The Politics of Tomorrowland

The Fountainhead? More like The Open Conspiracy crossed with "The Gernsback Continuum."


I hoped Chuck Freund was kidding in his post about Tomorrowland, but no—Barry Hertz really does think Brad Bird's film is Randian:

Gernsback shrugged.

Just as the author behind The Fountainhead believed in an ideal man who should be left alone to thrive, free from the limitations of an unimaginative and destructive public, Bird, too, pines for worlds where incredible people can be free to do incredible things, and to hell with everyone else…. As explained by [George] Clooney's character—repeatedly, and with the star's typically smooth intensity—Tomorrowland was constructed by the world's "best and brightest," who were able to realize their visions only by being "free from government, bureaucracy" and other forces of mediocrity that would quash the gifts of the exceptional. The rest of humanity is forbidden from both visiting Tomorrowland and utilizing its scientific advances, as the unwashed masses would, in the words of the film's kinda-sorta-not-really villain (Hugh Laurie), "gobble it up like a chocolate éclair" until there's nothing left.

It takes a rather skewed perspective for Hertz to see Bird's H.G. Wells–style vision of a technocratic elite as a Randian utopia. (For those who haven't seen the movie: The "forces of mediocrity" that we are told were holding back those "best and brightest" include not just bureaucracy but commerce.) And it's very odd to say that Bird "pines for worlds where incredible people can be free to do incredible things, and to hell with everyone else," given the actual plot of the film, in which (SPOILER ALERT) the villain knows that the world is coming to an end but is unconcerned because his little community will survive. There's no kinda-sorta about his villainy: The heroes want a Tomorrowland devoted to fixing the world, not escaping it.

I haven't actually read Atlas Shrugged, but I'm pretty sure it isn't a story about a bunch of scientists who retreat to a gulch so they can avoid market pressures and plot to save the planet. If I'm wrong about that, feel free to correct me in the comments.

NEXT: Blame the Killer, Not the Rugby Team, for Murdering a Feminist at U. of Mary Washington

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  1. A day late, and a dollar short.

  2. So, only three posts on Tomorrowland?

    1. Four, actually.

      1. I will post the same comment, 4 times!

        “GILMORE|2015/05/27 13:53:26|#5326565

        Given that every single movie, tv show, and video game has an underlying message about how Corporations are trying to destroy the planet and that commerce is the root of all evil, i’d think almost *anything* that deviates from the cookie-cutter Progressive anti-capitalist pap would appear like reactionary right-wing individualist propaganda.

        Besides, I think this guy, with his “the real message is the opposite of what they’re *trying* to tell you”-interpretation, has probably the best decoder-ring for modern hollywood film-making =

        “This is the latest in a series of posts in which I argue that a movie’s true lesson is the opposite of its more obvious lesson. Previous installments include “Elysium is actually an anti-Obamacare parable,” “Star Trek Into Darkness is pro-drone strike,” and “Godzilla: The Anti-Global-Warming-Alarmism Blockbuster.” This week, we’ll discuss Tomorrowland (review here). Spoilers for that movie below.

        The real lesson of Tomorrowland is that there’s no reason to make any special effort to change because nothing bad is going to happen anyway, despite all the doomsaying to the contrary. Things are getting better literally all the time without any particularly massive effort. Don’t worry. Be happy. Go watch Mad Max: Fury Road. You’ll be happier that way.””

  3. The discussion was pretty good in the post below. My takeaway is that the Brad Bird optimism and praise of individual greatness is anathema to some people. However highlighting individuals succeeding on their own merits is not Randian. Casting it as Randian just smears individualism to the right sort of people,

    1. ^ This, and Gilmore’s comment that it simply fails to be aggressively Leftist, and so therefore is Randian.

      I read an article last week about political bias in video games. The author was arguing that SimCity is radically right wing because you can’t just keep raising taxes and expecting it to always produce more revenue. IOW, it affirms the existence of a Laffer Curve, and is thus right-wing propaganda.

      The fact that it also takes for granted socialized medicine, and is set up so that minimum taxation *cannot* be combined with minimum regulation to achieve growth is in no way politically biased – that’s just reality. Minimum taxation simply leads to economic atrophy.

      These kinds of observations tell you a lot more about the observer than they do about the observed.

  4. BTW, I saw Tomorrowland on Saturday and loved it. This just futher cemented my opinion that the two guys doing movie reviews here have terrible taste in movies, as they consistently pan movies I enjoyed.

    1. Or you have terrible taste.

      I never see any new movies, so I have no idea and mean nothing by it.

      1. By defintion, I cannot be of the opinion that I myself have terrible taste.

  5. I haven’t actually read Atlas Shrugged

    That qualifies you to criticize the novel as poorly written, with cartoonish villains, bearing a philosophy suitable only for teens. This, in turn, qualifies you to write for Salon.

    1. I’d rather criticize it as poorly written with cartoonish villains and bearing an appealing but ultimately not entirely convincing philosophy which nevertheless should be seriously considered by adults.

  6. This isn’t the first time Bird has been accused of being Randian. There’s a number of critics who see the same theme in his earlier movie, The Incredibles. Hertz probably has an (incorrect) preconceived notion of Bird’s philosophy based on that film, and is channeling his antipathy towards it in his piece here. Note the reference to “incredible people doing incredible things”.

    1. My headcanon for The Incredibles is that it’s set in a universe where Alisa Rosenbaum, upon ariving in the the US, decided to change her name to Edna Mode and go into fashion.

      1. Edna may well be the greatest animated character ever. Certainly the best in a supporting role.

        I was shocked speechless when I saw that Brad Bird did the voice acting for Edna.

        1. Supposedly Pixar normally does a working version of the soundtrack using animators for all the voices so they can start doing animation until the real voice actors get recorded. Occasionally they’ll decide they like the read of one of the animators so much they just use it as is. In The Incredibles, that happened with both Brad Bird’s read for Edna Mode and Bud Luckey’s read for Rick Dicker (the exasperated agent guy who has to keep cleaning up Mr. Incredible’s messes).

  7. I don’t remember Ratatouille having a rape scene. How could it be Fountainhead without consensual rape?

    1. Remy forcing Linguini to cook things by pulling his hair was clearly a rape metaphor.

      1. And that’s why I loved it.

  8. I still remember Brad’s acceptance speech after Ratatouille, it was really nice:

  9. given the actual plot of the film, in which (SPOILER ALERT) the villain knows that the world is coming to an end but is unconcerned because his little community will survive.

    SPOILER ALERT isn’t this the plot of the first book in Asimov’s Foundation Series?

    I haven’t seen the movie but, lemme guess;
    The society, a collection of brilliant science-y folks, will face not-specifically-named-but-firmly-predicted challenges that they will, with narrow odds (and no actual thanks to the asshole “predicting” the future), survive. And their survival (as enlightened ones) will bring prosperity to the heathen masses around them.

    Hugh Laurie would make a good Harry Seldon.

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