Posted Under: America,Olde News,Progress,Sponsored Film Festival,The Designed Life
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In part I assume this is because the film is — on one level — perfectly ridiculous, featuring a sort of Audrey Hepburn type who is “Delighted!” to see new cars that are “Oh so beautiful!” or whatever. It’s campy and funny. We all love to look at this sort of thing and snicker at how naïve people used to be. And without question, Design For Dreaming is absurd. But … I think there is more to be found here than that. “Design for Dreaming” is largely a musical in format, and at one point the heroine sings: “Everyone says the future is strange / But I have a feeling some things won’t change.” Then she launches into an amusing dance with a heavy drumbeat, before the exciting announcement: “Now the dream cars of tomorrow!” Browsing at the new cars in her fancy dress – she wants them all! And she wants the “push-button magic” of a new kitchen, too! Not to mention ““The electronic highway of the future!” The closing sentiment is: “We are about to take off on the highway of tomorrow!”
To me there are two striking things about this old version of “the future.” One is that while the tone of course strikes us kitschy, it has more than a little in common with our own era of “Good Design for All.” As I’ve argued before: Be prepared for much of what you embrace as progressive, forward-thinking design today to be laughed by your grandchildren as evidence of how foolish your generation was.
The other striking point, to me, is the ways that the old future and the new future differ. For starters, the old future had nothing to do with dissing the past; the new future is all about dissing the past. The new future is about “getting it” and not being a “dinosaur.” It’s about how we modern consumers aren’t a bunch of clueless zombies like … well, like the people who believed in the old future. In fact, embracing the new future is partly about laughing at the naiveté of films like this one.
In a sense, then, the old future was actually a lot more inclusive — it wasn’t about a battle between “get-its” vs. “get-it-nots,” or about winners and losers, it was simply going to happen and be wonderful for all. And yes, there was naiveté in that. (I’ve been on the highway of tomorrow that they’re so excited about — and the traffic sucks. Etc.) But after all, the 1950s consumer had just lived through an awful world war, and in many cases had direct memories of the Great Depression. So I’m guessing they were ready to start thinking about a brighter future — for everybody.
In comparison, the new future is kind of exclusive. Today, as you know perfectly well, by the time something really has reached the stage of being “for all,” then the people who pronounce trends for a living are sure to have moved on, and will have pronounced that something hopelessly passé. The new future is a kind of a moving target. Or possibly a shell game.
But the old future – how optimistic and pleasantly uncynical it all is. It’s not divisive; it’s not about me having better taste than you. It really is “for all.”
I know. I’m being very naive. But I’m just trying to get into the spirit of it.