A friend once pointed out that he doesn’t watch films that portray either a dystopic future (i.e. Children of Men or Blade Runner) or a utopian ideal (i.e. Avatar or Gattaca) because they tend to be less than realistic.

There is a lot of talk (and writing) going around about the importance of either 1984 by George Orwell or Brave New World by Aldous Huxley as a literary or cultural guideposts in a time of rampant civic uncertainty and fear.

There are several problems with articulating–and living out–a worldview based off works by English authors of the early to mid-20th century, but the biggest problem of all is the mindset behind thinking that authors of a dystopian (or utopian) future can possibly provide any actionable wisdom in the present day.

The specific problems are best articulated by others, but the general issues that face believers searching for truth in any conception of utopia (or dystopia) are three-fold:

Utopia (or dystopia) look different based upon your frame of reference. This is the main problem in applying the logic of utopia (or dystopia) to fleeting present-day political disputes and disagreements, rather than seeking longer term wisdom. The fact is, for every person who views a position as a dystopic one, there is a person who at the least views the position as not a problem. And for some, they view the position through the frame of utopian thinking.

The dystopia (or utopia) that a person is looking for (typically one represented in film or literature) is rarely exactly the one that manifests in the real world. The specific tent poles of culture, politics, and societal considerations are fluid and dynamic, not static and solid. There are elements of utopia (or dystopia) that manifest, but not all of them. Not exactly. And the fact is, when there isn’t exactitude in the manifestation of a prediction, the credibility of the predictor (and by extension the reputation of the prediction itself) seems to fail miserably.

How people think about what’s happening now influences how they mentally construct utopias (or dystopias), and then emotionally “buy-in” to them. This mental and emotional construction is more of an analysis about the nature of a present condition of conflict, rather than about genuinely deep conflict analysis. This is why films and literature aren’t good predictors of what will happen, what can happen, or even what should happen.

The fundamentals that underlie films and literature about dystopias or utopias are snapshots in time, representing a particular conflict mindset, and a particular set of perspectives on the world and events in it.

We would do well to be skeptical of attempts to glean too much understanding of current events from them, and would do better at managing and engaging with the conflicts we are currently in, by dealing bravely with the utopia (or dystopia) we’re creating right now.