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.