n his secret laboratory, surrounded by the greatest futurists America has to offer on short notice, Steven Spielberg has crafted a far-flung vision of our dystopian, Al Gore-less future. Minority Report presents the dire consequences of the Bush victory as dreamed into a paranoid future by a moderate liberal.
After all, what better arena to portray the confusion, the legal mazes and political malaise following the 2000 U.S. Presidential election, than through Hollywood? It is perhaps the biggest (certainly the most vocal) supporter of the Democratic party in the United States (one must—wink, wink—exclude China). And what better conduit than cinema’s great, forgotten cliché: the film noir?
Spielberg has a genius for vengeance. Minority Report shows that the big screen is the best possible vehicle for his diatribe against Ralph Nader, whose arrogance is to blame for the future before us.
Consider the film’s premise: A powerful law enforcement agency uses psychics to predict crime before it happens and sentence the guilty before they are, in fact, guilty—and all this in the name of protecting the public. Where would such an idea come from? What kind of mind would produce and push it along? Perhaps a conservative mind, in a world of danger and terrorism? Perhaps even . . . John Ashcroft? The overtones are obviously caricatured from stereotypical Republican stances.
These precogs, as they are called, were created because of failures on the part of the DEA. Essentially, they are crack babies, born to mothers addicted to a future heroin. It is as if Spielberg were guiding Nader himself into the future, telling him “Look! The drug war still exists and it is still a great failure . . .” How were these children “helped” by the government? Why, they were used—used, like today’s drug addicts living in symbiosis with the police: I catch you, lock you up, leave you access to your substance, free you, catch you again—and remain employed. Notice how the precogs are left in their own private prison, in a pool of “nutrients” to keep them addled and blissful while the police state manipulates them toward its own ends. Hey, whatever keeps them employed, right?
As if to hammer this point into Green Party skulls, Spielberg has made the Chief of Pre-Crime an addict himself. “In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.”
Odd that this film is called Minority Report with so noticeably few . . . minorities. Set aside the handful of blacks and that single Asian in the mall scene. Notice anything else missing? Notice how everything seems to be in English? Here we are, in a nation whose highest immigrant population is from Mexico, whose largest minority group is Latino, and the future has no sign of Hispanics anywhere? Surely the man who directed Amistad and The Color Purple would not have been so culturally insensitive.
No, this is a sign. While George W. Bush has sought friendly relations with the Hispanic voting bloc, conservatives in general have not—and worse still is Nader’s own rival for third-party attention, Pat Buchanan’s Reform Party, who would rather close the borders and lock multiculturalism in a dark closet. See, Mr. Nader: in the future the Hispanics have been sent away. They aren’t in the shopping malls or the government buildings—they’ve disappeared through cracks in the sidewalk, never to be heard from again.
And what of women? Feminism is, after all, a plank in the Green Party’s platform. But for that, Spielberg, himself a liberal, decided to draw back a touch. He couldn’t muster anger for this indictment, so he simply left a single minority mother, working while pregnant, obviously close to term, who exists purely for her doglike loyalty to the main character. There, Mr. Nader, is your future feminism: a pregnant black woman, unprotected by reforms that would ensure she would not have to be working while so close to having her child; a woman, clinging to a man’s coattails, lacking personality, existing only for him.
Are you wondering, perhaps, about the poor and misbegotten of our dark future? We get a glimpse of those living “normal lives” in the few apartment scenes, both of which feature everyday citizens terrorized by the antics of the police: filthy homes, darkly lit, with only the faint hope of family to protect them. Why must the film be this way? Two things: The Gap and the Lexus factory. When Jon Anderton, Tom Cruise’s character, enters The Gap, no human greets him—only a machine. How are things purchased? Through the machine. Machines likely sew the clothes sold as well, for the full-production Lexus factory reveals not a single human being. So many things replacing so many humans. So many jobs that might have ensured lower-class individuals decent wages. Without these McJobs, where do the people find work? What do they do for a living? How can they feed their families and themselves? That is a question Spielberg leaves unanswered: It is an area even he is afraid to explore.
One must admire Mr. Spielberg’s subtlety; one must be frightened by his rage. All this, all the preceding, is as nothing compared with the anger displayed in those moments when the director delves into Nader’s defining issue and spits into the Consumer Advocate’s face.
Imagine the look on Mr. Nader’s face—this man who has spent his entire life fighting the corporates, protecting the consumers from rampant abuses—when Jon Anderton “falls into The Gap.” Horror. Absolute horror. Advertisements that invade your personal privacy, calling out your name with complete disregard, following your purchasing habits, and harassing you to consume, consume, consume! The commercialism is inescapable.
And who facilitates these marketing travesties? None other than the U.S. government, which uses the identity technology to keep track of its citizens—as, no doubt, the corporations keep track of their customers. Imagine being retina-scanned for buying a Pepsi. . . .
This, says Spielberg, is the future you helped create, Mr. Nader.
Is it true? Could the cinematic ramblings of a sixties liberal accurately describe the impact of the 2000 election? Time will tell. But we can ponder how far-fetched Spielberg’s Pre-Crime future is given our Patriot Act present.