4 Past Movies That Nailed 2020s America
Whenever a movie turns out to be strangely prophetic, it usually means that either the writers did a great job of observing society, or that today's "new" problems are in reality just part of an endless cycle of bullshit. Hey, maybe it's both! Look at how ...
Misery Perfectly Explains Modern Fandom
"Toxic fandom" is a term that barely seemed to exist until a few years ago, but now we accept that making a Star Wars movie means you get death threats. It's easy to assume this is a product of the social media era and our contemporary inability to keep any damned thing in perspective. But the 1990 movie Misery (based on a Stephen King novel from 1987) detailed the pathology of entitled fandom back when the internet was the domain of a few dedicated super nerds.
Misery tells the story of Paul (James Caan), a prolific author of romance novels about a character named Misery. He gets into a bad car accident and is nursed back to health by the reclusive Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates), who claims to be his "biggest fan." But when she discovers that Paul plans to kill off Misery so he can move on to more serious fiction, she doesn't take it well at all. She forces Paul to write a new Misery novel, later taking a sledgehammer to his legs to make sure he can't escape. It's paramount that he "give Misery back to the world."
That's how too many fans frame their worldview, claiming to be dedicated to the work when in reality they're just obsessively demanding that their own preferences be catered to. If that means relentlessly harassing creators, well, that's simply how much they care, right?
When Paul says that the character in his new non-Misery book swears a lot because, like him, they come from the slums, Annie immediately goes off about how SHE never swears, and so that must just not be a thing. Every creative decision that offends her palate is seen as a personal attack. Paul is barely human in her mind. He's more of a conduit through which God or the Universe bestows Annie with stuff she wants. It's a portrait of what happens when a person loves something so much that they start to hate it, because the real thing can never satisfy their hyper-specific tastes. The end result is, well ... what's a word for the extreme opposite of happiness?
Demolition Man Portrays A Society Of Polarized Social Bubbles
On the surface, Demolition Man seems like the kind of convoluted setup designed only as an excuse to get Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes to punch each other across vaguely futuristic sets. The social satire felt ridiculous in 1993, but maybe that's because it came too early.
Sylvester Stallone plays a one-man war machine / cop who gets framed for killing civilians by the criminally insane Wesley Snipes (who may or may not be playing a character). They are both cryogenically frozen and eventually wake up in the year 2032, which by now has eliminated nearly all crime and become something of a utopia. At least on the surface ...
And I mean that literally, because there's an entire underground culture that rebels against the surface world and its strict, suffocating rules. These are the forces of conservatism (the uppers) and liberalism (the downers).
The conservative world is clean, healthy, and hasn't had any murders in decades. But the society also controls what citizens can eat, forbids them from swearing in their own homes, and has made physical sex all but obsolete. A lot of this comes from fears of their world turning out like the mole people's kingdom, where folks have all the individual freedoms they want -- they drink beer, bang, and eat burgers -- but have to do it in a dirty, violent sewer. And the burgers are made of rat.
It portrays a world in which people's worldviews -- the fear of suffocating conformity versus the fear of chaos and violence -- are so irreconcilable that everyone creates separate, parallel societies. Today, as more liberal attitudes take hold among citizens, governments seem to get more conservative in response, as if any threat to cultural norms will bring everything crashing down.
It's essentially a giant game of chicken played against an imaginary opponent. And as the real world descends into chaos, a newspaper will blow across the shattered streets bearing the headline STALLONE TRIED TO WARN US.
Coneheads Is A Takedown Of ICE And A Broken Immigration Policy
Here's a scenario for you: A pair of immigrants slip past the U.S. armed forces to get into the country, where they eventually settle down, work their asses off, have a family, and become fully American. But immigration enforcement officials, using underhanded tactics, track them down to deport them back to their home, which really isn't home anymore. They've assimilated and have a child born in the U.S., so they don't want to go back to a place where they wouldn't even be welcomed. Also their heads look like butt plugs and they eat toilet paper, but that's not part of the metaphor, as far as I know.
What sounds like a bunch of modern headlines stapled together is the plot of the Dan Aykroyd sci-fi comedy (and infamous flop) Coneheads. Based on a series of '80s-era Saturday Night Live sketches, the movie spoofs the experiences of immigrants in America, and in the process accidentally nailed many experiences modern immigrants have with ICE, which was formed about 10 years after the movie came out.
The Coneheads are hunted by INS (pre-ICE immigration) official Gorman, who doesn't care that the family has been living peacefully in America for years. In his mind, they moved here illegally, so he will use whatever means necessary to unmask them and kick them out. At one point he pretends to be a Jehovah's Witness to unlawfully enter their home. It may not be in the same league as ICE setting up fake universities to deport people, but it's the same sport.
Also, just as in the real case of deportee Leticia Stegal, it doesn't matter that the undocumented immigrants have worked in the U.S., paid taxes, and have a child born on American soil. Immigration still has no qualms about bursting into their home in front of their children, which is another ICE staple.
In the end, it turns out that the Coneheads can't even go back. They became so assimilated that their own kind considers them traitors and wants to kill them. Maybe it's not the same as deporting a 40-year-old mentally ill diabetic who's lived most of his life in Detroit back to Iraq (he died there two months later), but the uniforms sure do seem to match.
Planet Of The Apes (1968) Is About How Fake News Can Reshape Society
Today, nearly everyone agrees that fake news exists, and that it is bad. They just disagree over which side is actually using it, and therefore which side should go screw themselves. Historians will probably spend a lot of time studying the way the factions in 2020 America didn't disagree on opinion, but on the nature of reality itself. They may want to start by watching Planet Of The Apes.
The villain is an orangutan named Dr. Zaius, who holds an impressive triple-title: member of the Ape National Assembly, Minister of Science, and Chief Defender of the Faith. He's therefore a politician, a scientist, and something of a pope. Zaius thus controls the flow of information on the ape planet, keeping stuff from the general population which he deems to be "dangerous" according to their Articles of Faith or Sacred Scrolls.
This includes scientific facts, like how flying machines are impossible. The chimps Zira and Cornelius are scientists, yet they don't question this propaganda until Heston shows them a paper airplane. They could have deduced the facts based on observable reality, but apes, like humans, don't work that way. They had been presented a worldview, and once it was accepted, facts were filtered according to whether or not they fit it. If your reply is, "That's right, the other side DOES do that! They're basically a cult," well, that's part of it. You spend all of your time dismissing other people's sacred truths, so you never scrutinize your own.
The techniques aren't new, of course. Whether the dogma is transmitted via scrolls or Facebook is irrelevant. Even worse, it turns out that without a modern equivalent of an all-powerful Dr. Zaius, we dutifully take on the task of programming each other via Minions memes. So if anything, Planet Of The Apes probably had too high an opinion of us.
Cezary is a freelance writer and editor. You should follow him on Twitter.
For more, check out 5 Eerily Accurate Predictions Made In 'Demolition Man' - Today's Topic:
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