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-   -   Should the future look "Futuristic?" (http://www.trekbbs.com/showthread.php?t=165793)

Gotham Central March 14 2012 02:44 AM

Should the future look "Futuristic?"
 
In the Lost in Space thread the reviewer covered an episode called "Return from Outer Space" where Will Robinson gets beamed back Earth in the "present" (which for the series was 1997). What always struck me about the episode was how not futuristic the town Will Robinson visits appeared. In fact the entire community looked rather retrograde and would not have seemed out of place on The Andy Griffith Show. Even as a kid watching Lost in Space in reruns during the 1980s, I never bought the idea that Will Robinson was actually supposed on Earth in the 1990s. For me, what hurt the story was that this place that was supposed to exist 10 years in my future seemed not only out of date but lacked anything that screams look I'm in the future.

When you really think about though, the future rarely looks "futuristic." If the youthful me of the 1980s had been pulled into small town America in 2012 would it really seem all that futuristic? Yeah some of the TVs would be flat, and the cars might be curvier, and people would be carrying their telephones in their pockets...but how much of that would be noticeable?

It goes to the question of how should the future be depicted on TV. Irwin Allen productions, despite their outlandish stories, usually had a VERY restrained visions of the future. Some of that is budgetary. But more often than not, his shows never look or feel like they take place in the future. Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea takes place between 1973-1984 yet with the exception of the odd video phone (which appears in season 2 and then disappears) never looks more advanced than the 1960s. The same was largely try for his other series. Compare this to say Gerry Anderson who always tried to make things look futuristic. UFO features a very "mod" 1960s vision of futurism with jet cars, Nehru Jackets and purple wigs. UFO manages to scream futuristic while also looking very dated. Space: 1999 had the same issue of screaming...look the future while giving us uniforms with bell bottoms and platform shoes, and lots of molded plastic furniture.

So the question is, who futuristic should the future look? Does trying to make the future seem like the future actually work against such productions in the long run?

sojourner March 14 2012 04:00 AM

Re: Should the future look "Futuristic?"
 
The problem with hollywood depictions of the future is that they have to view them through the lense of current styles when that production is made in order to please the audience.

For example, 20 years from now for all we know bell bottom pants, "wife beater" shirts, and oiled hair might be all the rage. If you tried to portray that in a movie filmed today it would be laughed out of the theatre, so to speak. So, the film companies look at current trends and "tweak" them so that they look cool to current audiences, but when 20 years rolls around and the kids in their bell bottoms and wife beaters watch the movie on USA network it looks dated to the time it was made.

It's a rare movie set in the future that ages well. One of those is Bladerunner. It's a 30 year old movie but still holds up very well.

Trekker4747 March 14 2012 04:08 AM

Re: Should the future look "Futuristic?"
 
Movies and TV shows get a nice budget, artists and effects to work with in depicting the future which often why the future can look so grand and epic in fictional depictions. Even now in a time when we should "know better" we can't help but depict even the fairly near future as just being spectacular, clean, with radical designs.

Unfortuantely, practicality, financial motivations, bureaucracy and sorts of other nonsense can put a damper on that real quick.

Forgetting more fantastic aspects of the future like flying cars there's really not much reason at all to think that the future is going to look too much different than it does today.

Sure, building materials are going to change, design styles and aesthetics are going to change Local politics and economics are going to impact how clean things look (mostly a function of the local crime-rate and where business is centered.) But overall things are going to look, well, the same.

I think Back to the Future depicts the distant future the best (again excluding the technological aspects.) The town square is not vastly futuristic looking, there aren't 200-story tall buildings standing grandly in the background and all of that it's still largely the same space.

Sure the parking-lot in front of the "courthouse" is now a pond, the building itself now a mall (presumably with underground parking or a nearby parking lot connected to the building via underground tunnels or something.) In 1985 we see that the town-square is a cesspool full of crime, Pay-Day Loan businesses, porn shops and theaters and pawn shops. In 2015 the town square now has a mall and thriving businesses, it's much cleaner and has a welcoming look.

