So I wrote an article on how Demolition Man is not about what a lot of people think it is. Since the comments on how much “Demolition Man predicted our future” keep popping, we decided to make a list of the real things we think this awesome 90’s hit actually got right and wrong. These are the aspects and criticisms in the movie some people say Demolition Man “predicted”.
Lets make a list of all the things the movie didn’t actually predict:
Physical contact is outlawed:
Some people equated the rules of the 2020 Pandemic as an enforcement of this. Not that people followed them to the letter to begin with or were ever arrested because of it. The cases where enforcement tried to go that far were so rare they actually made worldwide news. Now that these restrictions have been lifted and people are going back to normal, we can cross this one out.
Swearing or using explicit language:
The main complaint. We already went through this one extensivelly in the first article. Social media access and freedom of speech are not the same thing.
A “too soft” police force unable to deal with anything:
In the movie, Cocteau’s downright Police State is somehow run by cops who will feel shocked at the mere mention of violence. In the real world, police brutality is one of the hottest topics of discussion on the decade. We will always root for the hero, but would you really want a cop like John “Demolition Man” Spartan responding to your emergency?
Unsanctioned consumption of food:
All restaurants in the movie serve only healthy, sanitized “food-like” substances. Any unauthorized consumption of real food, such as a hamburger or pizza, is against the law. Nope. Noone is legally required to live on Starbucks decaffeinated fat-free soymilk triple-filtered-ice lattes, despite what all the “soyboy” boogieman decriers claim.
Smoking. Smoking tobacco or any other substance is prohibited:
While general smoke-free zones have been enforced (and as I smoker even I can say these are understandable), tobacco is NOT an illegal drug, anywhere but the country of Bhutan. Yea, I had never heard of that country before. And other substances are being decriminalized and are free to be smoked in more public areas than before.
Alcohol is made illegal in Demolition Man:
The Scrap’s riot would be nothing compared to the next football celebration right after the ban of alcohol. Or any celebration. Or the mere anouncement of a ban like this.
Public displays of affection are illegal:
Similar to physical contact. We STILL have people that get annoyed and even downright violent towards certain groups of people (you know who) showing affection to each other in public. Luckily this one is also fading out.
Unsanctioned travel or driving:
Some people try to equate this one to the whole opression and police state in DM’s running theme. Again, if anything, people are becoming more aware of their rights and are more willing to denounce police abusive behaviour as a real world problem. The actual parts of the world that do monitor and limit everyday transit are far from percieved utopias.
Cars create a protective foam around the driver when crashing:
I mean, we DO have airbags, but having this all protective material all around in a serious car crash would actually be pretty neat. Just like airbags, to have it in a mild car crash though, not so much.
Location tracker microchips:
Although used mostly for pets and product inventories, RFID chips are a thing. However, RFID technlology has a very limited range and have to be read by a compatible device with access to the chip’s database. Despite the claims of several people that we are unknowingly being implanted with them, they would be a very poor tracking system. Besides we have cell and GPS tracked smartphones for that, so, maybe that counts?
Firearms are illegal:
This is a tricky one. There are several countries where firearms are legal for civilians and several more where they aren’t. This one isn’t really a prediction as these policies are generally decades old. But then we have That Particular Country (yes, we know which one) which ironically equates this movie’s “prediction” with They Wanna Take Our Guns while also having legal firearms for civilians in the first place .
Sex is highly regulated:
Yea no. The movie plays on the AIDS scare which aged like milk. Not to mention we are in the middle of one of the largest sexual revolutions in history. Same with the physical contact bit, some people tried to equate this to the pandemic’s recommendations, which by this point have eased up or become non existent.
All restaurants are Taco Bell:
While corporations today hold an unnecessary amount of power, there’s no monolithic organization that works as a single mind in a single faction. There is no company or corporation that could realistically hold a complete monopoly on a market, let alone wage open warfare for supremacy. For now at least (looking at you, Google).
All music is bottom quality commercial jingles:
Yes, mass media music is generally cookie-cutter formulaic and just plain bad. But in this day an age that not only gives us an unprecedented access to art and media, but also an increasing amount of tools to self-produce and self-promote, the only culprit for only finding bad music is yourself.
Psychological conditioning programs:
Many governments have tried to make this a reality, and they tried really hard, with subliminal messages, drugs and invasive procedures. While propaganda and marketing are powerful and dangerous tools, they rely on the individual’s preconceptions and prejudices to lead on personal desires. Trying to implant a whole new idea, like John Spartan’s desire to knit would cause the opposite effect on a real person.
The Three Seashells:
Wether it would be a good or a bad thing if these ever came out, we will never know until they actually do.
Now, lets do a list of things Demolition Man actually got right
Self driving cars:
We are still getting there, but we are getting there. It’s worth pointing out that even in the movie, cars can also be driven manually, although it makes no sense why there isn’t a physical brake beyond an excuse to make a neat accident sequence.
Graffiti or defacement of public property:
Vandalism IS generally illegal. It was illegal before Demolition man came out, will be illegal afterwards, so it doesn’t really count as a prediction. But if anything, more public spaces have become available for actual graffiti artists in general and is a more accepted art practice than what it was 30 years ago.
Even through real iris and retinal scanning exists since the 80’s, its wider, everyday use did’t come until this decade. Biometrics are now an important part of identity databases, from travelling documents to unlocking your phone.
Touch screens and iPads:
Although the real prediction came since Star Trek at the end of the 80s, Demolition Man also features them way before they had widespread use.
Like many other sci-fi movies, Demolition Man predicted the widespread use of video conferencing. Although people still usually prefer to only use voice for personal calls, video conferencing was a staple of the past years during the pandemic, and the technology is here to stay.
Voice activated technology:
Another staple of Sci-Fi done right. We now have Google Assistant, Siri, and others. Too bad these technologies nowadays are connected to their parent companies and at the center of datamining controversies.
This one is becoming more and more commonplace, especially in the *ehem* multiplayer field.
We mentioned how tracking microchips aren’t an actual thing. But now lets discuss how in the movie, the system appears to know where everyone is all the time. There are real interests and efforts to make this a reality, and overeliance on technology without questioning its hidden functions has risen several privacy concerns. The “I got nothing to fear if I got nothing to hide” argument turns invalid the moment the conditions for this fear could change, like prosecution, blackmail, information leaking and profiling.
Masking the real world perceptions of order:
This is the best and whole point of the movie. No matter how much you mask it, a dictatorship is still a dictatorship. Ignoring those in need and pretending they don’t exist will do nothing to improve the real situation. It will only cause misery and resentment. The movie also points out that freedom has its boundaries. It ends when another person’s freedom begins. The film ends up with the right point that we will need a little bit of both to function as a society.
In the end the real message in Demolition Man is surprisingly well thought and well executed for an action movie. Its too bad some people seem to be focussing on the wrong aspects and message it conveys. Sci-fi is always a fun exercise on “what could be”, but let’s not miss the forest for the trees. “I’m gonna tell you what you’re gonna do. – Why don’t you get a little dirty… and you, a lot clean. And somewhere in the middle… I don’t know, you’ll figure it out.”