Futurama and art as radar

I saw this Futurama series tonight and was astonished by how it fits the current economic situation. See for yourself.

Act I: Everybody’s rich

Earth forces have defeated the Spiderians of Tarantulon 6 and seized plenty of spoils: one trillion dollars in silk and treasure. Richard Nixon’s head, after a consultation with voodoo economists, decides to give every citizen of Earth three hundred dollars.

Act II: Frivolous spending

People spend their money on meaningless things, e.g. Professor Farnsworth gets a treatment that will make him look younger for a very short time. Fry decides to drink 100 cups of coffee. Hermes buys his son Dwight a set of Bamboo Boogie Boot, a kind of powered stilts, which Dwight is not too happy with (he wanted to invest the money). Hermes puts them on and loses control, Dwight tries to save his father but is stuck up the stilts with him, and the two of them roam the city completely out of control.

Act III: The loot! The loot!! The loot is on fire!!!

The reception at the presentation of the National Silk Surplus. Zoidberg wants to buy one of the tapestries, but finds out that it costs $1 billion. He realizes that even with $300 he is still desperately poor and that money brought him no happiness. Bender smokes the Grand Cigar (that cost $10,000). Hermes and Dwight, still on the Bamboo Boogie Boots, crash the reception, the Grand Cigar is dropped and sets fire to the precious silks. Fry, after his 100th cup of coffee, suddenly gains superman powers. He can move so fast that he cannot be seen. He saves everyone at the reception. Hermes gives the penny left from the purchase of the Boogie Boots to Dwight, who decides to invest it in five shares of Amazon.com. Richard Nixon’s head is devastated because the budget surplus is gone – burned away in the blink of an eye.

This actually proves the point that I stated here: a real artist does not ape history, he, in fact, foresees it. As Marshall MacLuhan put it,

The power of the arts to anticipate future social and technological developments, by a generation and more, has long been recognized. In this century Ezra Pound called the artist “the antennae of the race.” Art as radar acts as “an early alarm system,” as it were, enabling us to discover social and psychic targets in lots of time to prepare to cope with them. This concept of the art as prophetic contrasts with the popular idea of them as mere self-expression. If art is an “early warning system”, to use the phrase from World War II, when radar was new, art has the utmost relevance not only to media study, but to the development of media controls.

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2 Responses to “Futurama and art as radar”

  1. This video is crap « Tania Samsonova’s Blog Says:

    […] I have already said here and here (incidentally, quoting McLuhan as the video does), the art that apes the everyday life is dead crap. […]

  2. Book review: True names and eternal questions: Vernor Vinge and the cyberspace frontier « Tania Samsonova’s Blog Says:

    […] the novella. As it often happens with true artists, Vinge, who published his story in 1981, predicted a lot of problems that we face today. He was the first to describe cyberspace (although the actual term was coined later by William […]


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