Five Chuckle-Worthy Media Moments in Atlas Shrugged

In the future, newspapers will replace the internet, and the iPhone will be conspicuous by its absence.

Apparently, the future will be devoid of social media. I saw Atlas Shrugged over the weekend, the movie adapted from the (gargantuan) novel by Ayn Rand. As expected, the performances were heroically wooden, making Rand’s prose seem almost fluid. If you played a drinking game and took a shot every time someone spoke with a contraction, you’d walk away sadly sober.

So, Atlas Shrugged met expectations.

What’s interesting, though, is the subtle ways in which the movie was screwed up. It was smart to set the film in 2016, and I’m sure the target market will be psyched to see Middle East instability cited as the cause of economic mayhem across the United States and around the world. A few, I’m sure, will actually treat it as a cautionary tale. To do so, though, is to miss the point entirely.

There’s some hilarious stuff in Atlas Shrugged, and I’m not just talking about the soap opera-style shooting or dialogue that sounds inspired by a teleprompter. For media junkies, who should see the movie just for fun, there some moments where you’ll invite the ire of others in the theater either by laughing or questioning aloud, “WTF?”

So, let’s take a look at the hilarious 2016 media landscape you’ll find in Atlas Shrugged:

1. People read the newspaper: I was stunned to see newspaper imagery used to advance the narrative. Headlines were splashed across the screen, as if they carried weight. And, they weren’t just a plot device. The characters took them seriously. When stepping off the train from New York to Philly, protagonist Dagny Taggart dramatically reached for a newspaper (for which she paid) to read an alarming front-page headline.

2. Not an iPhone to be seen: as a BlackBerry devotee I was excited to see the device still around in 2016, even though the legions of Droid and iPhone user are ready to write the smartphone’s obituary. This was the only smartphone to make an appearance in the movie, which I have to admit, feels a tad optimistic. You can suspend disbelief by figuring that BlackBerry’s prominence comes from the fact that we’re seeing business users communicate, but it’s still somewhat difficult to digest (even for me).

3. The couch potatoes win: why is television faring far better than the newspaper sector? Well, it’s helped along by live events, which are harder to replicate online (and which the broadcasters have strangleholds on), but the real reason is that people still get excited about plopping down on the couch and clicking through the channels. Since television is about as prevalent as the newspaper in Atlas Shrugged, it looks like people are still committed to lethargy … only they’re finally realizing consequences in 2016 (chuckle).

4. Face-to-face supremacy: despite all the phones (land lines), smartphones and computers in the movie (though many of the desks seemed to lack them, strangely), the characters would travel long distances to have conversations that could easily take place over the phone. Cells only came into play when a character was in transit. Skype, apparently, won’t make it to 2016. Don’t worry, though: the airlines won’t either.

5. The internet is Reuters: seriously, the only web page I saw in the movie was No Gawker, no Huffington Post, no Business Insider. There wasn’t even a newspaper’s website, which would have been an easy fix, given #1 above. News obviously pushed the story along in Atlas Shrugged, so the outlets were definitely prominent. So, to have Reuters as the lone online rep … #FAIL (not that there was a single hashtag in the flick).

[photo by cliff1066 via Flickr]

Publish date: April 20, 2011 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT