Portrayals of not-so-wonderful futures are fairly common in cinema, often focusing on major concerns of the times. The first dystopian science fiction movie is Fritz Lang’s 1927 Metropolis. Other than interesting developments in robotics, this groundbreaking masterpiece depicts the wealthy living in opulence, provided for by dispirited workers toiling underground in dangerous and exhausting conditions. Social class and labor relations were pretty contentious subjects back in the day. It was rather controversial then, but its Socialist angle wasn’t too heavy-handed.
Hollywood is showing signs of running out of new ideas, which unfortunately is the cinematic establishment’s smallest problem lately. (As evidence, I’ll cite needless remakes of great movies from the good old days, which often don’t live up to the originals. Further, they’re increasingly raiding comic books for plotlines.) Even so, they’ve come out with a few good recent films concerning where a decaying society might lead. Actually, since Hollywood seems to be knee-deep in degeneracy, who better?
A high-IQ couple has waited too long to have children. It’s quite a common scenario these days, especially with the advent of feminism and consumerism. Specifically, young ladies with professional aspirations typically party away their most fertile years. Then (as pictured in the film) they finally get around to locking down a boring reliable provider, but then they have to wait, wait, wait until they’re financially secure.
Unfortunately, they’ve slapped the “snooze” button on the biological clock one too many times. However, depicted alongside them is a couple with dull-normal IQs. None too diligent about birth control, they have many children, and a great number of descendants. Over the centuries, the world’s population becomes increasingly stupid and incompetent. The film takes several pokes at redneck culture, though certainly not the worst example of Hollywood types making fun of the people who grow their food.
All told, it describes a theme that Francis Galton and Henry Goddard (among others) warned us about a century ago. What’s quite remarkable is that Idiocracy accepts the idea that intelligence is hereditary, IQ has meaningful effects, and the loss of intelligence over time would cause profound social problems.
That’s basically what The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life set out in painstaking detail. Aside from the conclusions (obviously), the book took a moderately liberal position. As such, the authors seemed like bishops who discovered an ancient manuscript in the Vatican archives that irrefutably disproved some key Biblical doctrine, like the existence of God or something monumental like that.
Despite their modest approach, and overall focus on how best to help everyone to fit into society, the book was—and still is—hugely controversial. (That was mostly because of chapters 13 and 14, discussing racial differences.) Basically, the authors walked across the ideological tripwire of the nature/nurture debate set by Franz Boas and Trofim Lysenko. I’ll have to give Richard Herrnstein credit for having been one of the most honest leftists on the planet, unlike all the others who’ve been screaming bloody murder about The Bell Curve since it came out. Furthermore, Charles Murray is an exceptional Libertarian for not ignoring the subject.
How would a society work out, after the intelligent K-selected types fail to keep their lineages going, but the dull r-selected types breed like rabbits? If you go by Idiocracy, this results in a crude and incompetent society, with even medical technicians utterly clueless, and energy drinks used in place of water. If you go by The Bell Curve, there’s a strong correlation between low IQ and social dysfunctions like illegitimacy and crime, compared within the same population group. If you go by world IQ maps, average intelligence corresponds fairly closely with how well countries are run.
Overall, it’s a discomforting thought, and what to do about it remains a thorny question. This is in no small part due to leftist taboos about even considering these matters. The movie itself has no answers, but it’s pretty good for lowbrow humor.
The film begins showing the world completely turned into a trash heap. It’s so desolate that a roach—the only example of animal life depicted—actually looks cute. Sure, it’s only a cartoon, but one wants to scream at the people for letting things get that way… except that there are no people. The titular robot works tirelessly to clean up the mess, using broken-down robots as a source of spare parts. Wall-E has been at it for so long that he’s developed intelligence, and a bit of nostalgia for the culture that once existed.
Then another robot appears on the scene—this one more sophisticated—and a love story develops. As it happens, EVA has a secret mission, one which ends up profoundly affecting destiny. As their adventure continues, one wonders if the robots are the only intelligent beings left. When the humans finally are seen, it’s utterly horrifying—they’re such couch potatoes that they can’t even walk. Actually, the original plan was that people would degenerate further yet into amorphous blobs, though the filmmakers decided to tone it down in order not to scare the kids.
The film does end on an upbeat note. Still, they have to recover from total environmental devastation. I doubt it would ever get quite that bad for real. Still, the loss of species in modern times qualifies as a global extinction event already, and it’s hard to say how much worse it will get in the future. If noticing this makes me a tree-hugger, I’m guilty as charged. All told, the film is a powerful warning about pollution, resource depletion, environmental catastrophe, consumerism, and of course lack of physical exercise.
In the far future (2019 to be specific), a cop reluctantly agrees to “retire” four escaped replicants, genetically engineered humans. These ones have been designed to have superhuman powers, not experience emotions, and die in four years. They’re the perfect slaves—unless they start getting ideas of their own.
Although these fugitive replicants aren’t quite psychologically human, they’re really just acting as rationally as they can. They play dangerous bad guys in the movie, but their “retirement” seems pretty much the same thing as murder. Well, slavery sucks; a point that’s pretty uncontroversial in all but the least civilized parts of the world.
All told, it’s a classic science fiction movie. Blade Runner is one of the few instances where a film is better than the novel on which it was based. Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? was kind of a yawner, but that’s how it goes for Philip K. Dick books.
Now that we’re coming up on 2019 pretty soon, the movie’s timeline seems dated. (It’s only half right; remember that it came out in 1982 when southern California still resembled America.) We don’t have interstellar colonies (just an international space station thus far), and LA’s smog problem isn’t quite that bad. Despite that, if things don’t go well, then Los Angeles might end up looking nearly as crowded, polluted, and dismal in the next century or two. However, if society does degenerate to that condition, we might not even have an international space station by then.
The Western world is on a slow descent trending toward conditions in the developing world. One reason (among others) is the erosion of the middle class, which gets worse each time the economy crashes. The ultra-wealthy tend to thrive throughout it, especially when they’re bailed out for being “too big to fail“. Increasing vast disparities of wealth aren’t too promising for the future. If trends don’t change, then the malaise and desperation of Blade Runner could come to pass in the New World Order that the globalists have planned.
As for genetic engineering, that has great promise. Not only can it eliminate genetic diseases, it also can boost intelligence (averting the Idiocracy scenario), and even make people better looking. However, it could be used for bad ends: unhealthy food, creating unnatural genetic freaks, or making the public docile and stupid. There are absolutely no limits to where some people would go toward that. Blade Runner serves as a warning about this new technology just on the horizon.