When we associate future and series, we obviously think of black mirror This anthology series projected a dystopian and sadly often realistic future world. Social credit, surveillance, wired brain… He’s seen it all and more. The small screen is the mirror of our time, but is it capable of transforming society to create a better (or worse) world? This is one of the questions addressed on March 24 in hobby series during the conference “Soft power and audiovisual: how series shape the world of tomorrow”. Does fiction have the power to transform the world?
One thing is certain, many series have opened debates on topics hitherto ignored. Female sexuality and relationships between women in orange is the new black featuring lesbian, bisexual, and trans heroines. For its part, the feminist dystopia The Handmaid’s Tale, an adaptation of the novel by Margaret Atwood, presents a distorting mirror of reality that is ultra-relevant to the point of seeing its codes taken up by a certain number of feminist movements after its premiere. Let us remember that the series was broadcast a few months before the publication of the discourse of the victims of sexual violence in the context of #I also. She put a great spotlight on the struggles that remain to be fought for women’s rights.
“With soft power, it’s about real change”
We also think of the blockbuster Western world who has developed an almost prophetic reflection on artificial intelligence and its potential dangers for civilization. It was released a few months later warnings from Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk on the threat of killer robots, that is, artificial intelligence applied to weapons. He imposed a philosophical debate on robots, pushing the fiction into nightmarish lands.
“The ambition of the series is not only to pose as the mirror of the world, explains the philosopher Sandra Laugier during the conference, but to transform society with series such as our boys, The Handmaid’s Taleand even Lupine. They allow to awaken consciences and modify their way of seeing the world. With the soft powerIt’s about real change.” Fictions that manage to anticipate the future not only represent the world, they show what society should be and sometimes it works. “In the United States, we have seen a real awareness of transidentity in the last five years, an awareness that television has certainly enabled,” confirms James Poniewozik of the New York Times to the Mania Series.
Apart from the precursor orange is the new black (2013), we think of the great series Transparent (2014) by Joey Soloway, which offers a delicate look at the trans coming out of the closet of a family man with his three children and his wife, in Pose (2018), created by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Steven Canals, which explores Ball Culture in 1980s New York, and more recently Euphoria (2019), by Sam Levinson, and we are who we are (2020), by Luca Guadagnino (call me by your name). All of these series have created fertile ground for public reflection on the question of gender identity, whether in the United States or in Europe. They not only explored the difficulties that trans people may encounter, through their coming out or their transition, but also proposed role models, such as Jules in Euphoria or Laverne Cox in orange is the new black– of which transidentity is hardly an issue anymore.
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If the series do not change consciousness overnight, they provide knowledge and arguments that allow the public to progress. “With a good series, there is always something to improve,” insists Sandra Laugier. And by dint of seeing series that offer different, complex and rich heroes and heroines, that show diversity in all its senses (there is still a long way to go), these questions are no longer debated.
In the political sphere, fiction has also had a flair. the west wing (to the white house in VF), by Aaron Sorkin, anticipated the arrival of Barack Obama a year before his election through the character of Matt Santos in the last two seasons. In 2004, the scriptwriter of the series interviewed on numerous occasions with David Axelrod, political adviser to Obama for the senatorial elections. And the series was right. Another example is even more striking. The current president of Ukraine acted in village servant, issued between 2015 and 2019, a history teacher who, against all odds, became head of state. The question arises: what if a president could be elected in the playoffs?
Zelensky servant of the people
For village servant, Volodymyr Zelensky was based on a certain idea of leadership. “In a country where corruption reigns, the idea is that real political power comes not from the fact that you are strong but from the fact that you have to face the same difficulties as your fellow citizens,” explains James Poniewozik. And in fact, Zelensky prolongs the fiction.
Far from going into exile or retiring to a residence, he shares the experience of the danger and misery of his people. “This is the message he used to bring Ukrainians and the rest of the world together,” continues the American journalist. “He is a politician who is also an actor, producer, director, who perfectly masters the codes and vocabulary of fiction, which he uses to describe a reality,” says Thibaut de Saint-Maurice, a researcher at the Panthéon-Universidad of the Sorbonne, to AFP. Looking at recent series, we can already imagine what the world will be like tomorrow, but we’ll leave it to you to make your own decision.