Positive or Optimistic Sci-fi

Preformatted textIn the absence of an Arts & Culture category, I’m filing this here in Science & Technology.

I would like to discuss the prevalence of pessimistic sci-fi in the current pop culture. It seems that optimistic sci-fi might have been in the minority in the West, even in the mid 20th century. With sci-fi movies and shows becoming quite mainstream in recent years, it seems that what we’re getting is mostly antiutopian or dystopian at best. The optimistic vision of a bright future for mankind seems virtually nonexistent. Even Star Trek has succumbed to this trend with Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Picard.

In view of the Confederation messaging for the past 60+ years, I find it is rather appalling that, currently there seems to be no positive beacon of hope in the larger public eye, with the exception of the portions of the Star Trek franchise which are the closest to Gene Roddenberry’s original ideas. Why isn’t there sci-fi about a future where I would actually want to live and work, and not some theme park dystopia, which might be fun to visit for a couple of hours?

I suppose there may be layers to this, which await discovery.

(P.S. I’m not a sci-fi buff, as it were, and have not read or seen or heard about everything that’s out there. I’m just looking at seem to be some current trends in the popular culture. Am I missing something? Please, enlighten me!)

https://twitter.com/TrekCore/status/1218247583820406786

(My sincere apologies! I don’t know how to embed a neato .gif I found on Twitter. :confused: :man_shrugging:)

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Interesting topic!

My opinion is that content is designed to meet the public where they’re at, they need to cater to them. And perhaps where they’re headed isn’t so optimistic (repeating 3rd density).

In general we seem to value technology more than we value spirituality, thus it seems fair that our movies reflect that.

People’s actions are demonstrating that they want to live in Brave New World or 1984, where they are so fearful of everything they’re told that it makes them demand someone setup a highly moderated “safe and secure society” (as Emperor Palpatine puts it).

Personally I’m still seeing good messaging in my movies, or messages to learn from.

For instance, Everything Everywhere All at Once shows the power of love.

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It’s easier to reply to the statements of Fish.

I would go further that the content of the films is designed to move the view and expectations of the people in a certain way. Orion wants to have fear and no spiritual development.
So there is so much stuff of alien monsters and the increase of fear of the unknown, instead of the idea of Gene Rodenberry of an confederation of planets, that is to similar to the confederation of the planets of the Q’uo.

The general question is, if the people really wants all this stuff of violence, criminality and visions of an universe that is only composed of power and the right of the stronger, instead of love and mutual advancement of an better life?

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I completely agree with Tadeus. Maintain the negative narrative or make changes in your life. It is our choice to think the world around us will be terrible in the future or stop watching such things and begin living with a positive mindset. It is not easy to stop watching violence or feel the world is always taking something away from you. The more you learn to discipline your mind and keep away from such thinking the more your mind will feel calm as well as see what others cannot.

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Yes, yes, yes. I could not agree more with this sentiment. As someone who loves the optimistic nature of Star Trek sci-fi (as you say not the recent movies which are terrible, not just for the darker nature but for the abysmal plot and character development), this has bothered me for some time.

For the most part I would say that many movies marketed as sci-fi are not even sci-fi. I call these “space/alien themed” horror or action movies, and not really of the genre at all. This I would say that the majority of recent sci-fi moves fall into this category. The world building and ideas which are explored in a good sci-fi are basically non-exist in these space-themed movies. There are some exceptions to this, the fairly recent “Arrival” being one that comes to mind, but mostly these days sci-fi is garbage.

What is behind this trend? Hard to say, but I will try and add onto the sentiments of Tadeus and Fish.

I would say that there is likely some financial motive here also. The quality of all movies has declined in recent years not just sci-fi. To be honest I hardly watch movies anymore because of this. Movies generally just don’t make as much money as they used too (with a few exceptions), there is much more competition for people’s attention then there used to be. So for a movie to get clearance to get made it has to have more broad appeal, this means that movies can’t be a niche, and generally have to appeal to several demographics not just one. So you can’t have a straight sci-fi, it has to be sci-fi/action or sci-fi/horror or sci-fi/romance, it has to be able to be marketed simultaneously to people with varying tastes in a movie. This dilutes the narrative of the movie.

Additionally for a movie to actually be considered a financial success it now has to be successful on the international market. This means that you can’t offend any major country/market with topics/motif that may offend. A recent example of this is the sequel to Top Gun recently released. I have not seen this movie, but was listening to a review of it where it was mentioned the antagonist was not identified. This is literally a “war” genre movie where they were unable to identify one of the combatants in the war out of extreme fear of offending/isolating anyone in the international audience. It also shows how shallow the narrative is. You don’t need to tell the story of the fighters in the war with any detail what so ever, just show the violence and the war that is all the audience wants. Who is fighting and why? Doesn’t matter. What is the point of the movie? Don’t care, just show me some explosions.

