical act directed towards a character” or as “anything that emotionally impacts, of a negative manner, the viewer”, the sci-fi films—especially dystopias—feature human characters slightly or extensively engineered by medical and technological procedures, altering the characters’ identity. These representations situate themselves between the explicit (irrevocable changes of one’s identity features, for personal or social necessity) and the implicit (since the characters are submitting willingly to those changes).

Keywords: fiction film, identity, biotechnologies, body.