Monday, December 21, 2009

Futuristic Science Fiction, Highly Avanced Mecha Exoskeletons & Wheelchairs?

I'm not sure if it irks anyone else, but I'm getting pretty annoyed with all these "futuristic"science fiction TV & movie plots that have characters still rolling around in wheelchairs.

Those of you that know me personally, know that I'm a huge geek when it comes to video games and anime. I pride myself in my anime collection, which includes DVDs from almost every genre out there. I have a really wide range in taste when it comes to movies and TV in general. I enjoy plots that can make me cry and/or laugh and I can't stand predictability. Above all, I like movies and TV shows that make sense. Let me pause here and clarify. If I'm watching a movie deemed "comedy" I expect to laugh and assume there might be over the top outrageous antics. If I'm watching a fantasy (like Harry Potter) it's ok if the characters use magic or have fantastical creatures.If I'm watching science fiction, I do want some of the plot to be based on actual science. Although "science" fiction is "fiction" it should still incorporate logic and science based on what we know. Don't get me wrong, I love fantasy and imaginative things like alien worlds, futuristic technology and space travel. Fantasy is great, but only to a point if the writer wants to convince me that the story has any substance or connection to science. If the story is seemingly all over the place and basic things don't make sense they should label it as fantasy. I'm not talking about complex principles (I'm no scientist). I don't sit in front of the TV picking apart every detail, or double checking equations and physics. I just can't stand it when something in the storyline stands out due to lack of common sense.

I own (and have watched) quite a few "mecha" genre animes and movies. The underlying plot is basically always the same; futuristic society (20xx), huge robotic exoskeletons used in combat, outer space and/or post apocalyptic Earth. The new movie Avatar fits the bill for most of the factors I just mentioned. I had heard the movie hype and seen ads on Nickelodeon for the cartoon series, but knew nothing about the storyline. It wasn't until the other day that I saw an actual trailer for movie. It seemed really cool at first, but then...BAM! The glaring paradox that's been plaguing me for some time now in other shows as well; the main character is in a wheelchair. It's like for a split second the gears in my brain screech to a halt. "Say what?!" So let me get this straight, it's an extremely advanced future Earth society that has technology like bio tech exoskeletons, can travel through galaxies (mind you that would mean we somehow figured out how to travel faster than the speed of light; something Einstein's theories can't even explain), have advanced bases/colonies outside of our planet and in many cases sophisticated androids, but somehow fixing paralysis slipped through the cracks?!

I haven't seen Avatar (I hear it's great), so I can't comment much about the storyline, except for the fact that it takes place in the 22nd century (2154 I believe)and the main character is a supposed ex-Marine who was paralyzed from the waist down in combat. I guess that means James Cameron doesn't foresee a cure to paralysis for at least a couple hundred more years. Unfortunately, he's not alone. There are a slew of anime that follow this formula too (Aquarion, Code Geass, Tekkaman Blade, Gundam Wing, Dominion Tank Police & Basquash!) and it makes me wonder why. How does no one else notice this huge contradiction? Do people really not care if a movie makes no sense or hasn't a shred of plausibility? Why is it that these writers choose to make characters in futuristic stories disabled?

I'm probably more acutely aware of this flaw because of my own disability, but the fact still remains that this phenomenon exists; even if no one else seems to notice. I can't help but think that writers choose to make these characters disabled to make them more sympathetic to the audience. Everyone loves the underdog right? The anime series Code Geass and Aqaurion even take it a step further by having blind paraplegic characters. Geez! Mind you, these characters exist in supposedly highly technologically advanced societies. Part of me can't help but be cynical and laugh.

I've put quite a bit of thought into it and maybe these writers do have some validity in creating this type of future. A future where technology in warfare and exploration has advanced past what we now deem as impossible, but medical and health issues have yet to be resolved. When I think about the billions that our government gives NASA to blow on frivolous projects, that type of future scenario does start to take root in logic. Don't get me wrong. I value technology and know that there are tons of helpful, practical applications created by NASA. I'm not knocking space exploration in general. I appreciate the value in the projects that orbit our planet (such as, satellites and telescopes), because we rely on these technologies every day and they help humanity directly. However, there are many other current initiatives the NASA has planned that make no sense to me, in terms of funding and time spent.
One example is the "Europa Jupiter System Mission," scheduled to launch somewhere between the years 2015-2025. The objective it to drill through the moon's thick icy surface with the hope of finding liquid water and in turn, possibly life (amoeba type lifeforms). How is it justifiable to sink billions & billions of dollars into searching for space microbes when we have millions of people suffering due to disease and disability this very moment? Are our priorities so out of whack that we'll be able to travel to distant planets before we figure out all there is to know here on Earth? It's a very scary thought.

I often feel like I'm one of the few people that pays attention to the world around me and considers what implications our decisions will make on the future. Our leaders (the whole system in general; mayors-president) say they have the future in mind, but seldom back their words up with action. Global warming is a prime example of our society's apathy towards the future. So many people only understand or care about their immediate comfort and I think that's really sad.

I can't speak for the writers of the stories that I mention earlier, but I am very curious as to why they envision a future swarming with technology beyond our dreams and people still in wheelchairs. I would like to think they are trying to prove some profound point, but I am banking on the theory they just see handicapped characters as more likable and sympathetic. I wonder if it ever crosses their minds how absurd (or how negative)it seems to portray humanity's future still riddled with disease and paralysis. I'm not saying our future should be envisioned as a Utopia, but you'd think we'd at least have cured cancer and AIDS and be able to repair the central nervous system after some two hundred or more years of research.
Maybe I just over analyze things too much. I'm curios to hear other people's opinions and theories.

FYI-I'm also a stickler for movies following the original plot of the book, but that's a topic for another blog!

1 comment:

  1. Well, I know most shows don't explain it away, but in Avatar, it was! Actually, it was a big part of the story! The reason the main character goes to the planet (one everyone thinks of as a living hell) is because he couldn't afford the surgery to get his legs back, but he is promised the procedure if he goes to the planet to fill his twin brother's role there (since the bio-mecha they'd created was tuned to his twin's DNA, and it was expensive to make this new one)...

    I think a lot of sci-fi use disabilities as motivators, or demotivators... I think of examples where the villians are created by an experiment to cure paralysis through tech that goes wrong (Doc Octopus from Spiderman I think?) or you have folks like Geordi from Star Trek who's handicap gives him better insight to certain situations because of his blindness (it was key in a few episodes, and the one movie).

    I guess it does matter most on the forsight of the writer to use it, or explain it in their story...