Monday, November 19, 2012

The bright shiny happy future

You know what’s great about Netflix? It has so many TV series in stock so you don’t have to depend on your regular channels if you want to see, say, Spock lay the smackdown on Kirk in the original Star Trek episode “Amok Time”. You don’t have to be a premium cable subscriber to watch episodes of True Blood or Penn & Teller’s Bullshit (if you haven’t, watch it! - c'mon, you're not afraid of "strong language", are you?).

If you read a story online which reminds you of a series that you haven’t seen in years, if not decades, you can rent that series and remember why it was special enough to warrant a story – or a shipload of stories, in fact. The Smithsonian website has a section called Paleofuture, or what the future was supposed to look like in the past. One prime example of paleofuturity is The Jetsons, which first appeared on ABC in 1962 (like the Rolling Stones and James Bond movies, it’s been around half a century).

I got to meet George Jetson, his boy Elroy, daughter Judy, and Jane his wife on NBC a decade later. Like nearly all people who watched The Jetsons the first time, I saw it in black-and-white. (I would not live in a household with a color TV until I was fifteen, too old for Saturday morning cartoons.) Watching the series via Netflix means I’m watching the series in color for the very first time. The Jetsons is a show that needs color.

Still, back then I enjoyed The Jetsons almost as much as I did Richie Rich comic books, for just about the same reasons. In the Jetsons’ world, cars took flight, apartments were uncluttered, moving walkways and jet tubes took you places, and no one was poor. (Well, except for the hobo that inherited “The Flying Suit”.)

I did not notice back then that the animation was uninspiring (for Hanna-Barbera, quantity trumped quality), there were more fat people on the show than non-white people, and the number of George vs. Spacely (his bombastic boss) plots were tiresome. (How many times can a guy get fired?) I did not ask what the ground looked like, or what kind of fuel the flying cars used (and where it would come from).

Today, the future doesn’t look so bright from where we are now. Scientists fret that dealing with climate change will be the major task of human beings tomorrow, not building in the sky and riding flying cars. Dystopian future fiction far outsells utopian future fiction – I wonder if any major publisher will even take a chance on a positive future book? Optimism about the future is called folly, denial, living in la-la-la land.

What do I say to that? No one knows exactly what the future will be like. Not scientists. Not authors. Not TV show creators. Not even psychics.

We close our eyes at night and trust that we will open our eyes to the next day. Without that trust, we couldn’t make plans, formulate goals, or live life. If we don’t believe in a good future, we have no motivation to create a good present. If I were a therapist, I would recommend Jetsons DVDs for mental health, not the Hunger Games trilogy.

If you have a Netflix subscription, I say put the Jetsons in your queue in a high spot. If you have to wait, it may be because I’m still going through the series; don’t worry, I’m watching them as fast as I can!

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