Tomorrow-lands; crashes with a thud and dud on Hollywood: Black-box of Hope does not tell the Truth

Released in theaters two weeks apart in the summer of 2015, one movie, Tomorrowland, about positive attempts to make the planet’s real future better failed to attract audiences; while a second movie, Jurassic World, about dinosaurs trampling each other in an unrealistic future made the fastest billion dollars at the global box office in the history of Hollywood.  Why did a cultural product that wants to make us all better humans, rather than stay dazzled with dinosaurs, push us away instead of pulling us into changing our world?

 

Tomorrowland, a 2015 sci-fi fantasy adventure film made by Disney Studios based on its theme-park namesake, is a cinematic attempt to instill a sense of urgency and agency about our future; a movie about reality. Hollywood has always served larger-than-life-size hope on silver screens. However, Tomorrowland tries to do this with respect to our global future; not a future that is threatened by some giant meteorite hurtling toward Earth, but a global future where environmental deterioration is irreversible, with economic crisis, looming social chaos and a dog-eat-dog world of humans.

 

Tomorrowland_poster1

Director, Brad Bird has said: “Somewhere along the way, in the past 30 years or so, this optimistic belief that the future was going to be better slowly gave way to the idea that the future was going to be lousy. And we just wondered why did it change?” According to George Clooney, Hollywood star and an actor in the movie: “There is such bad news out there. It’s all bad news when you turn on the TV now. It’s hard after a while. It’s hard on your soul. Tomorrowland presented an opportunity to put something that’s really entertaining and actually positive on the big screen.”  Tomorrowland, then is not only a movie about the reality of our future; it also attempts to infuse some optimism and hope into that bleak future.

 

Within a couple of weeks after its release, the 330-million US dollar film was labeled by The Hollywood Reporter as a $330mn dud. It will not make half of what was spent on producing and marketing it, the analysts said. Hope about the future transmitted from ten thousand Hollywood screens did not seem to touch people’s lives, let alone ignite a spark to transform it.

 

Jurassic_World_posterAt around the same time, maybe two weeks later, Jurassic World – another big budget futuristic movie about dinosaurs hit theaters globally. According to industry sources, the pace at which this dinosaur blockbuster has attracted paying audiences into theaters has been faster than any other movie before it. According to the director of the film, Colin Trevorrow, the synthetic hybrid dinosaur, Indominus rex, at the center of the film’s story, is symbolic of consumer and corporate excess; meant to embody humanity’s worst tendencies which is to want more, bigger, faster, louder. He is also reported to have said: “The Indominus Rex is our greed, our desire for profit that needs to be satisfied.” Film critics have mentioned that there are parallels between the workings of the park in Jurassic World and the film and entertainment industry. Another theme in this movie that made the fastest billion is: Those who do not stop evil are supporting and encouraging it. Ironically, Tomorrowland which tells us that our actions are indeed responsible for the deterioration of the future of our children, not some dinosaur; made audiences, both adults and children, stay away.

 

Why did one movie that showed a realistic future and a positive attempt to make it better fail to attract audiences while another movie with an unrealistic future of dinosaurs trampling each other draw so many? Ironically the movie that is symbolic of greed (Jurassic) became a major news item when it was labeled as the fastest movie to make a billion dollars. Are we stuck with greed and profit and see no way out? Why did a film that wants us to become better humans and make a better tomorrow, instead of pulling us into that change process, manage to push us away?

 

Tomorrowland is 330 mil dud

Hollywood analysts said that Tomorrowland failed because audiences could not tell whether the movie is for children or for adults. Apparently audiences were confused as to who this story is meant for? One can call this a confusion of story-telling and blame the director. Given the 300 million dollar budget; surely enough focus groups were conducted to test this. Hollywood and other media companies commonly use the marketing strategy of segmenting their cultural products, including movies, for specific demographic groups; such as movies for adults and movies for children. Keeping focus groups and market segmentation aside, a story is a story. Stories, like death and taxes, are certainties across cultures and countries. A good story-teller rarely thinks of segmentation and market first. Furthermore, a story about the future, a topic that concerns both adults and children, should be of interest to all demographics. So why would audiences and families reject something that is common to and important to all?

 

What does the failure of Tomorrowland indicate?

