THX 1138, GEORGE LUCAS’ DIRECTORIAL DEBUT, PRESENTS A COLD, DYSTOPIAN FUTURE IN WHICH INDIVIDUAL THOUGHT AND LOVE ARE FORBIDDEN. BUT TWO CITIZENS DARE TO REBEL.
LUH 3417, a disenchanted surveillance worker, consciously stops taking her mandatory drugs — medication that suppresses emotions — and gives placebos to her roommate, THX 1138. Now free to feel, the two fall in love, but find themselves on the run for breaking laws of conformity.
Released March 11, 1971
The above was taken from the producers website, and although I selfishly watched this because of an addiction to dystopian science fiction, I found that it brought up a lot of economic questions. The populace in this movie are drugged to decrease emotion, ostensibly to increase efficiency and thus production (amusingly to produce cybernetic cops that enforce control of the society). Although the production wasn’t a particular focus of the film, it’s certainly a topic worth exploring. To begin economic studies we are presented with highly simplistic models to gain some understanding of what economics attempts to explain. Such as, demand drives supply, prices are a function of these two forces, and by extension, the entire economy operates through these interactions. Unfortunately, sometimes these simplistic models are taken as the over-arching principle of economics, and the principles of capitalism over-ride the original ideal – that economics is the study of how humans satisfy their wants with limited resources. Price is but a function of how humans negotiate this problem, it is not the end in itself. Somewhere in history, economics was mistranslated to be a study of how to maximise profits, when it has always meant much more.
THX-1138 portrays a society that has over time, drugged its people into the most efficient resource to maximise productivity. This seems ideal, if our societies end goal is to maximise productivity, as societies translation of economics is want to suggest. If so, why is this society considered dystopian? Why is there an overtone of fear, why do LUH and THX reject the medication and attempt to flee? If production, profit, is the end goal, why would anyone want to leave such a seemingly efficient society? This would suggest that the ideal of economics, of satisfying wants, does mean more than money, and resources. That emotions, personal ideals and dream can also be considered ‘resources’, worth desiring just as much as physical resources. That not all physical resources satisfy all desires, that not everyone has the same desires, and that there isn’t always a one size fits all solution.
It is a personal beef of mine when people misinterpret my love for economics as maximising profit, that being an economist means being a capitalist, and that functions such as education, welfare, and research must not matter to me because they’re not profitable. I need to say this, as it is one of the most important ideals that I hold close to my heart. I did not study economics for money, for profit, or for stock markets. I study economics because of the interactions between people, the ability to understand and watch how people reach their dreams, and to try and find ways to help society reach further, expand, grow and become more. I see this everyday in popular media, where those who chase profits find at the end of the movie that there is more to life – The Wolf of Wall Street, Wall Street, even American Psycho. (apologies if I ruined the story for anyone!). There are movements currently towards Minimalism, where one declutters, and by doing so disconnect oneself from the drive to buy happiness and to find it within. Countries across the globe are pushing for cleaner power generation technologies – though, this can partly be argued by the scarcity of the resources on which the original generators were based, as well as the push by the younger generations for environmental custodianship. Money is important insofar as it is a tool to reach our dreams, and society is pushing to realise their dreams rather than just profits. Economics, as a study, is leading the charge in understanding these movements, though I think that this is not well advertised.
Movies, novels, blogs, articles – media – are a mirror of our times, of what has been and what we expect to come. Our fears, dreams, desires, sins, and passions are laid bare for all to see. And it is here we can start to understand our desires thus what is driving our current day economics, and where we could potentially be further into the future. When I see something of interest, something that hints at a curiosity, of a desire, I’ll bring it up here for you to have a look at.
Keep wondering readers.
Bradshaw, Mike. 2013. Global Energy Dilemmas. Cambridge, UK. Polity Press.
Folger, Edward; Ford Coppola, Francis, and Sturhahn, Lawrence. THX 1138, directed by George Lucas (United States, Warner Bros, 1971). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/THX_1138 / http://lucasfilm.com/thx-1138
Hanley, Chris; Pressman, Edward R. and Solomon Christian. American Psycho, directed by Mary Harron (United States, Lions Gate Films, 2000). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Psycho_(film)
Pressman, Edward R. Wall Street, directed by Oliver Stone (United States, 20th Century Fox, 1987). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wall_Street_(1987_film)
Scorsese et al. The Wolf of Wall Street, directed by Martin Scorsese (United States, Paramount Pictures, 2013). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wolf_of_Wall_Street_(2013_film)
The Minimalists. Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus. Accessed 30 November 2014. http://www.theminimalists.com/