Author Topic: Why can't Hollywood sci-fi and fantasy imagine...  (Read 897 times)

Hopscotch

Why can't Hollywood sci-fi and fantasy imagine...
« on: February 23, 2022, 06:36:19 AM »
What think of this argument?

Why can't Hollywood sci-fi and fantasy imagine alternatives to capitalism or feudalism?
The limitless imagination of these genres hits a roadblock when it comes to envisioning other political systems.
Salon
   Feb 22, 2022

Whether it's through fire-breathing dragons, time travel, psychic powers, or spaceships that sail effortlessly between distant stars, there's never been a shortage of tropes in fantasy or science fiction stories that challenge our belief of what's possible. Yet while these genres are great at imagining new forms of magic and technology, the most popular sci-fi and fantasy works tend to be politically unimaginative. Indeed, a survey of best-sellers and Hollywood-produced works in the genre reveals a tendency to fall back on the same old political or economic systems: for fantasy, we have our usual monarchies and empires, kings and queens, nobles and commoners. For sci-fi, the future is often bleak, dominated by hyper-capitalist corporate galactic warfare or techno-bureaucratic empires clinging to power on their newly-annexed planets….

 

Jeff Tanyard

Re: Why can't Hollywood sci-fi and fantasy imagine...
« Reply #1 on: February 23, 2022, 09:57:39 AM »
I think that article is hopelessly political.  I think any real discussion of it would violate forum rules.

Having said that, the answer to "Why doesn't Hollywood do what I want it to?" is always "Because Hollywood's goals and interests are different from yours."  If you--general you--don't like what Hollywood does, then you--general you--are welcome to either start your own movie studio or only watch content made outside of Hollywood (like indie stuff on YouTube).
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j tanner

Re: Why can't Hollywood sci-fi and fantasy imagine...
« Reply #2 on: February 23, 2022, 12:13:31 PM »
I think that article is hopelessly political.  I think any real discussion of it would violate forum rules.

I didn't notice any particular fiery political bent, but I did notice that it was just self-promotion in sheep's clothing. And (SPOILER!) the author's novel delves into that vastly underimagined political system known as ... democracy?!

I think Star Trek kinda says what needs to be said about a post-capitalist society. (ie. it plays no role in conflict--the lifeblood of fiction--and so you have to lean on other sources, or reintroduce it into certain stories as a boogyman.)

I don't really long for more stories imagining different political systems like the author does. The bits and pieces examples that don't measure up to them are more than enough. Could be just me. <shrug>
 
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LilyBLily

Re: Why can't Hollywood sci-fi and fantasy imagine...
« Reply #3 on: February 23, 2022, 02:49:43 PM »
World War I happened only a little over a hundred years ago, and before it, just about every country had a king or something like a king. They've still got a queen over in the UK and a few more places in the world. There are many different kinds of bosses in our world with different names and powers, but a hundred years is not a long time for a society, a civilization, to stop thinking about the way things once were and imagining variations on them. Maybe in another hundred years, fantasy won't be about what civilization pretty much always has been. I'd say the original Matrix movie was an attempt at something different, and there have been others.   
 
 
 

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Re: Why can't Hollywood sci-fi and fantasy imagine...
« Reply #4 on: February 23, 2022, 08:32:13 PM »
I think Star Trek kinda says what needs to be said about a post-capitalist society. (ie. it plays no role in conflict--the lifeblood of fiction--and so you have to lean on other sources, or reintroduce it into certain stories as a boogyman.)

Trek was actually very specific about what you become if you are a solely capitalist society.

You become the Ferengi.
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angela

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Re: Why can't Hollywood sci-fi and fantasy imagine...
« Reply #5 on: February 24, 2022, 05:08:12 AM »
ETA:

A-hah! There it is in the start of paragraph 2: "As a fantasy author myself, "

I shall not be salty about it. He's one of us. ;-)
« Last Edit: February 24, 2022, 05:13:23 AM by angela »
 

Jeff Tanyard

Re: Why can't Hollywood sci-fi and fantasy imagine...
« Reply #6 on: February 24, 2022, 08:47:06 AM »
I think Star Trek kinda says what needs to be said about a post-capitalist society. (ie. it plays no role in conflict--the lifeblood of fiction--and so you have to lean on other sources, or reintroduce it into certain stories as a boogyman.)


Personally, I found the society/economy of TNG-era's Federation to be one of the most unrealistic settings I've ever seen.  I guess that's why they had to have the "we've evolved" part, because it certainly didn't work with humans as we currently understand the species.

For a post-scarcity economy, Idiocracy is far more realistic.  After all, we're living it right now to a certain degree.  We have all the world's knowledge at our fingertips in the form of the internet, and it's free, but what do most people do with it?  Do they pursue intellectual self-improvement?  Are they teaching themselves physics and calculus and electrical engineering and all the other things about how the universe actually works?  Are they reading Socrates and Aristotle and Nietzsche and Aquinas and all the other famous philosophers?  Of course not.  The vast majority are bickering on Twitter and watching cat videos and playing fantasy football.  Educational/intellectual material is in a post-scarcity state, yet almost no one takes advantage of it.  (Full disclosure: I'm guilty of this myself.  I love cat videos, I sometimes read tweets, and I used to play fantasy football.  I cured myself of fantasy football, though.  That stuff is the devil.)

In a real-life TNG, most people would look like this:





Pixar > Roddenberry   :cool:

And we didn't need the internet to teach us about human nature.  We had the "mouse utopia" experiment back in the 1960s to give us a clue about mammalian responses to scarce vs. infinite resources.  And before that, we had the histories of ancient societies from which we could learn, and it's obvious that when times get too good, the people lose their drive and discipline and become lotus eaters.  The only societies that managed to buck that trend were those with ethical foundations that proved stronger than the forces of temptation.

Having said all that, I still enjoyed TNG.  It was mostly a tight, well-written show.

And I'm still meaning to see DS9 at some point.  All I keep hearing over and over is that it's the best Trek series in the whole franchise, so I really need to mark it off my bucket list.
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Post-Crisis D

Re: Why can't Hollywood sci-fi and fantasy imagine...
« Reply #7 on: February 24, 2022, 09:24:26 AM »
TANGENT TIME . . .

And I'm still meaning to see DS9 at some point.  All I keep hearing over and over is that it's the best Trek series in the whole franchise, so I really need to mark it off my bucket list.

I'm nearly finished watching DS9 in reruns.  (11 episodes to go.)  When it originally aired, the local station stopped carrying it after the fifth season, so I missed the last two seasons.  And then it was no where to be found for the longest time.  I evidently saw it at some point because, watching now, I remember seeing the episodes, but I think this is the first time I've mostly watched it from beginning to end.

I don't know if it is the "best" Star Trek series, and if you've seen Babylon 5 you will find a lot of strong similarities, but they did a lot of things right.  For one thing, they handled kids (Jake and Nog) better than TNG (Wesley) in that they were more realistic and not the wonder-kid that saves the day every three episodes.  Also, they fixed the Ferengi.  The Ferengi were supposed to be the new baddies in TNG, but they were mostly silly in TNG.  In DS9, they basically turned them into the modern Cyrano Jones / Harry Mudd characters.  Anything for a buck.  But they also did humorous episodes without making them seem silly.  Also, perhaps most importantly, they treated the original series with respect.  In TNG, they treated Scotty like a washed-up has-been, gave him a shuttlecraft and basically couldn't get rid of him fast enough.  I mean, seriously, you couldn't at least drop him off at a starbase or something?  But in DS9, they did a really good job of handling original series characters.  Not only did they have the anniversary episode with the tribbles, but they also had three of the original series Klingons back: Kor, Kang and Koloth.
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PJ Post

Re: Why can't Hollywood sci-fi and fantasy imagine...
« Reply #8 on: February 25, 2022, 01:38:31 AM »
I think the author of the article just needs to see more movies. I can't say that every possible political/social system has been explored in film, but I can say with some measure of confidence that a metric-crap-load have been:

Metropolis
A Boy and His Dog
THX-1138
Soylent Green
Brave New World
Logan's Run
Planet of the Apes
2001
1984
Gattaca
Brazil
Robocop
Running Man
Idiocracy
The Hunger Games
Ghost in the Shell
Akira
Blade Runner
Demolition Man
Elysium
Avatar
Wall-E
Conan
Excalibur
Total Recall
And Star Trek
The list goes on and on...

And we haven't even talked about long form streaming shows like The Handmaid's Tale, The Expanse, Altered Carbon or Arcane.

eta: Apocalypto and Dances with Wolves
« Last Edit: February 25, 2022, 01:57:31 AM by PJ Post »
 

JRTomlin

Re: Why can't Hollywood sci-fi and fantasy imagine...
« Reply #9 on: February 25, 2022, 07:56:18 AM »
It is not just Hollywood. It is amazing the amount of science fiction and fantasy with never a single thought that there might be a universe that isn't feudalism with either rocket ships or magic fireballs.