 

“Tomorrowland,” according to New York’s David Edelstein, “… is the most enchanting reactionary cultural diatribe ever made.” When audiences reject a movie, usually one that is praised by critics, it has probably not resonated with the audience or created dissonance in their minds. People handle lack of resonance or dissonance by staying away; through avoidance. The lack of resonance could be a function of the story of Tomorrowland and how it tells the truth about the future while the dissonance has to do with the audience and how they handle their hope or despair about the future in their minds and their actions. While we can avoid something because we are unable to handle the truth, we cannot forget that we cannot escape the truth either.

 

For those who have not seen the movie, a summary of the story is provided below followed by a discussion of – audiences and hope and of story and truth in the context of Hollywood and our world.

 

*****

 

Tomorrowland, classified as a science-fiction mystery adventure film, is the story of two Tomorrowlandlarge2unlikely protagonists who are brought together by a robot-girl Athena to do something about the future. One is a former sparkling boy-genius (who later in the film becomes an older and shabbier Clooney) and the other, an optimistic teenage girl, who can figure out how things work and has a positive mindset. Together the three of them travel to another dimension called “Tomorrowland”, where our actions directly affect our world. A tachyon machine, invented by the boy-genius, shows images from all time dimensions — past, present, future — and has a clock which shows that the world will end in a few days. The boy-genius, now elderly Clooney, is very cynical, but, our hope-filled teenager does not accept this bleak future as it is. She believes that the world and future can be saved. Her optimism affects the machine which starts showing some positive images. The older boy-genius realizes that the future is a self-fulfilling prophecy; the bleak future seen on the machine is a direct result of our bleak thoughts. Positive thinking about the future can change it. Of course the villain called Nix (played by Hugh Laurie) nixes the idea of helping Earth recover; gets crushed under his own machines; and while dying shoots at older Clooney. The robot girl, Athena, who sees this happening in the future-prophesizing machine, sacrifices her life to save Clooney’s; and we find that her mechanical heart is actually filled with love. All of this in happens in a Tomorrow-land filled with rides, jetpacks and sci-fi gadgetry. The two protagonists then assign new robot-children the task of distributing T-shaped pins to positive people around the world who end up in Tomorrowland and refuse to give up on the future.

[Read more about the movie Tomorrowland here]

 

*****

You can’t handle the truth

 

youcanthandlethetruthlargesizeThe LA Weekly, while giving the film a B+, wrote: “Bird (the director) has made a film that every child should see. And if his million-dollar dream flops, he’ll be asking the same question as his movie: When did it become uncool to care?”

 

Do people not care about their future? Let us take an average adult who perhaps has one or two children. What does the future represent to this adult? His children most probably. Is this adult interested in his children? Of course this adult is. It is this same adult who is accompanying the child to Jurassic World, isn’t it? Yes. Therefore, this average adult must be interested in the happiness of the child and by default the future of the child. And for a child – what is the future? It is her or his own life. Does this child not care about her own life and by default her future? So to assume that our general movie-going public has reached that point of dark nihilism which makes them not care about anything, including their own future, is almost Kafkaesque and in a slanted way very cool indeed. Unfortunately, our general population is not that cool at all. They are a worried lot.

 

The future in the mind of the common man is equated with a personal future of credit card payments, job insecurities, health care, home loans and so on. However, when we talk of the collective or planetary future the average citizen immediately connects it with  the deteriorating environment. The extensive media coverage of increasingly frequent heatwaves, extreme cold, floods, un-seasonal rains, crop failures and of 36 Nobel laureates signing a new Mainau Declaration calling for urgent action on climate change, out of a mix of urgency and guilt and horrified at the prospect of what unchecked use of natural resources could do to the future, have gotten the average Joe worried to some extent.

 

However there is a conflict or dissonance – the way of life of the average Joe is built for comfort and convenience and urgent action for climate change requires a change in that way of life at an individual level. At a larger societal level it calls for a change in our culture of consumerism as well as a change in the excessive greed of corporations and politicians. More money for some people today means a worse future for everyone tomorrow. This is the critical  problem. Money is the god for this generation and we cannot topple the temples of money. The chase for more money is leading to a negative future, but we are willing to trade that future of millions for a few billion dollars today. We want people to consume less products, most of which are environmentally harmful, but we also want them to buy more so we can keep our economy afloat. We cannot seem to get over our relationship with an economic system that is harmful for our children’s future or even visualize that a change is possible. How do we deal with this trade-off which we know is harmful for the survival of the human species? A Norwegian philosopher with a pessimistic and fatalistic view of the human condition may have hit upon the answer.

