In 2010 there will be no universally-watched media entity in the US that can influence everything citizens do. No, I’m not referring to Oprah’s recent decision to end her show. I’m saying that my favorite films and other media of the 1980s got it wrong!
Throughout the Eighties and into the Nineties, films – particularly in the action genre – portrayed life 25 or so years in the future (that would be NOW) as dystopian societies where a single media outlet controlled everything. Often times, it controlled the government and military.
My favorite example is The Running Man with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Cue the Don LaFontaine deep voice-over: In a world where Arnold is accused of crime he didn’t commit, he must play a deadly game live on the world’s most popular TV game show hosted by the evil and scene-stealing Killian (Richard Dawson). It’s a great view of an oppressed society obsessed with media. We see criminals executed live on TV for big ratings and gems like “court-appointed publicity agents”. I love that last part!
These films were supposed to take place in the future but sure still looked like the 80s as far as synthesizer music, clothes, and smoking habits.
Fast forward to the present or our past’s future, and we have moved in the opposite direction! Media today has been completely fragmented and splintered into millions of TV channels, online sites, blogs, audio programs, and more. Today’s citizen journalist has the same opportunity to reach an audience as “Killian” did in The Running Man. Better yet, that citizen does more than just broadcast to an audience; he can actually engage with the consumer.
Let’s not be too hard on the screen writers of the 70s and 80s; the Cold War and the rise of certain media outlets along with the distrust of big government would be hard themes not to tackle. We would not have paid to see a movie about the future with someone updating their Facebook page.