Seventeen Years

Posted in Movies & TV, History, Sociology at 2:52 pm by Administrator

I’m a definite in believer in the social cycle theory. This is a very old idea which suggests that throughout the course of a civilization’s history, many different aspects of its society follow a recognizable and repeating pattern. Unlike some, I don’t look at it as being trapped in a bleak loop of determinism, but rather being part of an giant upward spiral.

One the most fascinating parts of this idea is that it seems to occur on so many different levels and that seemingly unrelated trends sometimes correlate with each other in surprising ways. A somewhat extreme example would be Heinlein’s suggestion that there is a connection between the length of men’s beards and women’s skirts and the price of gold at any point in history. (Be careful, however, not to assume that correlation implies causation.)

On to my main point. I saw Children of Men recently. As “crappy future” movies go, it was fairly well done and I found no major faults in its internal logic (which kill a movie for me).

The basic premise of the movie is that at some point in the near future, women have mysteriously lost their ability to become pregnant. This, rather understandably, causes the world to descend into chaos. Great Britain, the setting of the movie, manages to retain some semblance of order only by instituting draconian security measures. (Think: a hippie’s nightmare extrapolation of the current War on Terror)

I’ve seen a lot of movies set in a bleak future, but this one called to mind two others in particular:

The first one was The Handmaid’s Tale.  The Handmaid’s Tale portrays a future United States in which, due to nuclear contamination, the majority of women have become infertile. The few women who can conceive are forced by the fundamentalist government to bare children for the rich and powerful. The similarity of this movie with Children of Men is readily apparent.

The second movie I was reminded of was Soylent Green. Soylent Green portrays a future in which the world has become grossly overpopulated and in which starvation and pollution are rampant. This movie was not obviously similar to Children of Men, but it had an overall flavor (har, har) as well as minor details that made it impossible not to make a comparison between the two.

I’m not saying there aren’t other movies that explore similar themes. I’m only saying that I’ve seen most of the dystopian future films and Children of Men specifically reminded me of these two. Therefore, I consider them to be part of a set.

Here’s where it gets interesting. Soylent Green was released in the US in 1973. The Handmaid’s Tale was released in 1990. Children of Men’s U.S. release was in 2007. Each film was released exactly seventeen years after the previous one in the “series”.


Obviously three data points are not enough to draw broad conclusions. Still, it raises interesting questions about cycles in the movies industry. Is this particular cycle (if it is one) a response to perceived public fears? Why did someone think the public would be receptive to this type of movie now? What about in 1990 and 1973? It would be interesting to compare world events at those times with what is currently happening.

Or maybe, as Doc Brown said, it could all just be a huge coincidence.