We can infer the "politics" that happened between 1955 and 2015 on what happened, when the Twin (Lone) Pines Mall was built it took business out of the center of town and spread it out to the suburbs causing the town center to deteriorate as businesses moved to the mall. Likely this all stemmed from Mayor "Red" Thomas' tenure as mayor. Goldie Wilson's tenure as mayor must have reinvigorated the downtown area by making the old courthouse (or community center/half-way house as it was in 1985) into a mall which attracted businesses back to the center of town as well as clientèle and shoppers.

So the economic conditions of downtown Hill Valley improved over the intervening 30 years (possibly at the cost of the decline of the Hilldale suburb) but we can see that for the most part the area looks the same. Sure design styles and color have changed but, mostly, the place is the same.

Which is most realistic. Right now as I think about areas around me and how much they've changed since I left high school 15 years ago other than some expansion into undeveloped areas, the tearing down of a building or two and the erection of another the area is pretty much the same. Dowtown? Other than the development of an entertainment district and a new arena it's largely the same as it has been my entire life.

The most realistic look for the future is pretty much for it to look the same. Different colors, cleaner or dirtier depending on which way you think the local crime-rate/economy went but mostly, the same.

Hell, out there there's a series of pictures of an area and how it looked over the course of decades and other than some architectural changes improvements to buildings, the expansion of roads to allow for more cars and parking, it looks the same.

The future is boring and it's always going to be boring.

Admiral Buzzkill March 14 2012 04:29 AM

Re: Should the future look "Futuristic?"
 
Quote:

sojourner wrote: (Post 5995990)
For example, 20 years from now for all we know bell bottom pants, "wife beater" shirts, and oiled hair might be all the rage. If you tried to portray that in a movie filmed today it would be laughed out of the theatre, so to speak.

William Ware Theiss said exactly - well, almost exactly - this on the one occasion that I spoke with him. His example was that if he'd been asked to design clothing for the 1960s back in the 1950s, the last thing he'd have come up with would have been blue jeans, buckskin jackets, boots and long hair/beards for young men - all of those clearly signified the American West in the 19th century, yet you'd see all of them pretty regularly on city streets in 1967. Designing for the future, he said, was deciding what believable lies you were going to tell the audience.

Owain Taggart March 14 2012 04:30 AM

Re: Should the future look "Futuristic?"
 
I think it depends on how you look at it and how far into the future things are. It also really depends on the concept and vision of what this future should look like.

sojourner March 14 2012 05:15 AM

Re: Should the future look "Futuristic?"
 
Quote:

My Name Is Legion wrote: (Post 5996131)

William Ware Theiss said exactly - well, almost exactly - this on the one occasion that I spoke with him. His example was that if he'd been asked to design clothing for the 1960s back in the 1950s, the last thing he'd have come up with would have been blue jeans, buckskin jackets, boots and long hair/beards for young men - all of those clearly signified the American West in the 19th century, yet you'd see all of them pretty regularly on city streets in 1967. Designing for the future, he said, was deciding what believable lies you were going to tell the audience.

That's interesting because I've always had the pet theory that the rise of visual media has stifled the evolution of men's formal wear. If you look at a "business suit" from around 150 years ago (coinciding with the development of the photograph and the rise of periodicals) it's not radically different from today. Coat, some kind of tie, slacks, maybe suspenders or a vest. The styles, cuts, and colors may have changed, but the overall outfit is nearly the same. Now, look how much formal wear changed in the 150 years prior to that. We go from tights and cod pieces to knickers and ruffles to wigs and so on. Why has the suit not continued to evolve? Mass media cementing the idea of what formal attire looks like for the male. Just a theory, don't ask me to explain why the opposite effect seems to be for women.

Talosian March 14 2012 05:48 AM

Re: Should the future look "Futuristic?"
 
