Remember the Future? What ‘Jetsons: The Movie’ means for scientific progress
— Jane Jetson, ‘The Swiss Family Jetson’, 1985
On Wednesday 28th March I’ll be delivering a talk at London’s Science Museum as part of their Lates events series for adults. More details can be found at my FB event for the talk or at the Science Museum’s website. I’d love to see a few friendly faces there! Although, as the old cliché goes, everyone in London is friendly anyway. In any case, I thought I’d post a rundown of what I’m going to be talking about in a bit more detail.
A live-action movie version of the classic Hanna Barbera cartoon The Jetsons has been ticking along for some time now—apparently with Kanye West as creative director. Taking the prophecies of the first season of The Jetsons (aired in 1962) seriously, we should already be living in the scientifically-perfected future George, Judy, Elroy and the gang inhabited. What went wrong?
By examining the differences between the original 1960s rendering of The Jetsons and its 1980s rebirth (which accounts for 51 of the 75 extant episodes of the series), we can begin to pinpoint where the dream of enlightened scientific progress began to unravel. Was the later George Jetson a nostalgic throwback to a past where the future was—so to speak—present? Or is the future that the 1980s episodes portray fundamentally different to—and darker than—the naïve Googie vision of tomorrow that 1962 foresaw?
Utilising a number of humorous clips from the classic cartoon, I will attempt to explain why contemporary cultural visions of the future are key to historical understanding of the past. Moreover, we might ask what the new movie will tell us about our own vision of the future of science? What beautiful dark twisted fantasy does Kanye have in store for us?