 

In 1972, Arne Naess first distinguished between shallow and deep ecology by identifying two ecology movements competing for our attention. The shallow one is concerned mostly with pollution, resource depletion and the usefulness of the Earth to humans (anthropocentrism). The second one is concerned with the diversity, richness, and intrinsic value of the entire Earth. This is the Deep Ecology movement – the idea that all life has the right to exist, that no one species is more important than another. Nature does not exist to serve humans. Rather, humans are a part of nature, one species among many. All species have the right to exist for their own sake, regardless of their usefulness to humans.

 

It is said that Naess was influenced in some ways by the ideas of the Norwegian philosopher Peter Zapffe (1899 –1990), his student who was 12 years his senior. Zapffe wrote in an essay ‘The Last Messiah’ and later in his philosophical treatise “On the Tragic” (Om det tragiske), published in 1941, that humans do not fit into Nature’s design because they are born with an overly developed intellect which allows for greater understanding and self-knowledge. Human yearning for metaphysical purpose – for intrinsic justice and meaning in any event or matters related to life and death – is destined for frustration by the real environment because Nature and the process of life is oblivious to whatever it makes and breaks in the course of its perpetuation. Humans not only perceive their own mortality but are also reflective enough to understand that the Earth would be better off without them.

 

Despite this knowledge very few humans actually lose their minds because, Zapffe says, the human brain has evolved mechanisms by which most people learn to save themselves. In an obvious salute to the work of Sigmund Freud, Zapffe proposed that humans artificially limit the content of consciousness by using four principal defense mechanisms:

Isolation - dismissal from consciousness of all disturbing and destructive thought and feeling.

Anchoring - fixation of points within, or construction of walls around, the liquid fray of consciousness which provides individuals a value or an ideal that allows them to focus their attentions in a consistent manner. God, the Church, the State, morality, fate, the laws of life, the people, the future and “our way of life” are all examples of collective primary anchoring points.

Distraction - constantly and continuously enthralling it with diversionary impressions; focusing all of one’s energy on some task or idea to prevent the mind from turning in on itself.

Sublimation - conversion of anguish into uplifting aesthetic pursuits such as literature and arts; the refocusing of energy away from negative outlets toward positive ones.

 

 *****

 

The future, in both good times and bad, is a difficult topic to deal with. Most of our lives are spent trying to make the future predictable and secure. We work hard, we save, we invest, we
make our children study instead of play because we want a secure future for ourselves and loved ones. We live as if we are sure that there will be a future even though there is really no guarantee. As Neils Bohr, the well-known physicist said: “Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.”  However, even if we know nothing about the future, even in the darkest of time, we hope for the best. Thus, while most of us may use the mechanisms of ‘Isolation’ or ‘Distraction’ as proposed by Zapffe, the concept of ‘hope’ becomes our anchoring point. In our everyday life, the future is a critical ingredient and wherever there is a future, hope always tags along.  Hollywood has understood the ubiquitous nature of hope in the common man’s life and has peddled it unabashedly. Hope is the common man’s dope against the uncertainty of an unknown future.

 

To understand hope better, it is important to look at its antonyms: dejection, hopelessness, despair. These are what we spend our times battling – we do not like the antonyms, so we cling to hope. Hope, then becomes an optimistic attitude of mind based on an expectation of positive outcomes related to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large. Psychologist Charles Snyder and colleagues came up with Hope Theory in 1991. Hope, in this psychological view, consists of two dimensions: agency and pathway.  Snyder argues that hope should be viewed as a cognitive skill that demonstrates an individual’s ability to maintain drive in the pursuit of a particular goal. An individual’s ability to be hopeful depends on two types of thinking: agency thinking and pathway thinking. Agency thinking refers to an individual’s determination to achieve their goals despite possible obstacles, while pathway thinking refers to the ways in which an individual believes they can achieve these personal goals. The person who has hope has the will and determination that goals will be achieved, and a set of different strategies at their disposal to reach their goals. Put simply: hope involves the will to get there, and different ways to get there.

