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tomorrow la la la la

June 3, 2015

The movie “Tomorrowland” (about the Disney theme park) got some “zombie” press. I haven’t seen the movie yet but thought I would comment on some of the press.

CLTampa: “Tomorrowland: The future’s so bright you might miss the shade” by Keven Renken:

If recent movies are any indication, the future is not going to be pretty. Apocalyptic, dystopian cinema has actually been with us for decades, but in the last couple of decades it has achieved an unprecedented prominence. In the future we’ll be forced to sacrifice our young, devastated by zombie attacks, or destroyed by killer robots – and that just scratches the surface. The outcome does not look promising.

Meanwhile in TechCentral: “Tomorrowland: Futurobama” by Lance Harris:

It’s a well-meaning rebuff to the sermons about dystopia and climate catastrophe in schools and news media and to popular culture’s tales of nuclear annihilation, zombie apocalypse and genocidal artificial intelligences. The future, the filmmakers argue with the subtlety of Pollyanna with a megaphone, isn’t what it used to be. It’s only bleak, because we feed our fears for a terrifying destiny rather than building on our hopes for a better one.

Right, because our fears only exist if we feed them. As FDR said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Of course, less than a decade later, he would take America to war. Which is more frightening, war (which is hell) or a world in which no one is willing to fight evil (because we are beyond good and evil)?

Disney has been accused of harboring Nazi ideas before. It’s sort of part and parcel to the clean, automatic, orderliness of it all. It’s a utopia of clocks and animated machines where the Hall of Presidents is just another haunted house.

See the StraightDope: “Was Walt Disney a fascist?” and Wikipedia: “Education for Death

Zombies might be expected to fit best in Adventureland or Frontierland, both are classically infested with native injuns (sometimes cannibals), and both traditionally exist in worlds of low-tech (the result of traveling outside the colonial empire, not all that different than a post-apocalyptic world). Still, perhaps the most pernicious of Disnefied fantasy is Tomorrowland, where the future is sanitized. Here we might more typically expect tropes of robots and aliens but it also an apt place to find AstroZombies (not to be confused with Astrue zombies, though those are likely to be abundant in the future too).

Still, perhaps the critics are reading it backwards, perhaps shows like “Walking Dead” and “Game of Thrones” are actually not dystopian fantasy but utopian. Like Robinson Crusoe or Davy Crockett, zombie fiction presents satisfaction to the longing for a simpler world, not the simplicity of automatic life, but rather the simplicity of hard survival. Today’s modern world is already more advanced than the original Tomorrowland but with these advances come a cold rational-but-arbitrary bureaucratic loss of individuality. We long for a time when human hearts mattered.

In Tomorrowland the only dragons are imaginations’ Figment, no actual dragons to fear, no real fear at all, except for the terror that the system might stop, the absolute terror of being freed from the machine. Is that the terror it portends to be, or would it be salvation for many zombie-cogs who have forgotten what it is to be human? Tomorrowland asks us to imagine the joy of a perfected future machine, but engineered perfection may not be what it promises.

Consider BioWorld: “Utopia, dystopia: Separating truth from fiction in bioethics discussions” by Jennifer Boggs:

There are no shortages of novels, movies and television shows featuring threats of global annihilation – zombie viruses, meteors hurtling through space, nuclear warfare – or opening up post-apocalyptic landscapes laid waste following a collision of unchecked scientific and technologic advances with the those worst of human traits – greed, irresponsibility, megalomania.

Boggs continues:

we all use such pop culture references as a communication shorthand for describing often-complex ideas.

As NYU bioethicist Arthur Caplan noted at last month’s BEINGS meeting, “there are people convinced that some scientist out there is going to apply CRISPR for eugenics purposes.”

I’m not saying we should give up our science fiction pursuits… reading and watching what-if fiction can still impart philosophical lessons, such as it being a good idea to proceed cautiously with new discoveries and technologies.

Caution: we know not what we do. Luke 23:34

Consider implications for the anthropocene, and see “Geo-Engineering Doesn’t Reduce Long-Term Risk” by James Kwak, associate professor at University of Connecticut School of Law:

Even if we stipulate that geo-engineering has a, say, 90 percent chance of solving all the significant problems of climate change — an estimate that is almost certainly way too high — who wants to take that risk?

The future is coming, can we control it, should we try? What else would we do? Psychoanalysis might remind us, from the work of Eric Berne, that inside each of us is a ‘little fascist’ saboteur.

figment

Finally, see also PennLive version of today’s Paul Krugman column: “In Europe, partying like it’s 1914 all over again: Paul Krugman” paired with this picture of “stencil graffiti mocking German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Athens” with Mickey Mouse ears:

stencil graffiti disney Angela Merkel in Athens

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