Technocapitalism with a chance of social collapse

cloudy with a chance of meatballs

The movie “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” came out in 2009. I just saw it this evening. Waaaay behind. I know. But wow when I watched it, it was like being immersed in a dark, dystopian vision of a very possible future. Of course at first sight it seems ridiculous – food falling from the sky? Pfft. But look again. Look deeper, beyond the steaks slapping themselves down on tables in a roofless restaurant and the Technicolor icecreamscape and the overgrown baby who ends up wearing a chicken suit (there’s a sentence I never thought I’d type!).

According to The Telegraph, it’s “a disaster-movie parody that’s a delight for children and adults alike”. Roger Ebert chose to focus on the techniques of animation. Channel 4 film’s Catherine Bray is cited by the Guardian’s film blog as saying the following (and I hope you’ll forgive me for the double-citing, because the link the Guardian posted didn’t go anywhere so I couldn’t find the original article. But it actually doesn’t matter. Let’s move on):

“Animation and comedy have always been a good way of slipping in broadsides at social norms without looking like a preachy so-and-so, and there’s more criticism of global warming, sexism in the media, obesity issues and capitalism in this one film than many an earnest documentary – but only if you care to look for it; Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs never forgets its primary function as a very funny romp.”

Yes, this. This is what I’m talking about. I don’t care about the funny bit because I am not reviewing the movie (in the sense of evaluating it). What I AM amazed by is how clearly the issue of technological ethics is brought out. If you’re running any sort of class that deals with problems in modern society, I really think you should consider this as a resource. Questions that you could ask would include:

  1. just because something CAN be done, does that mean it SHOULD? Especially when the motivations are not always brought out into the open and dealt with at the level that they should be. At the root of Flint’s drive to keep innovating was a self-esteem issue. Not the good of society.
  2. What is the value of an education in the humanities for a society that seems bent on finding technological solutions for problems that are either non-technological in nature, or which exist in the first place because your technology makes things look like a problem? If Flint had had some exposure to philosophy, might he have been quite so hubristic, or indeed quite so uncritically accepting of the incremental demands being made upon him?
  3. How does capitalism co-opt technological design to create an upward spiral of obsessive consumption?
  4. When governance is seen through the lens of this technocapitalism, what implications does that have for citizenship?
  5. And just to add another layer to this question-ception, what happens to the ability of citizens to imagine alternatives for themselves when the circle of thought is increasingly getting sealed shut by instant gratification – because, you know, Marx.
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