Culture Clips: Open the Culture Bay Doors, Hal.

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2001 a space odyssey

About this time in 1968, Stanley Kubrick released a little ol’ movie called 2001: A Space Odyssey, making it one of the few movies older than I am. But despite being made in an ancient era when Apples were fruits, not phones, the film got a lot right about the future. And, well, quite a bit wrong, too.

Tech guru Stephen Wolfram unpacks what the movie got right and wrong about our future in Wired (in lengthy detail). Kubrick’s seminal film nailed, for instance, our ubiquitous use of screens, but was a bit too optimistic about interplanetary travel. And while Wolfram says that the film was prescient about modern tech in plenty of ways, he notes that the folks who built that technology were deeply influenced by, well, 2001.

Thankfully, our computers are not explicitly murdering anyone (yet), which is good, since the Japanese are relying on robots to care for their elderly. But at least HAL 9000 had the decency to say, “I’m sorry, Dave, I can’t do that,” when asked to open the pod bay doors. Today’s binary bad guys simply hand all of our personal information over to total strangers without a word.

Well, not all of our personal information, of course. But Facebook continues to wring its virtual hands in the wake of the Cambridge Analytical data leak scandal. It’s trying to shore up its image as best it can, limiting ad targeting and polling its users regarding whether the service is “good for the world.”

But looking at the stories surrounding the social media company these days, and you’d figure the answer would be a resounding no. ABC News is telling folks how to tell if Facebook has their call history. Writing for The New York Times, Noam Cohen suggests that Facebook is not only abusing a “personal relationship” with it and its users, but a “civic relationship,” as well. The Times also wonders if social media itself can be saved—illustrating the piece with a sinking ship festooned with sails bearing the logos of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. And at least one Facebook investor is telling its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, to step down.

Yes, Facebook sinned against us. Perhaps if this controversy took place in biblical times, we’d be warming up for a good old-fashioned stoning. And unlike then, a good 8% of us would feel fully capable of picking up the first stone. According to a new study by Lifeway Research, only 67% of us—barely two-thirds—believe we’re sinners. In addition to the 8% who feel like they don’t sin at all, another 10% don’t believe that sin is a real thing. And 15% would just rather not answer the question.

Don’t know whether anyone got a primer on sin through NBC’s live rendition of Jesus Christ Superstar on Easter, but lots of people watched it. The special, starring John Legend, torched ABC’s American Idol revival, which, unfortunately for ABC, isn’t actually that hard to do. Some folks (well, mainly the news hawks over at Fox) are wondering whether Idol’s days are numbered.

Some of Superstar’s stars chatted with The New York Times about their own personal faith, too. Most seem to profess a generic “spiritual, not religious” brand of faith. But Alice Cooper—the rocker who named himself after a witch who was burned at the stake—says that he turned his life around via Christianity.

“I study the Bible every morning,” he tells the Times. “When I’m at home I have a Wednesday morning men’s Bible study. I pray before every show. I go to church every Sunday with my wife and kids. I don’t think I’ve ever been more happy in my life. People say, ‘Think of all you gave up to be a Christian.’ What did I give up? Dying of alcoholism? I’m not giving anything up. I’m giving it back, to him.”

However many watched Jesus Christ Superstar, it’s not nearly as many as tuned in to watch Roseanne. I know we talked about the show’s eye-popping numbers last week. But when factoring in a record number of time-shifting viewers, Nielsen tells us that about 25 million people wound up watching the premiere. Some folks suggest that Roseanne’s success can be attributed to an underserved blue-collar audience, and a few viewers say the show’s conservative slant may be an argument to bring back other right-leaning shows, such as Last Man Standing.

Are teens watching Roseanne? We have no hard data on that here at Culture Clips. But we suspect it would be hard for them to find the time, what with all the hours they’re playing video games to make money, stuffing liquid marijuana in their e-cigarettes and, um, snorting condoms. But the good news is that they’re not being bullied quite as much as they once were.

Finally, a bit of good news from the entertainment world—good news for Waco, Texas, at least. While the town has never exactly been a tourist magnet, that’s apparently changing, thanks to HGTV’s now newly departed show, Fixer Upper. The program, starring Chip and Joanna Gaines, draws people to Waco from across the country. In fact, it’s now No. 2 on TripAdvisors’ “top destinations on the rise.” “We are actually a destination site now,” realtor Trish Griffin told Curbed. “We actually have people moving here because of the show.”