 

Tomorrowland, in no uncertain terms and very lucid conversations among its characters, wants to address the cynicism we hold about the future and instill us with hope. As the Newark Star-Ledger reviewer wrote “Strip Tomorrowland down to its essentials, and you get an ending out of “I’d like to teach the world to sing” and a moral which boils down to: Just be positive, OK?” Perhaps this does not work so well in the scenario of our troubled future.

 

We are aware that our actions damage the environment, irreversibly. Yet, we do not take corrective steps. We continue to ride our cars, use air-conditioners, throw plastic and create excess, non-recyclable waste on a daily basis.  We know that every day the future deteriorates more mainly because of our way of life. But, we continue. We are addicted. We hope for a better future, we talk about it, we know the ways, but we do not act to make it happen because that would mean tackling our addiction to our present way of life. We have perhaps somewhere understood, to use Snyder’s framework, that while we know the ways, we definitely do not have the will to get there. Because the will to continue with the present lifestyle far outweighs the desire to change in the pro-environmental direction. Thus, any talk of change in behaviors with respect to the future is not the hope that the scientists / psychologists talk about, but some sort of empty rhetoric; arm-chair philosophizing in air-conditioned halls. It is like a drug addict talking of change, of giving up drugs, but not harboring any intention to do so at all. It is plain lying and manipulation.

 

Even the littlest kid in the darkest movie-theater, anywhere in the world, knows somewhere in the deep recesses of the primitive, reptilian part of his brain that he is living out a Greek tragedy where his own parents, through their ‘way of life’ today, are devouring his future like some mythic monsters; destroying every resource and damaging every bit of air and water that will keep the kid alive in the future. The future while being a ray of hope for each one of us today has also become our biggest villain and nemesis. If only there were no future then we would have nothing to worry about. We could draw all the resources to enjoy our hedonistic today because we are drilling into the future to pay for the excesses of today. There is a slight problem: some of us have actually created children who may have a life tomorrow and it is for these very children that Hollywood makes movies such as Tomorrowland and Jurassic World. Do we really think that our children are so dumb that they have not intuitively understood the game that is being played with their future? Or maybe we are super-confident that we can spin the truth and brainwash them through marketing hype, fantastic movies and the school system.

 

Forget our actions or lack of it, let us ask: What makes us think that hope will work at all – be it hope of positive thinking or hope of positive action – what makes us confident that hope will make a better future? Environmental scientists say that the climate change and many such environmental damages are essentially irreversible. Even if we stop over-consuming today, we may not be able to change the course of the deteriorating future. Will any change in our actions make a difference at all? The world has clearly experienced in the past seven years of the Obama presidency that the sheer audacity of hope is not enough to counter the negative forces of corporate greed that govern our life and everyday actions.

 

Stepping out from the darkness of the movie theater into the hazy light of a smoggy day in the city where tens of thousands of new cars are added every day and taking just one breath of the polluted air outside should make one realize that being positive or hopeful in thought or action about the future is just not enough. Today’s consumerism and corporatism may be just too far gone. In addition the population of the world is so huge, at more than 7 billion, that we may have crossed the point of no return a decade or two ago. Our hope will not change a thing except create a bubble of self-delusion. Influenced by Arthur Schopenhauer, Peter Zapffe also wrote that as long as humankind recklessly proceeds in the fateful delusion of being biologically fated for triumph, nothing essential will change. Mankind will get increasingly desperate. He propounded the idea of a last messiah almost like a Moses, but replaces Moses’ precept to “be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth,” by saying, “Know thyself, be unfruitful (infertile), and let there be peace on earth after thy passing.”

