Sunday, July 29, 2012

Examining hope in ‘Revolution’



"They say it took only eight minutes for the world to go completely dark. I know the truth is out there somewhere--and so is my family. No matter what, I'll find them both. These people wish they could back to before the blackout. Not me. When the world lost power, I found mine."


via DreamsBlend
Some new promos have been released for NBC’s upcoming post-apocalyptic Revolution, a series that focuses on the family of a young Katniss-like girl named Charlie Matheson whose father holds a dangerous secret in the form of a USB drive that survived an event 15 years before which disabled all electronic technology across the planet. The new promos center on a theme of “hope”—and that suggests some interesting twists on the post-apocalyptic and dystopian story.

In a recent article, executive producer and pilot director Jon Favreu (Iron Man) and those involved in the series expanded on this idea:
“We didn’t want this to be a dystopic view of the future,” the Iron Man director said Tuesday at a press preview here for the show, which also has Lost and Fringe creator J.J. Abrams on its production team. 
Set 15 years after a worldwide power failure has produced a back-to-the-earth civilization, the saga includes older folks who hanker for the days when technology reigned supreme as well as younger ones who feel perfectly at home in a steam-powered environment. “Some people are struggling to hang on to shreds of the old society, whereas Charlie’s generation sees this world as the pastoral, simple place where they grew up,” Favreau said. “We wanted to show this world through their eyes so that Revolution wouldn’t feel like The Road or Mad Max.”
First of all, I am not sure this is enough to move Revolution out of the dystopian realm. The trailers reveal elements of a dystopian story, not the least of which is fact that the survivors live under an oppressive militia state masquerading as one in the best interest of the masses. And the presence of hope is often an integral part of the genre. Dystopian stories, to borrow Tolkien’s take on fairy stories, makes hope—and the things that bring us hope—“all the more luminous by their settings.”

Second, I find Favreau’s comments about the series utilizing a pastoral element valued by its key characters taps into something important. It reflects a larger cultural longing for simplicity in a busy, chaotic world wrought with constant input, noise and harried relationships. I must admit, sometimes while I’m watching or reading a story like this, part of me thinks it might be better that way. But, of course, what I’m longing for isn’t the actual reality of a technology-free or pre-industrial life. (As a mother, the idea of raising my children without antibiotics and modern medicine makes my stomach hurt). What I am longing for is something quieter, slower, purposeful and meaningful—a life focused on the things and people that really matter. Modern movements of simplicity reflect this, emphasizing not only a paring down of one’s activities and possessions but also a building up of one’s relationships and community.

Which, perhaps, gives us some hints about the hope that Revolution will explore.
                                                                    



So, what is the hope in Revolution? In the promo above, a voice talks over images of Charlie running through a darkened city and fighting alongside several others (including her father’s brother):
What if, in minutes, all power was lost? The world that lay before us, plunged into darkness? Militias rise, governments fall. Family is all you have left to fight for. In our quest for survival, we grasp for the one thing that can hold us together: hope. And it is hope that will light the way.
Central to this promo is the USB drive that Charlie’s father tried to protect, which suggests there’s a way to get back our access to technology. But according to the other trailer (at the top of this post), we’ll find hope in Charlie’s journey, which at least to begin with, will be to save her brother from the militia (who imprisoned him after he shot one of them while defending their father) and reunite her family.

It seems, then, that hope won’t necessarily be found in a returned technology but in something else. In stories like these, journeys like Charlie’s often explore and reveal the value and importance of fellowships” or relationships bound by a mission and virtues like courage, sacrifice and love. In the context of allusions to pastoral life and simple living, it’s a good bet we’ll discover humanity’s hope for survival and a better life in Revolution’s universe lies in things like these.

(As a side note, does anyone else see an allusion to Tolkien’s One Ring in the way that the USB drive amulet is on a necklace chain? Does this mean that the USB drive contains something that could bring (back) power yet also destroy? Is it destined for a Revolution version of Mount Doom?)

I must admit, I am intrigued by what Revolution has already brought into these open spaces—and I’m going to stick around to see what else it offers up. 

1 comment:

Donnie Manis said...

I am REALLY looking forward to this show! Thanks for the insightful comments that only help to build the anticipation. Hope it lives up!