Also sci-fi generally does not have as much international attention and the more base movie genres of “fighting” and “sex” and “scary”. These are concepts that are universal to every culture, so they have more chance of success to the broad international audience. So you have to mix your little bit of sci-fi flavour/theme into one of these bases if you want your movie made.

If you have to go broad with a narrative to get mass audience then you can’t also go “deep”. What is considered “deep” and “intriguing” generally varies a lot between cultures/sub cultures so you can’t get the mass appeal. This has always been the case to some degree but it has only been exacerbated as time goes on.

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In hindsight, perhaps it would have been better to create such a category. I will look into that, thanks for the suggestion Kirill!

I have also found this to be the case. And while I think Scott’s points are valid for Hollywood movies, there have been other mediums in which more in-depth sci-fi storytelling has been explored. There now are a few streaming video platforms that are able to fund their own episodic shows or mini-series that cater to more niches. I think of the shows like Altered Carbon, Black Mirror and Sense8. These explore sci-fi themes in good depth and I think the character development is also good, but you can’t escape the dark and dystopian overtones in these shows.

I find it humorous that I also had that very same reaction. I was so excited to see the new series of both of them. They appeared to have big budgets and good actors. And while there definitely were good parts, I felt as though the writing was mostly based on adrenaline frenzied plot-lines and heros that succeeded mostly due to their brash over-confidence. Star Fleet became an unreasonable red-taped antagonist throughout, so much so that in order for the heros to save the day they constantly had to find ways to subvert the system. This was not the evolved human civilization where we had “learnt from past mistakes” presented in the older shows.

Indeed, it almost makes human progress an undesirable prospect. To add to this sentiment is, where are all the benevolent advanced alien societies? That was something I appreciated about older Star Trek. There was a continuum in evolution and humanity was definitely not at the pinnacle. The possibility that there were aliens that we’d really like to meet and actually learn from really appealed to me. It just adds to the notion of this being a friendly universe ripe for exploration. It would seem that the newer series drops us square into Orion space where one must always be on guard and ready for a fight from one faction or another.

Some of my favourite episodes are when the crew would visit an alien planet to learn about the culture and technology of the inhabitants. You got a quick look at their customs and political structures that were often far removed from our own. Some of those societies seemed idyllic, and they stretched the imagination of what human civilization could be like in the future. They presented some good ideas. But then there was often a rub, for instance they may have no violence but that’s because they prosecute violent thoughts. Then you’re left with a sense of where your humanity begins and ends. That way of life may be good for the aliens, but we understand why that would not work out for us.

So why no optimistic sci-fi story-telling? Probably just not binge-worthy enough in a cynical, overstressed and overworked populace. Either way if anyone finds any positive sci-fi movies or shows then let me know.

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You have hit the point here.

The fatal thing about this genre is, that it simultaneously dictates a future, in which mostly current negative trends are presented as inevitable. This is simply programming of the people.

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The fatal thing about this genre is, that it simultaneously dictates a future, in which mostly current negative trends are presented as inevitable. This is simply programming of the people.

I agree that there is programming in movie and tv programs, though do you think it could also be an helpful mirror for the public as it demonstrates a future based on their current state? Maybe it helps them consider?

It’s hard for me to think of any examples where it’s hopelessly negative, though I haven’t watched the Star Trek you’re talking about.

All the scifi I’ve seen recently still have some traces of positive messaging.

Though I do wonder, should our movies be different than what they are? Should they be far more positive? Would that be more beneficial for the public?

Or is what’s happening now exactly as it should be?

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It would be helpful if people would start to think about the storyline of a film.
A good example are the Matrix films that have a cult practice and have founded the notion of “matrix” for the fiction we are living our lifes in this world.

On the other hand this films are used to keep the free will apparently upright, because it can be claimed, that with the films the truth is public shown.

Here is a compilation (german) of films that contains this truth:

Filme:
1940 - Der große Diktator
1943 - Chicken Little
1957 - Ein König in New York
1976 - Network
1979 - Die Hamburger Krankheit
1979 - I wie Ikarus
1982 - Blut und Ehre
1984 - V - Die außerirdischen Besucher kommen
1987 - Es war einmal das Leben
1988 - Sie leben
1989 - Erik der Wikinger
1991 - Die Simpsons
1991 - Ein Engel auf Erden
1995 - Johnny Mnemonic
1996 - Der grüne Planet
1997 - Starship Troopers
1999 - The Devil Lady
1999 - The Matrix
2003 - Die Simpsons
2005 - V wie Vendetta
2007 - Vexille
2009 - CSI: Vegas
2009 - Supernatural (S5, EP4)
2010 - Die Simpsons
2011 - The Veteran
2012 - Gray State
2013 - Enemy
2013 - Utopia
2016 - Akte X
2016 - Person of Interest
2018 - Counterpart
2019 - In the Shadow of the Moon
2019 - Hindafing
2019 - Stretch Armstrong und die Flex Fighters
2020 - Songbird

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This thread has been moved to the new Arts & Culture sub-forum :slight_smile:

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Sci fi is one of my favorite genres, but not a fan of horror sci fi. What about Contact?