The 1950's and 60's most decidely looked futuristic to someone raised in the 1910's and 20's. By contrast, today does not look nearly as futuristic as a comparable period in the past. And the reason is simple: technological development has narrowed and been concentrated overwhelmingly in computer related technology which has left our physical built-up environments largely untouched. The corollary has been that fashions have changed extremely little over the last 20 years at a minimum, and probably more like 40 years.

marksound March 14 2012 08:18 AM

Re: Should the future look "Futuristic?"
 
You can take any clothing styles from the 50s, 60s, and 70s, mix and match, and boom: instant future fashion. The future is in the past.

Cutter John March 14 2012 08:27 AM

Re: Should the future look "Futuristic?"
 
I always thought B5 did the best job of depicting fashions. Futuristic, without being really over the top or silly.

Otoh, I could go on endlessly about how much I hated the costumes from NuBSG. They didn't even try.

Maurice March 14 2012 08:48 AM

Re: Should the future look "Futuristic?"
 
I think the Theiss example is a good one. On the other hand, you can make SOME logical extrapolation. In the Lost in Space thread I mentioned that touch-tone dialing had been introduced two years before the aforementioned episode was made, and just having all the phones touch-tone would have made things look more futuristic than they did. Likewise, rent one or two custom cars from Gene Winfield or someone and park them on the street. Anything to blur the edges of "now" off the show.

RJDiogenes March 14 2012 09:36 AM

Re: Should the future look "Futuristic?"
 
The episode of LIS in question never bothered me. It was set in a small rural town-- such places still exist today, let alone in 1997.

But I do like it when movies and TV shows depict the future as somewhat futuristic. Unfortunately, that's pretty much gone out of fashion and the future usually looks more like the past-- I'm tired of spaceship interiors that look like factory basements. I saw a movie on Sciffy a couple of weeks ago that was set aboard an interstellar colonization vessel that was made up of dark corridors, metal gratings, big clanging doors and even manhole covers. It was completely ridiculous. One of the reasons SF interested me as a kid was the exotic, futuristic aspect-- nowadays they seem to go out of their way to look mundane. The reason Bladerunner has "aged well" is that pop culture has, at best, been stagnant for thirty years. I'd rather see something like The Jetsons or TOS than the gray, dismal stuff we've been getting lately.

Asbo Zaprudder March 14 2012 11:26 AM

Re: Should the future look "Futuristic?"
 
I agree with RJDiogenes - I'm sick to death of the grunge look. In addition, the engineering section of the Enterprise should not look like the inside of a brewery. What a travesty.

C.E. Evans March 14 2012 11:41 AM

Re: Should the future look "Futuristic?"
 
"Always in motion, the future is."
http://thislinkhasbeenremovedbytrekb...miley-6473.gif

Everything that tries to be futuristic will eventually look dated in time. Even stuff being made today will. But I believe in his pitch of the original Star Trek series, Roddenberry proposed the idea that the Enterprise will inevitably encounter worlds that will resemble (if not be identical to) Earth at different periods of history. Sure, you can look at as being more of a budgetary thing to use existing sets and locations around the Paramount lot, but it does bring up the idea that some civilizations may evolve along identical paths and have more similarities than differences.

Another possibility is that one can look at some works as existing in their own universe or continuity, which allows them to have their dated concepts because their history isn't 100% the same as ours.

Cutter John March 14 2012 11:47 AM

Re: Should the future look "Futuristic?"
 
Quote:

Asbo Zaprudder wrote: (Post 5997166)
I agree with RJDiogenes - I'm sick to death of the grunge look. In addition, the engineering section of the Enterprise should not look like the inside of a brewery. What a travesty.

Doctor Who is another show thats been bad about this in recent years.

stj March 14 2012 12:32 PM

Re: Should the future look "Futuristic?"
 
One huge failing in almost all screen attempts at futurism is the bizarre belief that in the future there will be lots and lots of empty spaces. And everybody's homes will be as bare as motel rooms. What's scattered about will sometimes be deliberately retro but there will always be lots of miscellaneous junk. I suppose being too cheap to really decorate the sets plays a role.


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