Defining The Future, Part 2

I got some astute comments under last night’s Defining The Future post. That’s prompted me to continue a few more miles along that particular train of thought.

Lecroix (writing in Spanish) drew attention to Cheers and Friends as similar non-smoking influences as Star Trek. One difference is that both these TV series were set in the present, rather than the future. And Clicky pulled up a thought-provoking clip from Star Trek (Next Generation?).

What’s going on here? I thought that fiction was something that reflected reality, but now it seems that reality must reflect fiction. For as you watch Cheers or Friends you’re watching a community that gets along just fine without anybody smoking. It shows you how it’s done. And it’s easy. And now the real world is supposed to become like Cheers or Friends.

We must all become actors. We must all play our roles in the new non-smoking reality. We must all be like Norm (maybe that’s why he was called norm?) when we arrive at the pub, order a beer, but desist from lighting up. It’s easy.

And so what you now see inside more or less every bar in the world is a recreation of Cheers. Everyone has to play the role of Sam the bartender, or Norm, or Cliff, or Rebecca – pretending to be something they’re not. You even have to pretend to be having a great time, as you swap banter with other people in your non-smoking equivalent of the Cheers bar. And it’s a pretence. It’s an act.

But the people in both these series – one set in a Boston bar, the other in a New York City apartment – are highly professional actors playing out scripted roles. When the cameras stop rolling, Friends’ Jennifer Aniston lights up – because in real life she was (and maybe still is) a smoker. And maybe most of the other actors do too. Because the actress Jennifer Aniston isn’t actually the same person as the Rachel Green she plays on screen. And in fact Jennifer Aniston probably only acted out the role of Rachel for a few minutes every day that she was on set. But the rest of us poor suckers are all now supposed to pretend not to be smokers for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

This is how it works: You construct a fictional world, and then get everyone to act it out in the real world. The fictional world teaches you how to play your part in reality.

So if you want, say, to organise a global Marxist revolution, you first construct a fictional TV revolutionary world, maybe featuring a brooding, handsome, charismatic Che and his heavily-armed sidekicks hacking their way through a South American rain forest. And as millions of  TV viewers watch the series unfold, they learn how to be revolutionaries. They learn all the slogans and the Marxist quotes. They are maybe even shown how to dismantle and load and fire an AK-47. All they then have to do is to act out those roles in real life.

Or how about maybe you construct a fictional world in which carbon dioxide is killing the planet, and human civilisation has to run on sunlight and windmill power, and everyone must become a Vegan and recycle plastics?

And in many ways, movies actually are teachers. Who would have guessed what to do when Boy Meets Girl if they hadn’t seen Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall kissing in To Have And Have Not? Or how to do a car chase if they hadn’t seen Steve McQueen in Bullitt? Or a gunfight if they hadn’t seen Clint Eastwood in For A Fistful Of Dollars?

Might it work? No. The problem is that when you make reality conform to fiction, reality becomes fiction. It becomes an elaborate unreal pretence. And everyone becomes a hypocrite, lighting up the moment the cameras stop rolling (i.e. when nobody is watching). A world in which everyone must play their allotted roles is a world that has itself become a staged play in front of a staged audience.

And maybe you can just eliminate poverty by eliminating it in your fictional representation of the world. From Clicky’s clip, the woman says to the fictional Mark Twain:

“Poverty was eliminated on earth a long time ago. And a lot of other things disappeared with it. Hopelessness. Despair. Cruelty.”

See? Easy! And you can eliminate hopelessness, despair, and cruelty at the same time.

About Frank Davis

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50 Responses to Defining The Future, Part 2

  1. slugbop007 says:

    A new book. More dirt on the Panama Papers:


  2. magnetic01 says:

    Then there’s the series – “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century” (1979-1981). There was no smoking at this future time. If I remember correctly, the lead actor, Gil Gerard, was a smoker in real life and was given great grief by the antismoking brigade at the time as being a terrible role model for The Children™.

