One of the things that DQ and I speak about with a fair degree of frequency is the fact that our generation does not have an optimistic vision of the future. Yeah, sure, we’re all interested in the next generation of technology, but that’s really as far as it goes. Indeed, I suspect that most people, indoctrinated in the frightening imagery of climate change, shy away from envisioning the future. If they close their eyes and try to think 10, 20 or 50 years ahead, all they see are brown skies and a few outcroppings of desert dry land peaking up from filthy, massively flooded oceans. Theirs is an apocalyptic, not a hopeful, vision.
In that regard, DQ and I agree, our generation is strikingly different from the WWII and 50s generations. To them — and this was true despite hot wars and Cold, and atom bombs and biological weapons — the future was an endless feast of possibilities. I still managed to catch the tail-end of that world view, thanks to the Disney show and Disneyland.
Do any of you remember how often the Disney Sunday show would have an episode focusing on the wonders of science and technology, and the way in which those wonders would improve our lives beyond comprehension? Certainly I know that, when I was a little girl, my second most favorite part of Disneyland was Tomorrowland. (The first favorite part, of course, was Fantasyland.) I can still remember the wonder of the Monsanto ride, when we got to shrink to the size of a molecule.
The other ride I adored was the Carousel of Progress. We’d watch life in a turn-of-the-century home, a 1920s home, a “modern” 1960s home and, if I remember correctly, a futuristic home that contemplated what might still be in the American household. I loved the song too: “It’s a great, big, beautiful tomorrow!” Can you imagine that sentiment today? The show was retired from Disneyland decades ago, but ended up in Disney World. I didn’t know that, and was so pleasantly surprised to see it again when we visited Disney World a couple of years ago.
Here, thanks to the miracle of YouTube, you can watch the whole thing:
Or think about the lovely musical Cover Girl, released in 1944, after WWII had been dragging on for so many years. The dominant trope in the movie was that things would get better in the future. Again, can you imagine this kind of song today?
The reason I’m thinking about all of this is because of a wonderful serious of Seagram’s ads created in Canada in 1943. The ad campaign is called “Men Who Plan Beyond Tomorrow” and it envisions all sorts of things that the future will bring. The ads are remarkably good at predicting faxes, sports bars (hockey, of course, since it’s Canada), cell phones, and other technology. They were a little loopier when it came to shopping, no doubt because men, not women, wrote the ads.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about futurism, and whether it has a future in the here and now.