I've Seen the Future


I have never agreed with the view that the movie Network was a "prophetic" look at the television industry. Though I always enjoy the record-breaking amounts of scenery-chewing by everybody involved in that picture, Network stands out (to me at any rate) not as visionary but as extremely dated, and mostly wrong in its view of which way television was headed. Beyond the overall observation that the networks would continue to seek ratings in more desperate ways—which, as a prediction, was not much of a stretch even in 1976—I don't think America ended up looking very much like the picture Network painted. (For movies from Sydney Lumet's seventies golden age, give me Dog Day Afternoon every time!)

I think it's time to put the prophetic-movie crown on the movie that really deserves it: Demolition Man. Dismissed as anti-PC bombthrowing at the time (and, like so much of the Sylvester Stallone oeuvre, criminally underrated even now), Demolition Man is striking for its many specific, falsifiable predictions that now seem well on the way to becoming true: There's a serious movement to amend the constitution to allow Arnold Schwarzenegger to become President; fattening foods are now routinely referred to as Schedule 1 substances; virtual sex has become so mainstream that many respectable, germ-phobic people use it as their primary outlet; Scott Peterson, briefly namechecked in Demolition Man's roll call of famous murderers, has in fact become a famous murderer; Dennis Leary is the undisputed king of the lowlifes… Check out the laundry list and you'll see how right Demolition Man was about just about everything. Network, 1984, Wag the Dog, take a back seat: Demolition Man is the Nostradamus of movies.