No, it is not political to think that a little imagination would offer a wider range of choices.
 

Lorri Moulton

Re: Why can't Hollywood sci-fi and fantasy imagine...
« Reply #10 on: February 25, 2022, 08:14:59 AM »
Original Star Trek did something different.  If we can see past the 60s fashion and hairstyles, there are a lot of revolutionary ideas for its time.


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JRTomlin

Re: Why can't Hollywood sci-fi and fantasy imagine...
« Reply #11 on: February 25, 2022, 08:42:55 AM »
You're right about Star Trek.
 
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Hopscotch

Re: Why can't Hollywood sci-fi and fantasy imagine...
« Reply #12 on: February 25, 2022, 09:31:00 AM »
As we're definitely not talking politics here:  so far as I can see, all human societies divide people into two classes - the riders and the ridden.  Modern democratic societies and clever tyrannies pacify the ridden w/table crumbs.  Sometimes the ridden rise up and demand something else.  But, in 10,000yrs, they haven't been able to sustain that something else when they did get it.  Ideas about something else for the 10,000yrs ahead is what I'd like to see in sci-fi.  The titles listed here really don't cut it.
 

Jeff Tanyard

Re: Why can't Hollywood sci-fi and fantasy imagine...
« Reply #13 on: February 25, 2022, 09:47:39 AM »
It is not just Hollywood. It is amazing the amount of science fiction and fantasy with never a single thought that there might be a universe that isn't feudalism with either rocket ships or magic fireballs.

No, it is not political to think that a little imagination would offer a wider range of choices.


Have to disagree with this.  Hollywood does its own thing for its own reasons, and that necessarily limits its scope, but science fiction literature is a whole different ballgame.  It's far more diverse.  Among SF books, there's an example of every scenario you can imagine.  Ancap/libertarian societies, communist societies, theocracies, and so on.  All-female societies, all-male societies, more-than-two-sexes societies, and sex-neuter societies.  Every flavor of genetic manipulation you can think of.  Time-traveling men who have sex with their pre-sex-change mothers and sire themselves.  Alternate universes featuring gorilla senators and dolphin physicists.

And I'll shamelessly add some human asexual reproduction via budding.   :ices_angel_g:

If one can imagine it, then there's a story about it.  And that's what makes SF such a sublime genre.   :heart:
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Crystal

Re: Why can't Hollywood sci-fi and fantasy imagine...
« Reply #14 on: March 04, 2022, 09:07:41 AM »
A lot of good sci-fi uses the future setting to discuss the conditions of the present day. Naturally, that means stories with exaggerated versions of familiar political systems.

In the modern world, wealthy people with more leisure time are thinner, not fatter. They have more time to exercise and more access to medicine and nutritious food. A world where everyone has more time and nutrition is a world where the average person is thinner.
 

PJ Post

Re: Why can't Hollywood sci-fi and fantasy imagine...
« Reply #15 on: March 04, 2022, 10:48:15 PM »
In the modern world, wealthy people with more leisure time are thinner, not fatter. They have more time to exercise and more access to medicine and nutritious food. A world where everyone has more time and nutrition is a world where the average person is thinner.

Not in Wall-E.
 
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Crystal

Re: Why can't Hollywood sci-fi and fantasy imagine...
« Reply #16 on: March 05, 2022, 11:14:03 AM »
Yes... that is my point. Wall-E is not reflecting the reality of our current capitalist society. It's suggesting people are fat solely because they are lazy and absolving capitalism of any fault. It's erasing real life problems like food deserts, income inequality, lack of safe places to exercise, etc.
 

LilyBLily

Re: Why can't Hollywood sci-fi and fantasy imagine...
« Reply #17 on: March 05, 2022, 11:50:53 AM »
Yes... that is my point. Wall-E is not reflecting the reality of our current capitalist society. It's suggesting people are fat solely because they are lazy and absolving capitalism of any fault. It's erasing real life problems like food deserts, income inequality, lack of safe places to exercise, etc.

Not to mention physically exhausting jobs and commutes, which is what makes so many Americans fatter. I had a long commute a couple of decades ago and I'd get home stunned from the long drive, unable to do anything but eat. I was lucky, because it was merely a very long drive instead of a horrendous traffic nightmare drive and my job did not include physical labor. Why did I do that commute? Because it was the best and highest-paid job I was ever offered. Why didn't I move next door to the company and avoid the commute? Because in today's world, with employment at a specific company lasting on average just slightly longer than four years, it wouldn't make any kind of sense to move closer to a job I'd be out of so soon. In reality, that job only lasted a year and a half.