 

****

 

You can’t escape the truth

 

Once Truth came to the streets of a small town as naked as the day he was born. Seeing Truth in this condition, people ran away and every house shut its door. No one would not let Truth inside. Truth sadly walked to the town square and sat on a bench. Someone who looked exactly alike came and sat next to Truth. This was Parable was dressed in splendid colorful clothes. Parable asked, "Tell me, brother, what makes you sad?" Truth replied, "Things are bad. I guess I am old. No one wants anything to do with me." Hearing that, Parable said, "People don't run away from you because you're old. I am old too. Let me tell you a secret. Everyone likes things disguised and prettied up a bit. Wear some splendid clothes like mine, and the very people who pushed you aside will invite you into their homes and ask for your company." Truth took Parable's advice and put on the colorful clothes. And from that time Truth and Parable have gone hand in hand.
 Eastern Europe tale by the Maggid of Dubno, 18th century rabbi

 

It has always been difficult to deliver a truth, especially if that message is not a generic aphorism such as honesty is the best policy but, some harsh truth about our reality and existence. Telling the truth directly has got many truth-sayers kicked out of royal courts, some have been exiled, some executed, some guillotined and some thrown out of towers. Not just rulers and kings, even common folk, do not want to listen. Philosophers and sages have always wondered how to tell the truth so that people listen. Parables and fables are ways of telling essential truths by cloaking them in a story. Perhaps even before the era of cave paintings, telling stories has been one of our most fundamental communication methods.

 

Stories are enjoyable and stories or narratives also engage us more. It seems we, rather our brains, are hard-wired for stories. As events unfold in a particular sequence of cause and effect, it seems our entire brain seems to get activated; not just the parts that process words, but parts of the brain that deal with experiences of pain, joy and other emotions. It is argued that people remember a point better when it is told in the form of a story. That may be good for selling books on marketing and management. However, there is a problem when we try to convey a message through a story. People often remember the emotional experiences but discard the kernel of truth hidden inside. And good writers, who want to change the world with their words, have to struggle with the task of telling a story while retaining the message of truth. Perhaps Aesop did it best; told a story (Aesop’s fable) using the least words in the most economical and hard-hitting manner without diluting the truth and the fun.

 

Aesop, they also say, was thrown off a cliff; and the divide between telling a story for sheer entertainment and telling it to educate people has widened ever since, especially in the last century with the burgeoning of an entire multi-billion industry called the film and media industry whose short-form is Hollywood. This giant conglomerate, which has replaced local film-industries in most parts of the world, has also taken the exercise of story-telling to an extremely simplistic, formulaic format to satisfy the greedy cash registers of the box office. In recent years, story-telling has moved from its simple parable origins to a complicated technological product with computer animation, 3-D, green-screens, complex visual effects, and such. Use of technology has also multiplied the cost of making a movie exponentially. The Seattle Times in its film review said: “Though the movie is made with great energy and inventiveness, there’s something ultimately muddy about Tomorrowland; it’s as if director Brad Bird got so caught up in the sets and effects and whooshing editing that the story somehow slipped away.”  Yes, we  can. Is that the reason we use all this technological gimmickry to tell a story just because we can. Because we have the technology and we believe we must use it or is it because each film-maker is trying to outdo the other in technologically glitzy story-telling, keeping up with the Joneses in their Hollywood compound. Technological gimmickry has trumped the truth-telling of parable and story.

 

In the history of story-telling, Hollywood has played a critical role in the last century by taking films and stories to the remotest corners of the world; making it a mass product. The rise of Hollywood and its mass appeal has also led to truth and story-telling get divorced. Stories and plots are formulaic because these products have to guarantee the studio and financers a return on investment. And films, such as the case of Jurassic World, get measured by the amount of money they make at the box office rather than their potency in delivering a critical message. In order to generate more revenue at the box office, stories became more and fantastic and escapist – like Jurassic World. And any truth inside the story is disguised, softened, and beaten down until it does not retain the hardness of the original truth anymore or mutates into something else. For instance, how many people who watched Jurassic World actually understood the point made by the director that it was about insatiable greed? For audiences the movie was about dinosaurs engaged in WWF encounters. Today we have reached a point where audiences of Hollywood do not recognize the truth in any movie because in their minds truth and Hollywood do not go together.

 

Hollywood, like the future of Tomorrowland, has created its own self-fulfilling prophecy. Hollywood movies are essentially fantastic and escapist – light-years away from reality; and most audiences perceive Hollywood as a land in some other dimension. And this has been reinforced by the celebrity culture, the glossy magazines, high-voltage marketing, public relations, paparazzi and so on. The makers and actors of films pretend as if they live in some other world. And although there is always some influence of movies on life and life on movies, largely people see Hollywood as escapist and that is what they have come to expect from it.  And when audiences walk into a dark theater expecting to escape, and get trapped in reality instead, they run away faster than the actors from the fake dinosaurs in Jurassic World. And this has become Hollywood’s self-fulfilling prophecy. Hollywood cannot break out of its own vice-like grip of escapism.

