Why is so much futurist art/fiction/film overwhelmingly dystopian?
"Back in the 60’s, when we all thought we were going to die and felt helpless to stop it, we imagined ourselves a kind of heaven: a future where everything is okay, where there’s no need to fight, where we can be free and live in peace and the only questions left to solve are philosophical ones. A lot of shows (of all kinds) in the cold war era showed this kind of severe optimism; just look at Adam West’s Batman, or MacGyver.
We’ve gradually come to the realization that we’re probably not all going to die in one big nuclear war, and now we don’t know what the future will hold. It’s scary to think of the future now that we know we have one. After the cold war ended, a lot of fiction moved towards gritty and dark and serious, something that we’re still struggling to overcome today. In part, that came from our realization that things we thought were true are less than true: the President is not infallible, America is not the greatest nation on Earth, we started some wars where it was murky whether we were in the right, or if there even was a right. And in addition, now that the cold war was over it was safe to face those fears. Nuclear holocaust became a bigger theme. Radiation, mutation, the destruction of humanity, it was no longer a very real possibility so it was easier to think about.
Now in the 21st century, I think things are moving away from both optimism and pessimism, more towards realism. We see what’s happening now, and we extrapolate. A future that’s like now, but with marketing extrapolated forward. A future that’s like now, but with technology extrapolated forward. A future that’s like now, but with the environmental crisis extrapolated forward. And the problem with that is that we don’t feel so great about the world we live in now. We see the present as partially dystopian, so we tend to extrapolate that forward into a dystopian future.
A big part of this is that we’re fulfilling the 60’s sci-fi visions with technology but not with social progress. It was taken as read that when everyone can contact everyone else at light speed, when we all have all the world’s knowledge at our fingertips, there’s no need for conflict. But we have those things, and there’s still conflict. We’ve been disappointed.
But don’t fret! Look at all the apocalyptical books written during the 40’s and 50’s. They moved on from that. It’s a cycle, and it will come back around.”
For the rest of this conversation: http://www.reddit.com/r/DarkFuturology/comments/1ra32s/why_is_it_that_contemporary_artists_have_a_hard/
Film stills from: Dark City, The Matrix, Bladerunner, and City of Lost Children