The Anachronistic Antagonist

Anachronisms. I cheese people off with these (and when I say people, I am referring to my family) when we’re watching a show or movie set in, for example, the eighties, and I see a poster for a movie on a bedroom wall, or hear a song playing on a radio in the background before the movie actually came out (case in point: Bumblebee). They pop up in novels too from time to time, and I have an annoying habit of rushing straight to Google when I see pop culture references. I know – it’s tedious. Thing is, you can unknowingly create anachronisms at the other end of the time-space continuum.

Okay, so we know Los Angeles in 2019 today does not bear much resemblance to the Los Angeles of 2019 as visualised back when Blade Runner was in production in 1981. But we’re all ambitious dreamers, not just the writers and directors and artists. We all like to think that nearly forty years down the road, we will finally have flying cars. Same with Back to the Future II and its vision of America in 2015 and those flying cars again. Think, at this stage, we’re probably going to have to give up on the flying cars, unless…

Unless what? I think when we’re world-building, we need to set our futuristic visions a hell of a lot further away. This became apparent to me over the weekend when I rewatched The Island, with Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson, directed by Michael Bay. I enjoyed this when it first came out and, not sure why, I needed to check it out again.

Produced in 2005, the movie is set in 2019. A lot of the choices of the technologies and capabilities that society will have at its disposal in this 2019 are a bit on the very ambitious side. There are no flying cars, but there are hoverbikes. Trains run on maglev lines. Cloning has been perfected. And everyone drives a Chrysler (but that’s more down to product placement than unbridled optimism). We can forgive all of this (even me), except when it came to one thing. And that was the scene where the heroes seek out an “Information Directory”.

This is one of those examples where the reality of 2019 completely blows the fantastical vision of 2005 out of the water. Because the Information Directory turns out to be, essentially, a phone booth with MSN internet access and a monitor to perform searches on and find information. I was watching this thinking hang on why don’t they just… oh right, because the iPhone didn’t come out until 2007, and all of the characters in this 2019 are still rocking Nokias with actual keypads and appear to use them to make phone calls.

I think we have to build our future worlds in a year that no one on this planet will ever live to see. Go to the 22nd or 23rd century. Or even the 31st. And don’t just take something that exists now and wonder what it will look like then; create something absurd, a version of which does not exist now. I don’t know, the precogs in Minority Report, for example – a creation divorced from technology altogether, biological and evolutionary in nature.

My 15-year-old daughter told me last week that she and her friends wonder what the world will be like in 30 years. Me being a dick, I told her probably not a whole lot different to the way it is now. I mean, music has not moved on a whole lot in the last twenty to thirty. My son listens to a hell of a lot of rap from the late eighties and nineties and can’t tell the difference from what’s out there now. The buildings will still look the same, her phone will be stitched into her clothes perhaps, rather than fused to her hand the way it is now. And there probably, definitely, still won’t be any flying cars.

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