    It’s America that’s created this antismoking insanity. It’s a continuation of its antismoking fanaticism going back to the mid-1800s. I remember the popular series “Miami Vice” (late-1980s) where one of the lead characters – Crocket (Don Johnson), and other characters regularly smoked. After a few seasons, Crocket was required to quit smoking, setting a “good” example. The series was never the same again and folded not long after.

    There was another series – “Baretta” (late-1970s), where the lead actor, Robert Blake, carried an unlit cigarette behind his ear. In the series he was a smoker on the wagon frequently counseling, particularly The Children™, on the perils of smoking.

    Then there was the early-2000s series “Jag”. The lead actor, David James Elliot, regularly puffed on a cigar. As with other series, the character later quit the cigars because he didn’t want to be “addicted” any more…… to set a good health example.

    What about the early-1980s series “Happy Days”. No-one smoked in that series although it was set in a time (1950s/60s) where smoking was commonplace. There was one episode where the young Joanie in her mid-teens was dabbling with smoking. The message was clear – smoking is evil. The shallow ego-maniac, Fonzie, provided the definitive encounter clearly telling Joanie to steer away from horrible smoking.

    Over the last few years the American antismoking nut case that has been with the current antismoking crusade from the start in the late-1960s, Stan Glantz, has been pushing the WHO directive of requiring an “R”-rating of any movies containing smoking scenes.

  3. waltc says:

    1) That’s why Glantz et al are so eager to R-rate (or is it X-rate) movies that have even the briefest scenes where anybody smokes.

    2) Carrie quit smoking in Sex and The City, because some one-season boyfriend nagged her about it. Still, she’d go oitside and “sneak” one and IIRC, in the last episide, she started again. While in real life, Sarah Jessica Parker (Carrie) was shamed in the NY Post when photograhed smoking on her own townhouse stoop several years later.

    3) Since the smoking ban, I don’t think there are a lot of bars like Cheers still left. From my limited observation, most Manhattan bars are now either jammed with noisy twenty-somethings on the prowl, or filled with the politically correct who aren’t exactly warm and relaxed.

    OT: i hope you plan to watch the fireworks tonight, Frank. At the moment, Trump’s ship is taking on water and the rats are scurrying.

    • beobrigitte says:

      1) That’s why Glantz et al are so eager to R-rate (or is it X-rate) movies that have even the briefest scenes where anybody smokes.
      I do wonder how James Cameron avoided Grantz et al . But then, maybe they caught up with him after the first showing of “Avatar”, in which the heroine (Sigouney Weaver) smoked endlessly. Mind you, there were quite a few scenes cut out when I bought the bluray version…. I still do remember the overfull ashtrays and smoky air that are now missing.

  4. jaxthefirst says:

    As many on here know, I’ve long equated the current trend of non-smoking with the concurrent demise in all creative areas and the dearth of really exciting, genuinely accessible, groundbreaking creative works. It’s very hard to define, but non-smoking writers (in this case, but it works the same in other creative areas, too) just don’t quite seem to be able to put their creative ideas together just right. Sometimes they have a good idea and they run with it, but there’s always something sort of “missing.” A quick look at most new TV dramas is a good indicator. They promise much in the previews, but then, in an intangible sort of way, don’t quite deliver.

    A good example is the series run a few months ago called “Undercover.” The concept was pretty good and the acting was good, too, and it had all the makings of a really cracking little series. But nobody – absolutely nobody – smoked in the programme (which is often a bit of a warning sign). I stuck with it, hopefully, because it did have promise, but sure enough, after the first two or three episodes, things started to derail ever so slightly – rather-too-predictable “bad characters masquerading as good characters” started appearing, the initial hints of an interesting depth to the characters started to give way to rather shallow stereotyping, and, as with most things written by non-smokers (their biggest failing, to my mind), the writer seemed not to quite know how to find an ending worthy of the promise of the rest of the series and it was ever-so-slightly disappointing. I ended up wishing I hadn’t bothered putting time aside once a week for the six weeks of the series’ run to watch it. Which was a shame, because it could easily have been very, very good indeed.

