The Importance of Optimism in Future-Set Movies and TV

"Although it was on the air for only one season, The Jetsons remains our most popular point of reference when discussing the future." (Matt Novak, smithsonianmag.com)

Since The Jetsons "promised" us flying cars more than 50 years ago, we continue to refer back to the show as one of the only mainstream depictions of a future with a positive outcome. Granted, cinema in the 60s still included the larger-than-life conflicts (literally) with movies like Mothra vs. Godzilla, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Planet of the Apes, it seemed like the depiction of the Jetsons is the only piece that prevailed in a technologically relevant way. But to pose the question of why The Jetsons has continued to be arguably one of the most influential "science fantasy" cartoon depictions is to pose the question of whether optimistic depictions of future shape the way we innovate and live our lives.

The day I’m writing this is a date that the 1989 film, Back to the Future, predicted the sorts of technological advancements we will have made, and they were relatively close. A CNN article, "What did ‘Back to the Future II’ get right?" by Todd Leopold illuminates what was and wasn’t correct about the film’s predictions ((link)

However, around the same time as Back to the Future, we were beginning to see movies like Mad Max, depicting a sort of "post-apocalyptic" future, along with movies like The Terminator, The Matrix and Blade Runner depicting a sort of "dystopian" future. In a different way, these were becoming more common and more mainstream, possibly due to the advent of affordable visual effects and digital imaging. Regardless, it seems that the rising generations are growing up with zombies, apocalypses, and a fear of artificial intelligence or government totalitarianism. Maybe it didn’t help that The Terminator came out the year that George Orwell warned the world could be approaching a totalitarian system of constant war and surveillance.

In summation, assuming, for now, that the influence this media has can determine our course of progression and innovation as a world, than should the media industries be sharing a sort of responsibility in reenacting optimistic outcomes in future-set movies and TV?

  • Media, definitely has its own impact on our lives..but assuming everything displayed to be the real future is kind of stupidity..it is a source of entertainment..with people bringing out their fantasies on screen. Media has its fair share of optimism being screened. – reb24 7 years ago
  • This is definitely a good topic to cover especially with all ''post apocalyptic dystopian society'' story book, movies and Tv shows there are being thrown around. It's getting old and watered down, and frankly plain pessimistic. If media plays such a heavy role in terms of representation, why does it lack such sense of futuristic optimism? – ArianaDeedeen 7 years ago
  • I like the idea of exploring optimistic, or at the very least honorable themes in film and TV. Nowadays, most stories that are released in both those mediums are really dark and helmed by despicable characters (e.g. Nightcrawler, House of Cards, Gone Girl) and it'd be nice to see an article dealing with themes that, through the power of storytelling, could better people. – August Merz 7 years ago
  • There is optimism featured in many modern works, but the popular trends tend to focus on pessimistic takes on the future, such as in dystopian universes. The popularity is determined by the audience's desires. Would more widely reported positive news events rather than constant tragedy shift the demand of media to focus on the optimistic? – sarahdoner 7 years ago
  • I'm not very well versed on the Star Trek universe, but I always saw it as an optimistic portrayal of the future. As far as reenacting solely, or mostly, optimistic outcomes, I think that might be exactly what could propel us into an Orwellian type situation (attitude policy of control by propaganda, misinformation, denial of truth, and manipulation of the past). – TrevorNewsome 7 years ago
  • Watching/ researching the movie Interstellar might help forward your argument a little. The story line is particularly interesting because an optimistic outcome prevails for the future of humanity, but only after a global travesty and near-apocalyptic events. Perhaps it is a reflection on how society feels hopeless about our future today that the movie's positive outcome was from sheer luck and after much loss. – rnoelw 7 years ago
  • Love the idea. I would probably steer away from the notion that it is media's responsibility to show us a better future, though. The dystopian outlook in films will only die down once they stop making money, a responsibility held by the viewers. – Austin Bender 7 years ago

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