Wall-E is knocking the middle and working class, calling us all lazy slobs, when the truth Covid revealed was that we were tired. Working at home has shown a lot of people just how tired they were. What we haven't been able to solve with working at home is our natural human need for congress with other humans aside from our tiny little nuclear families.

 
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Alec Hutson

Re: Why can't Hollywood sci-fi and fantasy imagine...
« Reply #18 on: March 05, 2022, 07:02:16 PM »
Yes... that is my point. Wall-E is not reflecting the reality of our current capitalist society. It's suggesting people are fat solely because they are lazy and absolving capitalism of any fault. It's erasing real life problems like food deserts, income inequality, lack of safe places to exercise, etc.

And capitalism is almost directly at fault. From my investigations, the rise in obesity can be fairly well correlated with the trend of overprocessing food and adding in sugar, all to increase the bottom line. Fat was demonized when the real culprit this whole time has been sugar. Cheap, overprocessed, sugar-laden food is (I believe) at the root of the obesity epidemic in developed societies. I was reading a book that claimed the average number of calories consumed hasn't actually increased by all that much - the real problem is that processing foods strip away things like fiber, which take energy to digest and have other ancillary benefits. The simple sugars we consume in vast quantities now just get turned straight into energy, which ends up on our hips.   

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PJ Post

Re: Why can't Hollywood sci-fi and fantasy imagine...
« Reply #19 on: March 05, 2022, 10:57:53 PM »
Yes... that is my point. Wall-E is not reflecting the reality of our current capitalist society. It's suggesting people are fat solely because they are lazy and absolving capitalism of any fault. It's erasing real life problems like food deserts, income inequality, lack of safe places to exercise, etc.

I don't think Pixar was taking a jab at lazy working folks, I think Wall-E was exploring a post-scarcity world in which even the most mundane tasks were automated. Socioeconomic systems don't enter into it.

In the modern world, wealthy people with more leisure time are thinner, not fatter. They have more time to exercise and more access to medicine and nutritious food. A world where everyone has more time and nutrition is a world where the average person is thinner.

I'm not sure this is true. I would argue social pressures have more influence than income - beyond basic nutritional thresholds. And since social norms vary over time and by culture, it's difficult to say what a post-scarcity world might look like.
« Last Edit: March 05, 2022, 11:03:14 PM by PJ Post »
 
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LilyBLily

Re: Why can't Hollywood sci-fi and fantasy imagine...
« Reply #20 on: March 06, 2022, 01:08:55 AM »
Yes... that is my point. Wall-E is not reflecting the reality of our current capitalist society. It's suggesting people are fat solely because they are lazy and absolving capitalism of any fault. It's erasing real life problems like food deserts, income inequality, lack of safe places to exercise, etc.

I don't think Pixar was taking a jab at lazy working folks, I think Wall-E was exploring a post-scarcity world in which even the most mundane tasks were automated. Socioeconomic systems don't enter into it.

In the modern world, wealthy people with more leisure time are thinner, not fatter. They have more time to exercise and more access to medicine and nutritious food. A world where everyone has more time and nutrition is a world where the average person is thinner.

I'm not sure this is true. I would argue social pressures have more influence than income - beyond basic nutritional thresholds. And since social norms vary over time and by culture, it's difficult to say what a post-scarcity world might look like.

Sometime early in the twentieth century or possibly even at the very end of the nineteenth, everything flipped. The rich--who had always been the fat ones--got thinner and the poor got fatter. Tans became fashionable when for centuries prior a tan had been the mark of the peasant; being pale now meant one was an office or factory slug. The poor did not necessarily get better nutrition, although an argument can be made for McDonalds later on providing cheap protein plus some mighty effective growth hormones, but they did get fatter. Perhaps the rise of cheap canned goods made a difference. Don't know. I do know the rich did have access to sports, to gyms, and to time to move around and use up any excess calories obtained via pate de foie gras. The poor did not.

Commuting times increased drastically in the second half of the twentieth century as car ownership increased, so no exercise for the working stiff. Public transportation--running for the trolley or bus--had involved a significant number of steps in one's day, and if one wanted coffee before work one had to walk to the coffee shop, not drive through (or "thru"). The anti-fat pro-sugar movement was the finishing touch. Processed foods that used to be simply made are now too often produced with chemicals our livers cannot properly utilize. It is not an exaggeration to say they are toxic.

