I went to see Tomorrowland over the weekend. Despite being excited for this movie since seeing the teaser trailer, the lukewarm reviews dampened my enthusiasm a bit.
Tomorrowland wasn’t amazing and geared toward a younger audience than I expected (take your children!) but its crystal clear message was an important one.
The central theme of the movie revolves around the ability of dreamers to change the world. It started with a flashback to the optimistic view of the world embraced by people at the 1964 New York World’s Fair, and then harshly contrasted that vision with the main character’s day at school.
Classroom after classroom, Casey is taught about doom and gloom, from mutually-assured destruction and unstable regions to melting glaciers and rising seawater.
Even literature class is discussing dystopias, citing examples like Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (currently being adapted for TV) and Orwell’s classic 1984.
Climate change is real. War is real. Poverty is real. The over saturation of the speculative fiction genre with dystopian themes is real.
Partly, dystopian fiction is inspired by a possible future; if we don’t reverse trend [a] we get future [b]. It’s entertainment, sure, but sometimes it’s also a warning.
And they seem to be coming true— as California faces a record drought, I can name three recent books dealing with water scarcity (The Water Knife, Sherwood Nation and Memory of Water). And yes, they are all good books.
But what the film seems to stress is that believing anything is possible is a better catalyst for positive change than believing predictions of disaster and strife.
Human nature is peculiar. Faced with an impossible-seeming, overwhelming problem, some will take action, but often we give up or choose denial.
As far as entertainment media goes, the future doesn’t look great. Even when there are superheroes and other amazing individuals to save the day, their actions still result in destruction on a massive scale (looking at you, Man of Steel).
I enjoy a good dystopia but I have personally felt the yearning for fiction with a more hopeful tone.
While there is a push for realism and plausibility in science fiction, it’s tough to deny the sheer fun and entertainment of 1957’s Tom Swift & His Ultrasonic Cycloplane (featuring “thrilling stories of new inventions in the world of tomorrow”).
Sure, a story still needs a problem or conflict to resolve but I’d love to see writers challenge themselves more. It’s too easy to find problems in a dystopia just as it’s too easy to be apathetic when you believe the worst lies ahead.
I truly believe that thinking anything is possible is more likely to inspire people to make the possible.
A dreamer can imagine a future and share the imagination with others, whether through books or television or movies.
Inspired by these imagined wonders, scientists, engineers, inventors, investors and people just willing to believe will figure out how to make it happen.
Just try to curb your cynicism. After all, is it so implausible to be optimistic about the future?
The movie may never reach a wide audience, but if it means showing that I believe in optimism and the potential to build that great big beautiful tomorrow, I would proudly wear a Tomorrowland pin.
I once heard someone say that one of the reasons the Star Trek franchise has been so successful is that it presents a positive view of the future and that humans are able to improve life and help others.
I am not a fan of dystopian fiction.