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The Jetsons

Updated: Apr 5, 2023

Looking ahead in 1962

Time has a funny way of proving us wrong about certain expectations. We live in a world where the reality of our future is constantly evolving and oftentimes, it doesn't look anything like what our past predicted it would.

Consider the Jetsons, a Hanna-Barbera cartoon that was first aired back in 1962. It depicted a fantastical future where everything was automated, energy was abundant and life was made easy. People were characterised as living up to the ripe age of 150 years and the nuclear family of two parents and two kids was the iconic version of a ‘happy family’.

Little did creators and viewers know, the Jetsons portrayal of the future was far from reality. The Jetsons creators had absolutely no concept of the importance and amount of information and data that now permeates our lives. In the Jetsons, there is no mention of computers, the internet, or any sort of data that would empower people. society and businesses to make decisions and move forward in innovative ways. Information is now paramount to day-to-day life and has become a primary currency for progress, yet back in 1962, The Jetsons had no information that could serve as the underlying infrastructure to our current age.

The Jetsons were also a very traditional mono-cultural family, with two nuclear parents and two children, playing out the traditional gender roles that were so common to that era. Yet, the present day reality of the modern family has dramatically changed and become far more diverse and dynamic. This trend relates to cultural, ethnic, and religious identities as well, which were nowhere to be found in the Jetsons. The reality is that there are still a high portion of the people in many countries that idolise and consider the Jetsons’ version of a happy family as the only permissible structure, which is a call to intolerance from the most zealous absolutists.

The Jetsons' problem of abundant energy use was also wildly inaccurate in regards to the the environment. With flying cars and motorised pedestrian paths, and mechanical robots performing every other physical task, it's clear that abundant energy and resources were not an issue for the futuristic characters. In reality, however, our energy resources are becoming scarcer each day, and it would be naïve of us to think that 'business as usual' will do. The clear path to a future when the Jetsons existed is to reduce our carbon emissions and conserve our energy resources in order to combat climate change.

Looking back at the Jetson's depiction of the future, it is quite evident that the cartoon did not correctly predict the future in which we live today. From the currency of data and information to the cultural and ethnic diversity of our modern families, to the morality of energy use, The Jetsons were way off the mark in predicting how our world would look and function in the 21st century. It’s worth noting that despite the Jetsons being entirely inaccurate in predicting the future, it has had tremendous impact on our culture and continues to be an iconic representation of the alternate dystopian and utopian versions of what the future could be. As such, it is important to pay attention to how it frames the idealised structures of Western civilisation, as those ideals may have a detrimental effect on how minorities are depicted and perceive their status in society.

Thankfully we can learn from this mistake and start to envision, and create, a future that looks less like the Jetsons and more like the world we are currently living in. It is up to us to think critically about the icons of our past, and challenge them with creative and innovative ideas so that the future looks and operates nothing like the Jetsons did.

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