While nothing of the world in George Lucas’s debut film, THX-1138, is immediately recognizable in our own, it turns out that it is all there. Boil today’s society down to its essence and you have the world that THX lives in.
Shopping – When I go to Wal-Mart I see THX play out before my eyes. The people of THX’s world are not really buying anything. They have stores, but the only thing they sell are these worthless cube-things called dendrites which have no purpose and are eventually thrown away (not that the doped-up citizens understand this). The government recycles them, putting them back on the shelf so they can be bought again next week—at least they come in red, white, and blue. How exciting.
This is what I see when I go shopping—lots of things being bought that are not going to matter to their new owners two weeks from now. And yet, people spend hours debating over what to buy. They will even go into debt, just so they can spend money and buy things that will not enhance their lives.
Education – We will have the ability to download lesson plans into our brain within a few decades, so we are far off from literally being there. But it is kind of ironic that kids are shown “learning” when it obviously leads to nothing. You can go to Google or Wikipedia and learn anything, right now. This has decreased the value of memorizing facts and figures.
Knowing a bunch of stuff is not being educated. It is finding connections between different subjects and coming up with unique ideas that is the real prize. And yet, schools have not changed in a century. Students do not see the point of what they are learning. They just want to be done so they can play video games or go to the mall and buy some new shit.
Work – While the outcome is not the greatest thing in the world, many citizens actually seem engaged when they are working. This is the case with THX, who works to build the robotic police officers. He is working alongside numerous others, receiving constant verbal feedback from his bosses, they do actually seem like a team. And though it is a bit macabre, there is a nonchalant announcement to inform THX’s team that they are doing better than the next sector over—based on the fact they have had fewer workers die in explosions.
Many people today go to the ‘ol 9 to 5, hate it, collect paycheck, look forward to 5 o’clock and the weekends. It seems like a horrible way to live, but it is the norm, so nobody flinches when they find themselves becoming another cog in the machine. The sad part is that people may be more engaged in THX’s world.
Religion – “Prevent accidents” is what OMM (the “god” of THX’s world) preaches to the masses, which is exactly who the target of the message is: The masses. The illusion of an individualized message is given when people go talk to OMM in the unichapels, but god’s response is a recording and the people are too drugged or too ignorant (through no fault of their own) to realize it. Everyone says morning prayers, but it is doubtful that they are getting anything out of them.
Television – This is probably my favorite. There are five channels: The Violence Channel (which is a cop monotonously beating a guy with a club), The Boring Guys Talking Network, The Naked Dancing Guy Channel, the Naked Dancing Girl Channel (or NDG and NDG2 as I like to call them). You get the idea.
Turn on your TV, and flip through the channels. Violence, embellished news, sex, mostly mindless garbage. Boil a violent show down to its essence and what do you get: A guy beating another guy with a club.
What does it all have in common? You can watch it for five hours and two days from now it would not matter what you watched one bit, except that it does because you have wasted five hours of your life. This is not to say that there are no shows of value or of substance that will make you think, but it is only about 5% of what is on TV. And very often you can get these shows on-demand online.
THX does comment at one point about a conversation two guys on the “comedy” channel are having. “That was very funny,” he says with no laugh, as if he had just come out of a funeral.
Government – The thing that makes this underground city scary is that there is nothing to overthrow, because there is no man hidden behind the curtain who realizes this world is screwed up in ways it should not be. The people who are arresting lawbreakers are just doing their job. There is no thought given to a reason as to why they are throwing these people in jail or why they are chasing THX down. No thoughts of the big picture, of where this path will ultimately lead society which is, right where it is now. Nothing will ever change.
How do we get there from here? By just doing what we are already doing.