There is a surprisingly fine line between what audiences will accept when digesting fiction. On the one hand, they’ll accept that giant robots from outer space have come to Earth to fight and can also transform into everyday objects. On the other, they have issues with the fact that Jack couldn’t get on that door with Rose because of buoyancy issues, which James Cameron has explained several times now.
But there are also premises that are fundamentally flawed – not just in a logic sense, which people will suspend, but in a factual, almost harmful sense. Two movies are coming out, one this weekend and one next, that exemplifies this type of flawed premise: Sex Tape and Lucy.
Let’s start with Sex Tape.
No Jason Segal, people do understand how “the cloud” works. Now, because I regularly write about such technologies as part of my day job, I may be a little biased (no, pretentious) here. Still, here is a low-level write-up of the cloud I did two years ago:
Cloud computing has become one of those buzzwords that people recognize, but no one can define. So what is it, exactly? Basically, cloud computing is storing and accessing information over a network (like the internet). This means that the information you are storing is not located with you, but somewhere else that has the computing resources. An easy example of cloud computing is your email, something that you must be online in order to access. Cloud computing’s roots can be traced back to the 1950s, when corporations and academia began using large-scale mainframes for internal communications. Over the next 40 years, advances in computing technology allowed more access to digital services that were faster, cheaper, and more efficient. Eventually, more and more online services cropped up to the point where we can now store our email, pictures, and documents online at no cost whatsoever. Today online services that can be considered cloud computing are email (as mentioned before), image services like Flickr, and Google Docs. The corporate world has used varying forms of cloud computing, even if it was a simplified network used only within the company (what’s known as an intranet) for several years. Currently, however, the government is making a strong push toward cloud computing by investing in Software as a Service (SaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), and Platform as a Service (PaaS) technologies. SaaS: Users access software through the cloud. Examples of SaaS include Microsoft Office 365, Google Apps, and Adobe Creative Cloud.
IaaS: Users access servers, storage, and networks via the cloud. Examples include Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (part of their Amazon Web Services), Rackspace, and other web hosting websites.
PaaS: Users access resources that allow them to develop their own software. Examples include Force.com, Google’s App Engine, and Windows Azure.
The biggest strength of using cloud services, and the main reason it’s so popular with businesses, is the savings it presents. Because the physical aspects of computing are mostly negated, the money spent on buying servers that need maintenance is saved because those servers are owned by someone else. You are merely renting the space you need, and space is cheap. Because cloud services are scalable, like your electricity bill, you never pay for more than you’re using. The biggest risk with cloud computing is availability. Most service providers guarantee that your data is available 24/7, and this is usually true for them. The risks with availability often falls with your internet and/or power provider. If there is a power or internet outage, you may not be able to immediately access your data.
A common misconception is that cloud computing is not secure. While this can vary on a provider-by-provider basis, most service providers go to great lengths to keep your data secure behind their network defenses.
As cloud computing continues to evolve, it becomes safer, cheaper, and more secure to use. Companies all over the world have already made the jump to the cloud, and the government has been taking steps toward it as well. And if the government can do it, why can’t you?
And that’s for enterprise-level cloud computing, something most people will never have to even think about. Day-to-day commercial use is much simpler. Hell, technically I’m writing this blog in the cloud!
But what this movie has the potential to do from its asinine premise is stunt progress by making people fear technology. People already have a nervous relationship with new technologies and things they don’t understand and movies like this only exasperate that.
That being said, is it possible for something like this to happen? I mean, I guess? If you’re technologically retarded (in which case why would you be using cloud-based storage to begin with?). If you set all of your privacy settings to “public” or share everything with your group of friends and have the account set to synchronize (as it appears to do in the movie) then maybe. Unlikely, but maybe.
Still, there are more imaginative, realistic ways to handle this sort of premise. Hell, I would accept that one of them accidentally uploaded the video to Youtube instead of their Dropbox or whatever they use in the move. Still, there would need to be a plausible reason for people to find it in the sea of amateur videos and bullshit that is Youtube.
And then there’s Lucy which, to me, is a much worse offender to imagination than Sex Tape.
This is an egregious myth to base an entire movie on, especially considering it’s been so widely debunked it has it’s own fucking Wikipedia page. That tells me either Luc Besson, the screenwriter, director, and editor didn’t do any research, or was so lazy to come up with a better premise he didn’t care. A third option is that he’s the type of person who is gullible enough to believe myths like this one. If that’s the case I know a Nigerian Prince he might be interested in speaking with…
The problem I have with premises like this one is that people will believe it. I’m ok with suspending belief in service of a story, but when the premise spits in the face of everything we know about a specific scientific concept it scares me more than intrigues me. I may be the minority in this type of thinking, but I firmly believe that people who shape popular culture like artists, filmmakers, musicians, and authors have a certain responsibility to not intentionally misinform their audience.
There is dramatic license and there are concepts that are difficult to explore without massaging the facts around. That doesn’t excuse a premise that is based on a myth that’s been refuted for years. It’s not like there aren’t any other stock premises that would allow someone to gain super powers. Why use the one that’s most likely to misinform your audience?
Which brings me to my main point: Writers shouldn’t be lazy. They’re paid too much for that (usually). With the amount of information that is at our fingertips (you know, living in the digital age and all; although, in fairness, there is a chance they’ve yet to discover the internet in France in which case I may owe an apology to Luc Besson) there is no reason a writer can’t do a little research before taking a path that might be potentially harmful. No one is asking for a treatise on neurology. It’s just common courtesy to put something in front of an audience that’s believable.
Or maybe I’m the weird one. I don’t know. I just know that those two movies up there are not the type I want to be writing.