 

The issue of the bleak future, tied to our environment is a complicated story to tell in any case. Successful Hollywood movies and literary novels are good at telling stories that show humans dealing with other humans; they revel in and beautifully narrate human foibles. However, when it comes to humans dealing with their environment, story-telling becomes fuzzy and unclear. The prognosis of the world’s future is disastrous- environmentally and socially. Relationship between humans and Nature is at the worst possible. In this scenario, Tomorrowland tells us to stay positive. It uses retro-futuristic images from the science fiction of the 1950s and 60s when we embraced science and believed we could have better living with chemistry until we realized that the plastic made in the 60s is choking our oceans in the 90s. Given what we know today about the ill-effects of all that which were touted as solutions by science yesterday; perhaps audiences, including children, find that to hold positive thoughts about the future and the role of science in saving it a little too naïve and out of touch with reality.

 

In a sense then Tomorrowland gets trapped in the same philosophy of escapism that pervades and permeates all Hollywood production. Tomorrowland, although a great attempt to wake us, cannot escape its own nature – that of a Hollywood product; trapped in Hollywood’s own tachyon machine of escapism – a self-fulfilling prophecy where the layers of clothes – of story become everything and the truth is irrelevant. By peddling hope rather than the truth in the dire scenario of a chaotic future, Tomorrowland becomes escapist and thus stays within the strict confines of Hollywood’s iron cage of story-telling.

 

*****

Heroes, Hope and Hollywood

 

Hollywood peddles hope through its heroes; a formula based on the journey of the hero who falls down only to rise again. When the world is drowning in apocalyptic floods, there’s a hero to the rescue. And when a meteor free-falls towards Earth, it is the hero who rides into outer space on a rocket and blows it up. The heroes are policemen, detectives, ex-Marines, sports-coaches and so on. Men and women from within the system who defend this system while fighting corrupt villains who abuse this system. The system is good and it is kept good thanks to the heroes. The heroes of Hollywood do not really change the system; they simply bring balance and order to it. Hollywood has always maintained the status quo. But when it comes to the future and the environment, it is this very the status quo that is the real problem. In fact the future demands that we change our (mainstream) way of life. And can a mainstream movie ever ask mainstream people to change their mainstream way of life. How can we touch that sacred cow – our contemporary way of life?

 

We are looking for the hero who will change our future, and our future will not change or become better unless we change our current way of life. Yes, for the environment the villain is our current way of life. However, if there is something that the hero of Hollywood is afraid to touch, it is that contemporary way of life. Because that is what the hero of Hollywood is born to defend. How will this hero champion the new way of life unless it is some apocalyptic movie? To say this in the context of a simple, everyday movie – that is the struggle for Hollywood writers today and for the entertainment industry in general when it comes to hard, economic issues such as the environment and our future.

 

tomorrowland4Now let us say you were writing a story where the twists and turn took you to a place where the hero has to take it upon herself / himself to tell the truth to a paying audience: That it is you the audience. You have to straighten your act; the blame lies squarely with you, not elsewhere – your actions are causing damage to the future? You, dear audience, are the villains. Now imagine that you are the studio, not the story-teller, and you have invested 300 million dollars, obviously dependent upon ticket sales for return on investment. The audience is your customer and they will buy y the tickets. One cannot forget the cardinal rule in business: The customer is always right. And therefore, compromises have to be made.

 

It is hard to be Aesop when one is looking at the return on investment and the cash registers of the box office. And so that is where the convolutions start – we want to open the audience’s eyes and also sing a lullaby to anesthetize them. It is that tangled web we weave when we try to tell the truth first, and when we realize it is uncomfortable and inconvenient, we use unconvincing, convoluted story-telling because we believe the audience cannot handle the truth. We bring out the kid gloves. We soften the blow of the hard truth.

