Retrofuturism

I thought maybe it might be interesting to write about Retrofuturism.

About a year and a half ago, I explained it to one of the senior “New Media”/Cultural Studies staff members, the PhD supervisor of one of my supervisors, as she had never heard of it. Well, even though you can look it up on Wikipedia, I thought I’d give a quick, bite-sized version of what it is, for no real reason.

Basically, it’s a fascination with the past’s perception of what was then the future and what is now either the present or the past. True to form, I just checked it out and found out that the term comes from 1983, but I think of the phenomena as being particularly “Beyond 2000” in tone. This is because, in my opinion, we broke through all of those projected futuristic dates that sounded so cool and so unimaginable in the 1950s and 60s. And it just gets more and more exciting and then suddenly, people are so excited about the depictions of the future that they start erroneously assuming that 2010 was the year that Marty McFly went to the Future (idiots, any real fan knows that it was 2015, as he went back and forth 30 years either way from a midpoint of 1985) and therefore, why don’t we have flying cars? Oh well, at least xbox Kinect (aka Project Natal) is going to make all children react to “Crack Shot” and other arcade classics with, “You mean you have to use your hands?” “That’s like a baby’s toy!” But I say, fashion designers still have five years to move everyone from the jeggings trend to wearing real jeans inside out!

What else has Retrofuturism done? Well, maybe it’s a bit of a stretch, but if you’re into gaming, you’ll probably see best evidence of it in recently made games sporting pixel-art, especially if it’s for a science fiction game. Another great game that everyone knows (or should know by now) is Robot Unicorn Attack. While not quite harking back to the 50s and 60s (which was what 80s Retrofuturism did), it does its own 30-something year retro-reference to such cliches as terrible synthpop music, rainbows, unicornsrobots and even dolphins in space. I don’t know how they couldn’t work in laser holograms or something. Everything old and cheesy is cool again. We love its quaintness, and it comes to us through a special brand of nostalgia and affection.

Oh, and then there’s stuff like Bioshock, which, fyi, very heavily references Fritz Lang’s 1927 film Metropolis.

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