Regular viewers always knew the Gaines’ could fix up a house pretty well. But a whole city? Now they’re just showing off.

Who wrote this?

Paul Asay has been writing for Plugged In since 2007 and loves superheroes and finding God in unexpected places. In addition, Paul has also written several books, with his newest—Burning Bush 2.0—recently published by Abingdon Press. When Paul’s not reviewing movies, he hikes with his wife, Wendy, runs marathons with his grown kids, Colin and Emily, and beats back unruly houseplants. Follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

PolishBear More than 1 year ago
Yesterday afternoon, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the premiere of "2001: A Space Odyssey," I invited a bunch or friends to join me for a private screening. Some of them had seen it, some had not. We had a GREAT discussion of the film afterwards. The ones who had NOT seen it before kept remarking what a great looking movie it was.

Here's MY personal synopsis of 2001: A Space Odyssey, for what it's worth:

An unseen intelligence (God? Extraterrestrials? Take your pick.) saves our apelike ancestors from almost certain extinction. They also leave a little burglar alarm on our Moon 
to let them know if their little experiment in evolutionary manipulation pays off. After we detect it and trigger it, the alarm's signal is aimed at the vicinity of Jupiter, so naturally we have to investigate. It's as though this unseen intelligence left a trail of breadcrumbs for us to follow.

After the subplot involving the HAL 9000 computer ends, we are left with a single surviving astronaut, Dave Bowman, who encounters another monolith orbiting Jupiter. Unlike Monolith #1 (A teaching machine? A form of intellectual stimulation? Take your pick.) and Monolith #2 (The burglar alarm), Monolith #3 opens a wormhole to another part of the Universe where the intelligence resides. When Dave reaches that territory and put in surroundings that he can deal with, he is studied while his life passes in a surreal, time-distorted fashion. At last he is returned to Earth in a new, transcendent form, perhaps representing the future of the human species as we become a spacefaring race ourselves.

At a purely sci-fi level, 2001: A Space Odyssey suggests that the evolution of our species was actually manipulated by an ancient extraterrestrial race. At a more philosophical level, the film is Stanley Kubrick's meditation about what the age of space flight could mean for the evolution of humankind.

The film also has a lot to say about both the promise and peril of new technology. By using bones as tools, our apelike ancestors are able to kill for food, but they also learn how to kill one another. In the film's iconic match-cut, our first killing tool (a bone) becomes our most modern killing tool: The orbiting nuclear bomb (which was explicitly made clear in the narration that was originally planned for the film). As for HAL 9000, he begins as a benign tool for helping us, but eventually "evolves" into something more self-aware, interested in self-preservation, even capable of murder.

This is a film of very big ideas. Add to that the fact that this film was made HALF A CENTURY ago, and perhaps you can better understand why so many people hold it in such high esteem.

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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've always been more of a "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" guy myself.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hey, Mickey Mouse! Can I get your autograph? It's so cool seeing an icon of animation posting on PluggedIn!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'll be Donald Duck.
I have to agree with you on that comment, I don't think that can be considered right-wing. But hey- a show even giving the time of day to a character who is a Donald Trump voter? I mean- that's what we get these days, you know? Comparative to other shows, it's definitely right-wing. Compared to actual right-wing people, it's kinda not.
I mean, kinda like Last Man Standing, right? That was definitely considered a right-wing show. But I still wouldn't watch it, too much trash versus something like... I dunno, Mr. Ed. So I guess it depends on what you compare it to. 

-Viper
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wow, who knew both Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck were devout fundamentalists? Well, they both were born in the 1920's, after all. ;)
Martinned81 More than 1 year ago
Given that only 80% or so of Americans are Christians of any kind, I"m not sure what's so surprising about 8% respondents saying they don’t sin at all, and 10% saying they don’t believe that sin is a real thing. It's not like they restricted the question to respondents who said they were Christians.
PolishBear More than 1 year ago
The latest surveys indicate that approximately 70% of Americans are NOMINALLY Christian. The number of Christians that are AUTHENTICALLY Christian (that is, attending church regularly and strictly observing Christian doctrine) is probably far lower.
Julienne Dy More than 1 year ago
Whoo!  Yeah!  You go, Waco!  Go Bears!

Says the proud Baylor graduate.