Friday, November 2, 2007

Hollywood's View of the Future

What do all the most successful futuristic sci-fi series have in common? Star Trek, Stargate, Battlestar Gallactica et al? The virtual obliteration of the free market and individualism.

In Star Trek we have a society that no longer uses currency. The only way to advance yourself is through promotion, which comes from the central authority. Even Kirk, portrayed as something of a rebel, ultimately answered to Star Fleet. The whole premise of the Stargate series is a community of space faring earthlings, funded entirely by the government and unknown to the citizens whos taxes pay for the program. Knowledge and new discovery are deemed too dangerous for the general population to deal with. Battlestar Gallactica features the last surviving humans fleeing for their lives from the Cylons. They are totally dependent on the military and government structure. There are something like 40,000 remaining humans, yet a great deal of them belong to the one remaining thriving industry: the press core. In a population the size of a small town, dozens of reporters crowd the room whenever someone in authority has something to say. After all, the two most important groups in the human race are government and the media right? Never mind that neither group actually produces anything.

Where are the capitalists in these programs and movies? Oh, they occassionally appear, but only as shiftless, greedy, dishonest types. They are either direct adversaries of our heroes or quirky, minor characters who are tolerated by the rest, and used mainly for comic relief. Most often they are arms traders, black marketeers, slave traders or some other criminal element. The Firefly series did buck the trend and featured a group of non-government individuals trying to eek out a living amidst an oppressive central authority. The episodes were aired out of sequence and it was cancelled before the end of the first season.

This is Hollywood's vision of the future. A vision based on the belief that someday, we will dispense with the notion of the supremacy of the individual over the mob and embrace instead a primary focus on the good of the state, society, humanity. A vision that builds a society in which a very few benefit greatly from the labor of the masses, and the masses are grateful for the opportunity. This is not surprising coming from a demographic that travels by private jet to meet, greet and eat around the world in $4,000 suits with massive enterourages while telling the rest of us to cut down on consumption for the good of the planet.

So why does an industry that makes all of its money from the free market constantly portray a Utopian future in which the free market doesn't exist? Do they feel guilty about their riches and therefore work to bring about the destruction of the system that created them? Or are they just stupid? I'm not sure. I am sure that the conquering of deep space will never happen under a socialist system. Even a "kinder, gentler" dictatorship is self destructive. You can't order people to be creative. You can't take away individual rights and then expect people to excel. The Soviet Union was able to create a massive war machine through tyranny for a while. But as we found out after its fall, they weren't able to maintain what they built. The fall of many a "great" civilization has come about largely due to the population's lack of interest in passionately defending it.

It's said that life often imitates art. If that's the case, American art needs an overhaul. Do you want an exciting future for your species or for your grandchildren? Are we insignificant parts of a greater whole or are we great people? Don't just watch, think. What's the message? Where are the producers leading our imaginations? What's the end game? Is it time for a rewrite?

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