Children of Men, Alfonso Cuaron's gritty and excellent film about a future where everyone has become sterile, plays tonight at the Denver FilmCenter as part of their recent sci-fi series. The film is a story about finding hope in an era of hopelessness. But gray skies and bombings aside, we don't necessarily think living in a world with no children would be all that bad.
Here are five dystopian futures that we'd be mostly okay with.
Children of Men
The Problem: Infertility.
The Side Effects: Societal collapse. Extreme government control in Britain. Environmental destruction. Terrorism.
Why it's not so bad: Have you ever been to a McDonalds playplace? Fuck a deserted island -- kids are monsters already. All everybody really needs is a slight change in their perception, and most of the secondary effects go away. No more Shrek movies. No more kids awkwardly accompanying their parents to adult-centered parties. Bouncy castle rentals for even cheaper than usual. No long lines at Disneyland. You can litter wherever you want. You can eat endangered species. No more Beiber.
The Problem: Machines have taken over and killed most of the humans after a long and bloody war.
The Side Effects: A small population of humans are left alive in the revolutionary city of Zion, and the rest live out their lives peacefully, without ever knowing they're in a dystopia, inside a computer program build to mimic the world of 1999.
Why it's not so bad: 1999 sucked, but it's better than the perpetual darkness and lightning and threat of Sentinel attack in the "real" world (although one of the saving graces of 1999 was the release of The Matrix. Fuck. Coolness paradox). It's a win-win, always: If you're in the machine, you don't know, and you live normally. If you do know, then you suddenly learn how to fly and do perfect Kung Fu and whatever else there's a program for. Wake up a for a second, learn some martial arts, go kill Fred Durst with your bare hands (he's just a program anyway). Was this a dystopia? I think now it's a Utopia.
Here's how you know it's not so bad: We could be living in it right now, and no one cares.
The Problem: The big earthquake came along right when society was on the verge of collapse from crime and corruption.
The Side Effect: The world is perfect, if your definition of perfect is "What every crazy person thinks a completely liberal-run word would be like," aka, "The Libertarian Nightmare." There's no more crime, no war, no violence. There's also no salt, red meat, restaurants other than Taco Bell, bad language or anything remotely dark, violent, offensive or politically incorrect. There's no sex, unless it's virtual.
Why it's not so bad: Virtual sex! You could make your ugly boyfriend look like Clive Owen! There's no crime or violence. Movies and memorabilia and art from before the change are still legal to have and own, if you can find them. It ain't Farenheit 451. And if you disagree you can go live in the sewer, in the Libertarian promised land led by Denis Leary. He says the people are starving, but every time we see them and their sewers everyone looks happy and healthy. Whatever, we all know the free market will provide. Death Race 2000
The Problem: The U.S. has been taken over in a military coup after being weakened by a financial crisis and turned into the United Provinces. There's only one political party, and there's an official church.
The Side Effects: To keep the people distracted and happy, the government brings back gladiator games of ye old yore, the most famous of which is the Transcontinental Road Race, which is run on public roads and scored by running down pedestrians.
Why it's not so bad: I'd rather watch old ladies get cut in half by murder cars than watch Big Brother 17. It certainly has more dignity. It seems like life hasn't changed much for the average citizen, other than knowing you should stay off the road for three days every year. And the trade-off comes from having real American heroes again.
Heroes like Frankenstein, the greatest Death Race driver who ever lived. And secretly, a revolutionary.
The Problem: War, overpopulation and pollution have ravaged the planet and destroyed everything.
The Side Effects: Everything, that is, except for some badass domed cities filled with people who live only for pleasure. There's excessive, constant, excellent food and drink. There's casual, consequence-free sex. Plus, all manual labor is automated. However, this is all maintained because no one is allowed to live past the age of 30.
Why it's not so bad: I would kill myself at 30 in an extremely painful manner for merely the opportunity to just touch 1976 Farrah Fawcett or smell her hair.
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There's no renewal -- but who cares? Live 28 amazingly perfect years, spend an hour or so each day in-between all the gluttony reading about survival techniques in a desert and stockpiling supplies, and when you're 28, before they even think, "Oh, he's getting near to the end, he might run," just split. Hike out to the abandoned Library of Congress, eat some (absurdly delicious) rations and live out the rest of your life roughing it and finding your center, like Julia Roberts in that movie about the rich white lady's vacation to India. Boom. Again. Utopia.
Dystopian futures are all about perception, and the question is, are you an optimist or a pessimist? Do you have hope? Find out tonight at the Children of Men screening. I'll be there, and you can argue with me about what the ending means.