So here we are, the frogs being slowly boiled to death, and we mostly don't hop out.

To bring this back to the original topic, Hollywood has a lot invested in going down the middle, showing the familiar, and so on. Feudal dystopias tread familiar ground and are a comfortable way of reliving the past while contemplating the future.       
 
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LBL

Re: Why can't Hollywood sci-fi and fantasy imagine...
« Reply #21 on: March 06, 2022, 05:59:55 AM »
The Oxford Dictionary defines capitalism as:

"an economic and political system in which a country's trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state."

That's not our system. Our system is trade and industry controlled by 'private' owners AND the state. There is no separation of the two. In this day and age, they're the same entity.

Hey, I'm all for blaming capitalism if the shoe fits, but many of society's current ills are the fault of the corporatization of nearly everything. That corporatization didn't happen because of capitalism, but rather the absence of capitalism.

Corporations don't grow to their current size and shape and influence, and wind up with their tentacles in every facet of our lives, without help, without protection. Capitalism affords no such help nor protection.

Would capitalism be a better system than the current? No idea. But, if you're attempting to diagnose what's wrong with 'x', it would help if you properly define what things actually are, before you proceed full-steam ahead, and wind up amputating the wrong appendage.
 
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Hopscotch

Re: Why can't Hollywood sci-fi and fantasy imagine...
« Reply #22 on: March 06, 2022, 06:24:49 AM »
Seems to me capitalism (meaning capitalists) uses the state as a tool, not a partner.
 

LBL

Re: Why can't Hollywood sci-fi and fantasy imagine...
« Reply #23 on: March 06, 2022, 08:08:17 AM »
Seems to me capitalism (meaning capitalists) uses the state as a tool, not a partner.

Are you a capitalist if you don't engage in capitalism?
 

She-la-te-da

Re: Why can't Hollywood sci-fi and fantasy imagine...
« Reply #24 on: March 26, 2022, 07:24:13 AM »
Quote
In TNG, they treated Scotty like a washed-up has-been, gave him a shuttlecraft and basically couldn't get rid of him fast enough.

That episode made me so mad. Geordie was a total d*ck. And why? He was busy? So? Half the time people were standing around, doing nothing, didn't care who interrupted or anything.

Let's see, Wesley was Roddenberry self-inserting. The Ferenghi were a joke when first introduced, but got better in DS9. I kind of liked Quark.

As to the original question, I guess Hollywood makes the films they can sell seats for. Mostly it's rehashed stuff we've already seen (how many re-imaginings of Spiderman do we really need? Apparently the number is 15.) :D
I write various flavors of speculative fiction. This is my main pen name.

 

LilyBLily

Re: Why can't Hollywood sci-fi and fantasy imagine...
« Reply #25 on: March 26, 2022, 10:49:04 AM »
Quote
In TNG, they treated Scotty like a washed-up has-been, gave him a shuttlecraft and basically couldn't get rid of him fast enough.

That episode made me so mad. Geordie was a total d*ck. And why? He was busy? So? Half the time people were standing around, doing nothing, didn't care who interrupted or anything.

Let's see, Wesley was Roddenberry self-inserting. The Ferenghi were a joke when first introduced, but got better in DS9. I kind of liked Quark.

As to the original question, I guess Hollywood makes the films they can sell seats for. Mostly it's rehashed stuff we've already seen (how many re-imaginings of Spider-Man do we really need? Apparently the number is 15.) :D

I'm not wasting my time on any more Batman movies.
 

RiverRun

Re: Why can't Hollywood sci-fi and fantasy imagine...
« Reply #26 on: March 27, 2022, 08:39:31 PM »
I love Wall-E and have watched it several times with my kids. I found it a surprisingly good way to encourage my kids to start thinking about commercialism. Its satire really, which kinda means it has to be simplistic.

I think the trend for wealthy people to 'get in shape' is driven by peer pressure and expectations. I get the impression that at least some of those skinny rich people are also using Red Bull or Adderall to keep them on the tread mill and plastic surgery to keep their svelte shape while eating who knows what. For people of any walk of life, good looks might be the result of healthy choices, but its hard to say when there is a very profitable industry in place to help you look and feel good. (Or at least to convince you that you look and feel good.)

Sci-fi and fantasy play heavily on our love and longing for the past, thus the recurring theme of medieval tropes. Star Trek is obviously a longing to return to the age of exploration. And how many sci-fi shows have wild west episodes? I know I've seen a couple. Since we can't actually go back in time, let's go back in the future!