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Sci-fi has always been about the present rather than the future for the most part. It uses an imagined future as a lens to analyze social issues of the present. Often sci-fi uses dystopias to warn against what would happen if certain trends continue (for example, the cyberpunk genre which explores themes of corporate exploitation and loss of connection to the natural world), sometimes it uses utopias to point at possible futures where our problems are solved, or at least addressed, and sometimes there’s a mix of both. According to the original Star Trek, utopian though it may be, we’re a few years away from World War III which will completely devastate the planet.

In terms of Hollywood, much of the creativity there has been curbed by the obsession with maximizing profit and national security. Producers follow a formula proven to make money in the past, pass it through round after round of editing to make sure it will please the investors and serve it up. That’s just the nature of mass media in our socio-economic system.

I have been seeing glimmers of hope though. Strange New Worlds, for example, captures the spirit of Star Trek way better than the other stuff they’ve been putting out in the past couple of decades. I’ve also really enjoyed the new Sandman show on Netflix.

You run into a lot more of a variety of ideas in sci-fi literature. The Culture series of novels by Ian M Banks is one of my favourite visions of a utopian society. A recent subgenre of sci-fi that’s gaining popularity is Solarpunk, which is an imagined future where mankind learns to live sustainably with the Earth, a sort of antidote to Cyberpunk.

All in all I don’t see things getting more pessimistic as it’s always been a mixed bag. Despite what is presented in mass media, I think people are far more positive in orientation than negative.

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[quote=“Spaced, post:12, topic:89, full:true”]
Sci-fi has always been about the present rather than the future for the most part. It uses an imagined future as a lens to analyze social issues of the present.[/quote]

This is why I fell in love with sci fi: to explore a complex social issue in an entirely different milieu. This frees us up to explore it in this imaginary context as opposed to our ‘real’ context.

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I think Contact was a pretty good one. Makes me feel old that movie was 25 years ago…

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There is a nice series “The Orville”, which is inspired by Star Trek and at the same time is comedy about it:

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I just watched Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017) and I thought it had some positive messages. Ultimately choosing between love or following orders. And it was quite beautiful, especially with a 3D projector.

There was quite a lot of interesting alien species. I wonder if these kind of movies help people to appreciate more variety in how beings can appear, especially as we struggle to accept the differences even among our own species.

It also features a powerful species that lives in loving harmony with their planet, from a planet called Mul. They were very cool. Seemed a little similar to what I’ve heard of our own history with Mu, and they even have an apoclypse due to people coming to the planet with technology and having a war.

Though it does show usual negative aspects too like, fighting, hierarchy, technology, and marriage.

It also does a good job in getting people prepared for technologies that’re coming soon, augmented reality, and further integrating daily life with AI.

There is a new SciFi series:

More and more it is a theme, that the future is determined by technology and only a shadow of the self and freedom is left.
They want to show that it maybe will not be pleased, but it is inevitable!
This series is filled with the symbolism of the System specially playing in London of 2100.

On the other hand there are series like Star Wars Andor:

From my POV with a boring storyline, but with an overwhelming representation/projection of our current System, specially with all the symbolic that has to do with the “empire”.

Thanks, hadn’t heard of Peripheral!

I’m really enjoying Andor, does a great job of showing strongly STS worlds, and people trying to be STO.

I think I see what you all mean now, I tried watching Peripheral but when it got to a segment based on the year 2032, it is was too sad and I stopped. People hooked into VR headsets all day, barely surviving, taking medications, tech implants, and new flying/hovering technology.

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Oculus VR Creator erfindet ein Headset, welches den Benutzer tötet, wenn er in seinem Videospiel stirbt (Video) |
The creator of the Oculus Rift has unveiled a new virtual reality headset that will actually kill a user who dies virtually in a video game.

Welcome to the future!

Palmer Luckey, defense contractor and creator of Meta’s Oculus, has developed a new VR headset that will kill the user if they stupidly die in the game they are playing.

Luckey’s killer headset looks like a Meta Quest Pro connected to three explosive charge modules that sit above the screen.

The charges aim directly at the user’s forebrain and, should they go off, would obliterate the user’s head.

"The idea of tying your real life to your virtual avatar has always fascinated me.

You instantly raise the stakes to the maximum level and force people to fundamentally rethink how they interact with the virtual world and the players in it," Luckey wrote in a blog post explaining the project.

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