Saturday, September 1, 2012

Forbidden Planet

Last night B and I watched Forbidden Planet, a science fiction movie made in 1956. It's quite good and has some profound things to say about the nature of evil, the role of sin in human life, and scientific hubris. (Also, the robot is awesome!)

What was most interesting to me, however, was how clearly the movie was a product of its time. It was supposedly set in the distant future, yet the spaceship crew was entirely young, very physically fit, white American males (prompting us to think it would make a good gay porn movie). No science fiction movie today would feature a crew with that composition (for example, the recent movie Prometheus featured multiple female leaders and a black spaceship captain). All advanced machinery was enormous, instead of tiny and hand-held, and remote communication was difficult (no idea of cell phones, the Internet or video conferencing).

My father was a young man in the 1950s, and he told me that no one then would have ever predicted most of the changes we've seen: a black president (most states were still segregated then, and even Italians counted as racially inferior), women as acknowledged leaders, homosexuality as just another lifestyle choice, the Internet, personal computers...Even the idea of going around dressed in obscene t-shirts, sweat pants and plastic gardening shoes, instead of hats, corsets and ties, would have been strange.

It makes me wonder what changes will have arrived sixty years from now. Based on past experience, the world will be fundamentally different in at least several crucial ways: but I have a hard time imagining what those will be.  Widespread genetic engineering? A greatly reduced population (or one dominated by the aged)? Countless refugee camps due to global warming? I am not sure. What do you think the future holds?

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