    Generally speaking, if within the first two episodes of a series absolutely no-one has been seen with a cigarette, I don’t bother watching the rest because in my experience the chances are that it just won’t live up to expectations. If someone is shown smoking, however, I will stick with it, and am usually pleased that I’ve done so.

  5. Tony says:

    Here’s an article about the real bar that “Cheers” was based on. A story of a clash between TV fiction and real life. I seem to remember something about smoking bans affecting this bar but the article blames a mixture of tourism and puritanism. (wrong title but seems to link OK)
    Cheers to the Bull & Finch:

    “… [Governor Michael] Dukakis crusaded—as much as a passionless technocrat could—to make Massachusetts the first state in the nation to ban drink discounts and giveaways. On December 10, 1984, just a few weeks removed from raising the drinking age from 20 to 21, Massachusetts called last call on happy hour.”

    ““Does anybody go to a neighborhood bar anymore?” fiftysomething Sheila, long removed from her party years, wondered. “The only people who go to a neighborhood bar during the day have a drinking problem.””
    “Something gained, something lost—laws cracking down on happy hours and shifting behavioral norms transformed bars from places where everybody knew your name to taxied-to destination spots that thrived on anonymity. “

  6. petesquiz says:

    I think you’ve hit upon something very significant here that I’d never considered before. We all accept and expect that, in totalitarian countries, the régime uses fictional TV programmes as a means of influencing the people in a more subtle way than straight out propagandising would.

    I always thought that, in our free and democratic world, we were immune from this type of propagandising – obviously I was wrong!

    But, how do you reverse the trend? EVERYBODY ‘knows’ that smoking is bad for you and will probably kill you and those around you because that’s all you ever hear across all media platforms. The truth is so hard to get to (or so well buried) that hardly anyone (present company excepted!) goes digging to expose it.

    I’m sure someone could write a compelling crime drama series, say, where the protagonist is a heavy smoker who manages to solve the cases whilst he’s having a cigarette and stating that smoking gives him inspiration to put the pieces of the jigsaw together! But who would commission it? And if someone did, would they be brave enough to keep the central character unchanged?

    • waltc says:

      I don’t know that I’ll get a movie sale, but not only the hero but a lot of the goodguy cops in my crime novel “Manhattan Roulette” unabashedly smoke and make cracks about the ban. OTOH I’ve noted that even in print crime fiction (just as on television) fewer to no characters do and some established novelists in the genre have had their lead characters ostentaciously quit or even becone ants. I don’t know how much of that is de facto censorship from the publishers or the pc editors or the real or affected attitude of the writers.

      OT on the debate. I think objectively that Trump cleaned her clock or, at any rate, the rumors of his death (as recent as 10 minutes to 9) were greatly exaggerated.

    • garyk30 says:

      Well, Sherlock Holmes did just fine with his pipe in hand or in his mouth.
      He is the greatest crime solver of all time.

      • nisakiman says:

        Not to mention his predilection for opium and cocaine.

      • Some French bloke says:

        Sherlock Holmes did just fine with his pipe…

        An opportunity for yet another Albert (after Camus, which I quoted on yesterday’s thread) to ‘pipe in’:

        Note how he only refers to ‘human’, not scientific, affairs.

  7. sackersonwp says:

    “So if you want, say, to organise a global Marxist revolution, you first construct a fictional TV revolutionary world, maybe featuring a brooding, handsome, charismatic Che…”

    Remember the “Bill Brand” series “1976)? Shown on daytime TV because, I suspect, it was too dangerous for prime-time.

  8. prog says:

    Closer to home – not that I watch any of them much but British Soap operas have minimal smoking. Been like that for years. Eastenders Dot is the only major exception (though perhaps she now succumbed in order to help save the children).

    Going back, I guess The Sweeney was one of the most gloriously politically incorrect series and (as such) one of the greatest cop shows ever shown on British TV.