 

The film critic of the New York Times gave the film a negative review and rightly noted: “It’s important to note that Tomorrowland is not disappointing in the usual way. It’s not another glib, phoned-in piece of franchise mediocrity but rather a work of evident passion and conviction. What it isn’t is in any way convincing or enchanting.”

 

*****

Not just the financial issue, perhaps Tomorrowland ran into problems because there are some truths that just cannot be told in a story. There are some issue where you cannot both entertain and educate – the bitter pill has to be swallowed without the sugar coating. Imagine a man about to be run over by a bus, speeding in his direction. Do you tell him a story to make him aware of the bus or do you pull him out of harm’s way? Now imagine, the emotional turmoil within the man, when he realizes that this speeding bus that is a danger to his life has been created and set off by him; it is his own creation? The man in front of the bus is the human today, the bus is the damaged environment with waters rising all over the world, and the road is the planet. We have thrown ourselves in front of that metaphorical bus. It is speeding towards us and we are stranded in the middle of that road – flat on or faces as we wake up from the consumer excesses of the days and nights before. What does the man in front of the bus do? Cross his heart and hope… or like a child close his eyes and hope the danger will pass away.

 

Almost every human knows that the solution to this deteriorated future environment is a change in our way of life. We have all been educated of the ways and actions that will take us to a sustainable future. However, people are simply unable to convert their education and positive intention into real action. We do not seem to have the energy or enthusiasm to act on our positive intentions. What we do instead is resort to magical thinking. Since we have blind faith in technology, we ask: Is there no scientist who can create plastic that birds will eat out of our hands? That way my chemical waste will become someone else’s food? Some say: Make it all vanish – the garbage dumps, the pollution, the bad things that damage the future. Can’t someone do some magic, wave a wand and make it all disappear? And therefore we look forward eagerly to the magic of the movies – because in the those dark theaters all our problems disappear while we munch on popcorn and drink soda out of Styrofoam cups.

 

Yet, not just on that road, even while we are in that movie theater, we stare at that bus speeding towards us – our tomorrow. Can we face tomorrow without hope and without any story or narrative to guide us? Can we see tomorrow for what it is? Just a bus speeding toward our children today. If we are sincere about making a better world for our children, maybe it is time to face the harsh truth without the colorful clothing of parable and story; and to work for that better future rather than just hope. For all those who seek that better tomorrow, there is no time to watch any movie be it Jurassic World or Tomorrowland! There is barely time to get out of the way of the speeding bus; Jump. But jump where? Into a virtual world or somewhere outside of this planet. Maybe we can hope that technology will find a way to inhabit Mars. Now that’s a subject Hollywood is comfortable with. Forget that the majority will never have the money to buy that expensive ticket to Mars, but the last thing we can do before the bus runs us over is tweet and tell our friends on facebook that we watched the movie first. And in order to establish the truth, we can post a selfie.

 Tomorrowland 3

 

 

© Nilesh Chatterjee, June 2015

 

 

References

  • A group of Nobel Laureates have signed a declaration calling for urgent action on climate change. http://qz.com/444787/a-group-of-nobel-laureates-have-signed-a-declaration-calling-for-urgent-action-on-climate-change/
  • Nicholson, Amy. “Don’t Hate Tomorrowland for Asking Us All to Be Better”. L.A. Weekly. Retrieved 2015-05-23.
  • Stephen Whitty (2015-05-19). “‘Tomorrowland’ review: George Clooney’s sci-fi folly”. Newark Star-Ledger. Retrieved 2015-05-23.
  • A.O. Scott (2015-05-19). “Review: ‘Tomorrowland,’ Brad Bird’s Lesson in Optimism”. The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-05-23.
  • “‘Tomorrowland’ goes back to the future badly”. Star Tribune. Retrieved 2015-05-23.
  • Macdonald, Moira (2015-05-23). “‘Tomorrowland’: Exhilarating for kids, exhausting for adults”. The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2015-05-23.
  • Merry, Stephanie (2013-07-16). “Always-cool George Clooney can’t lift meandering ‘Tomorrowland’”. The Washington Post. Retrieved 2015-05-23.
  • http://variety.com/2015/film/news/jurassic-world-box-office-1-billion-international-1201524803/
  • http://www.conures.net/stories/parable.shtml

 

 

 


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

*