Against heritage

Invented identities in science fiction film

Sky Marsen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Citations (Scopus)


This article explores some innovations in the concept of identity in contemporary science fiction film. Using a narrative-semiotic method of analysis, the article discusses an emerging trend in science fiction that questions mainstream cultural beliefs regarding motivations for action and definitions of individual agency. Focusing on Alex Proyas's Dark City (1998) and Andrew Niccol's Gattaca (1997), the article traces the ways in which this trend rearranges elements in narrative positioning to bring to light relational possibilities that challenge privileged attitudes toward who we are and why we act the way we do. The selected films deal creatively with questions concerning the causal eects of past events, origins, or heritage, and give innovative answers to complex philosophical issues about the nature of reality. At the same time, they retain a popular aesthetic and a classical narrative structure. Their common characteristic is a narrative program composed of signs of resistance to notions of a fixed identity 'caused' by biography or genetic inheritance. These signs, furthermore, form the basis of unconventional interpretations of self and action that serve as catalysts in dismantling outmoded definitions of identity. The article explores these issues following a content-based approach that focuses on how agents and acts are constructed on the story level.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)141-157
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 2004

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