    • nisakiman says:

      Which reminds me (John Thaw, Morse), that in the series of Endeavour (Morse prequel), there was lots of smoking. Endeavour’s boss (played by Anton Lesser) chain smoked throughout. And that was quite a recent series – 2012 or something?

  9. Roberto says:

    As opposed to Star Trek, the futuristic series Battlestar Galactica (its second version in 2003) did feature a smoker (in fact, a heavy smoker) as an important plot character: the spaceship medic. In one scene a patient makes a comment to the doctor on his smoking habit. The doctor responds something like “… so I will know what killed me” and keeps puffing. The series also features alcohol drinking, prostitution and sex between space travelers. Compare with the sex-less, vice-less and straight puritanical characters of Star Trek. In fact, in Star Trek even the extra-terrestrial characters are sex-less, vice-less and straight puritanical. In this respect, Star Trek is some sort of adult Walt Disney science fiction.

    • Manfred says:

      Frank Sinatra apparently advised those who deigned to criticize him for smoking (which he apparently carefully regulated to protect his larynx), “you die your way, I’ll die mine.”
      No shame in admitting that I have borrowed that from time to time as a useful shut-down response. It works quite effectively.

  10. Pingback: ‘Owls With Laughter… – Library of Libraries

  11. Rhys says:

    There was a very bad American remake of Cracker, with a slender, non-smoking, only occasionally drinking Fitz. If you didn’t have the misfortune to catch the first ep (someitme in the mid-1990s), it was indeed dreadful.

    On another note, the new Netflix series Luke Cage is set in Harlem. Where apparently nobody at all smokes. The set design was otherwise glorious, but that detail completely ruined it for me.

  12. harleyrider1978 says:
  13. harleyrider1978 says:

    Let us all remember history repeats itself because mankinds busy bodies ignore it or read it and try and repeat with a few rewashed agenda items.

    1. We had American tobacco prohibition from 1895-1927 most gone by 1917 with a few hold outs.
    2. We get the progressive led Volstead Act outlawing alcohol.
    3. The Movie Industry went wild with gangster movies in the 1930s with George Raft,Bogie and a dozen others all smoking and gangland war abounding.
    4. Volstead gets repealed and the progressives come out and beg forgiveness in movie theatre newsreels for what they did. Meanwhile they weren’t sorry about anything they were simply reorganizing creating the ACS ALA AHA etc ect and many of the pharma companies contributing to build these worthless new prohibition/eugenics non profits.
    5 They bided their time in the public eye for decades awaiting the day to publicly strike out.

    6. In the 1950s behind closed doors they began their war anew on smokers the ACS’s 39 year study on smokers and their spouses, enstron kabat besides the Doctors study we all know about.

    7. 1964 SG report using shoddy science makes the claim smoking causes LC………aka doctors study main one making the claim!

    8. After 100 years of trying The UK COT meeting 2004 states;

    No proof exists of a single tobacco claimed disease

    the causative agents for smoke induced diseases (such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, effects on reproduction and on offspring) was unknown. The mechanisms by which tobacco induced adverse effects were not established. The best information related to tobacco smoke – induced lung cancer, but even in this instance a detailed mechanism was not available.

    9. Flush repeat!

  14. harleyrider1978 says:

    Pat Nurse

    3 hrs ·

    I am very sorry to point out to antismokers that after almost 50 years of smoking, my latest MoT at the doctors proves I am absolutely 100% healthy. No blocked arteries, no cancer, no heart issues, no copd, nothing, nada, zilch. So sorry to be the purveyor of such bad news. Remember, however, smokerphobia harms you and others around you.
    The devastation smoking causes has been documented for half a century. These local leaders, including those representing the Capital City, show they understand these facts. Now we’re ready for a statewide leader with vision to put more muscle into the fight.

