You Think You’ve Seen It All Except The Future*

Published on January 30th, 2009 in: Editorial, Issues, Movies |

equilibrium john mary
Image from EquilibriumFans

John Preston: What’s the point of your existence?

Mary: To feel. ‘Cause you’ve never done it, you can never know it. But it’s as vital as breath. And without it, without love, without anger, without sorrow, breath is just a clock. . . ticking.

Equlibrium is a 2002 movie that is usually colloquially referred to as “the movie with Christian Bale that’s so much better than The Matrix.” At least, that’s how it was described to me, and IMDB seems to support my claim.

Taking elements from such dystopian novels as 1984, Brave New World, and Fahrenheit 451, Equilibrium is set in the futuristic and fictional world of Libria, a place which has eradicated violence and war through the miracle medicine known as Prozium. Oh yeah, and they also have destroyed all works of art—music, paintings, photographs, novels, poetry, etc.—in order to banish emotion. It is emotion, says Father (the leader of Libria), which causes all those pesky problems.

Eradicating emotion through opiates and the destruction of art may be old fascist tricks, but Equilibrium feels very new. Perhaps it’s the neo-Expressionist look of the film, or the intense, believable performances from Christian Bale and Emily Watson. Or, it could be that Equilibrium feels so unsettling because those old fascist tricks seem to be mastered by new dogs every few years.

equilibrium father
Image from EquilibriumFans

I’m not necessarily referring to political leaders, although the recent inauguration in the US has a lot of people feeling both unsettled and invigorated. It’s become the norm, rather than the exception, for pop culture appreciation and specifically pop culture media, to be jaded and surly and overwhelmingly “been there, done that.” There is so much suspicion something might evoke real emotions, that feeling anything is considered de rigueur. Real and true criticism (both the constructive and the destructive kind) have been replaced by a slobbering and/or snarky kind of pandering that does no one any good, least of all the artists who create.

This type of thing is terribly unsettling, to be sure, and is something that we at Popshifter have addressed in our Manifesto. I’ve personally pondered the role of both the past and the future in our Editorials and how they inform our present. Based on our last issue (Retro Is So Retro) and in fact, much of the content of the site, one might accuse us of being like those same cynical folks described above, or at the very least, enslaved to nostalgia. As one of our writers noted in a comment, “Does it count as nostalgia if you never stopped loving it for a minute?”

equil_john gramophone
Image from EquilibriumFans

At last we get to the heart of it: it’s not just that we shouldn’t forget the past or that we may feel compelled to continue to embrace it. And it’s not just that we should avoid focusing so much on that past that we don’t enjoy the present. It’s that the past and the present and the future are all informed by real and true emotion. It’s those feelings that art evokes in us—yes, love, but also outrage and sadness and grief—which make it imperative that we don’t treat art like yesterday’s blog headlines.

In Popshifter‘s May/June 2008 issue, I mused that we should combine our enjoyment of the past and excitement about the future to create a more fulfilling present. But I think that might have been shortsighted. I think that looking towards the future might be the most fulfilling excitement of all.

Or at least it seems that way now.

Less Lee Moore, Managing Editor

*with apologies to Ron Mael

“Oh Yes, It’s Love”
Been looking back and looking down
So much of that for so long now
Things are looking up now that we’re looking forward
Yep, we know
Oh yes, it’s love

—Lyrics by The Bicycles

2 Responses to “You Think You’ve Seen It All Except The Future*”

  1. xian:
    February 4th, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    OMG I thought Equilibrium was not good. ESPECIALLY when Taye Diggs is unable to stop smiling and smirking as a character who is not supposed to have any emotions. Although Gun-Kata reigned. I’d take the Matrix any day.

  2. Popshifter:
    February 4th, 2009 at 5:09 pm

    I love that your comment was to mention that you hated this movie and nothing else.


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