  15. beobrigitte says:

    Defining The Future, Part 2

    Anyone who remembers the anti-smokers’ fight to have 78 year old Friedhelm Adolfs evicted from the flat he has rented for more than 40 years for the reason that he SMOKES in his flat, here the latest:
    Friedhelm Adolfs (78), Deutschlands bekanntester rauchender Mieter, darf in seiner Wohnung weiter wohnen und rauchen. Das Landgericht Düsseldorf hat heute die Kündigung durch seine Vermieterin abgewiesen.
    Friedhelm Adolfs (78), Germany’s most famous smoker tenant may reside in his home and continue smoking. The Landgericht Dusseldorf has today dismissed the termination of his tenancy by his landlady.

    To be fair to the landlady; speculation has it that she wanted to let out his flat as office rooms for a much higher rent. However, that she jumped onto the anti-smoker bandwagon to achieve her goal is just despicable.

    Anti-smoking brings out the worst in people?

  16. harleyrider1978 says:

    Trolls could face jail under new legal guidelines

    Social media is to be more stringently policed under new rules on offences for which online users can face criminal charges

    So I guess some of our artwork of the Nazis might be a criminal offense!

    Internet trolls who create derogatory hashtags or post humiliating photoshopped images could face jail, the country’s most senior prosecutor has warned.

    The Crown Prosecution Service has published new guidance to help police determine whether to press charges against someone for their behaviour on social media.

    It comes after a major report found one in four teenagers suffered abuse online because of their gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, disability or transgender identity.

    Cases of sexting that involve underage children should not be pursued for prosecution if the images are shared consensually between two children of a similar age in a relationship, the CPS said.

    But it added that if such cases involved “exploitation, grooming or bullying” it may be appropriate to attempt to prosecute those responsible.

    Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders said: “Social media can be used to educate, entertain and enlighten, but there are also people who use it to bully, intimidate and harass.

    “Ignorance is not a defence and perceived anonymity is not an escape. Those who commit these acts, or encourage others to do the same, can and will be prosecuted.”

    Creating a hashtag to encourage an online harassment campaign, or pushing for retweets of a “grossly offensive message” are given as examples of unacceptable behaviour.

    Other examples of outlawed practices set out in the guidance include publishing an individual’s home address or bank details on the internet, dubbed doxxing.

    Baiting – when someone is humiliated online by being branded sexually promiscuous – is also mentioned in the guidance, as is posting “disturbing or sinister” photoshopped images of someone on a social media site.

    Prosecutors acknowledged, however, that many photoshopped images were “humorous and inoffensive”.

    The CPS also announced the launch of a hate crime consultation, issuing a series of public policy statements centred on combating crimes against disabled people, as well as racial, religious, homophobic and transphobic hate crime.

  17. harleyrider1978 says:

    Social media can be used to educate, entertain and enlighten, but there are also people who use it to bully, intimidate and harass.

    Perhaps we can have all the anti smoking groups jailed for bullying and harassment besides creating an environment of government backed hatred against a group.

  18. Roobeedoo2 says:

    ‘Another example from Whorf’s experience as a chemical engineer working for an insurance company as a fire inspector.[22] While inspecting a chemical plant he observed that the plant had two storage rooms for gasoline barrels, one for the full barrels and one for the empty ones. He further noticed that while no employees smoked cigarettes in the room for full barrels, no-one minded smoking in the room with empty barrels, although this was potentially much more dangerous because of the highly flammable vapors still in the barrels. He concluded that the use of the word empty in connection to the barrels had led the workers to unconsciously regard them as harmless, although consciously they were probably aware of the risk of explosion. This example was later criticized by Lenneberg[23] as not actually demonstrating causality between the use of the word empty and the action of smoking, but instead was an example of circular reasoning. Pinker in The Language Instinct ridiculed this example, claiming that this was a failing of human insight rather than language.’

  19. Lecroix says:

    I apologize for “writing in Spanish”. I’m still learning about WordPress and I didn’t know that if I reblogged your posts, adding a comment of my own intended for my own blog only, that would show as a comment in your blog as well. I now understand how that works, so no more comments in Spanish in your blog.

  20. Lecroix says:

    Or something :D Tell you the truth I also use A-Lot of imagery and music in my blog.

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