30 years ago, action movie icon Arnold Schwarzenegger starred in The Running Man, an entertaining movie that could be easily dismissed as B-Movie schlock at its finest. The bleak future seen in #TheRunningMan is a satirical attack on American excess, a popular theme of many '80s-era satires.
But The Running Man's vision of 2017 is something that may soon become a reality, and it's not just because the year has officially begun.
The Year 2017, According To The '80s
The Running Man is an incredibly loose adaptation of the book of the same name by Richard Bachman (aka Stephen King). Here, America is now an isolated police state after it survived an economic collapse. To keep the populace in check, cultural activities of any kind have been criminalized while the government broadcasts brain-dead entertainment to keep people distracted.
Particularly popular programs are game shows that star convicted felons competing for a cash prize and their lives. Disgraced police officer Ben Richards (Arnold Schwarzenegger) finds himself trapped in the gladiator-themed "The Running Man" when he's framed for a crime he didn't commit. Richards must escape the Game Zone, beat the psychotic Stalkers, and challenge the nearly omnipotent system to prove his innocence.
Check out the trailer for The Running Man below.
Though the film can be viewed as a satire of President Ronald Reagan's America during the '80s, certain aspects and themes of the movie's dystopian future apply to the present as well.
Here are five of elements of The Running Man that made their way to the real-life 2017 America.
1. Digital Face-Swapping Technology
When Ben Richards became too much of an inconvenience for the show's producers, they faked his death by killing a digital double of him. This technology may have looked like the stuff of outlandish science fiction back in the '80s, but today it's seen as nothing more than an expensive gimmick sold by special effects companies.
This feat is accomplished through a combination of digital effects, body doubles, and make-up. The technology can made middle-aged actors look younger like Bruce Willis in Surrogates and Robert Downey Jr. in Capt. America: Civil War, and it has also been used to "resurrect" deceased actors such as Paul Walker in Furious 7 and Peter Cushing in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
2. Unrealistic Realism
The America in the world of The Running Man is obsessed with #television, especially with life-threatening game shows. Though game shows were on the air even before The Running Man's opening night, the questionable gimmicks of the film's fictional show Climbing For Dollars have been watch by millions in recent years.
Reality television saw a rise in popularity during the decades after the movie's initial release, and few of the shows from this time period could be considered "acceptable." From controversial hits like Big Brother or Keeping Up With The Kardashians, to neutered versions of The Running Man such as The Fear Factor or Survivor, reality proved to be a surprisingly popular topic for a medium generally known for fictional storytelling. The movie also showed that people would do anything for money and fame - a behavior that's seen in today's game shows and other modern viral media.
The Running Man's faux game shows may have been a silly, self-aware mockery of its own audience, but the movie accurately captured the addictive lures of "realistic" escapism that would define television viewers in the future.
3. Star Power
Representatives of the American government are never seen in The Running Man, and the closest person to an authority figure is Damon Killian (Richard Dawson), the eccentric host of the titular game show. He may not be a politician, but Killian is still a good embodiment of the kind of people the general populace blindly follows.
2016 saw the electoral victory of Donald J. Trump, the celebrity business tycoon, to the office of President of the United States. While he may have retired from hosting TV shows like The Apprentice, Trump's personality and charisma are highly similar to that of Killian's. Through their seemingly infinite supply of charm, fiery rhetoric, and media aids, both Killian and Trump convinced their respective audiences that they are the sole voice of truth, and that anyone who opposes them is liable to be a criminal or worse despite all evidence to the contrary.
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Similar populist policies made a strong comeback in 2016. Though Donald Trump may have been one of the last populist victors of 2016, but he serves as the most well-known examples of a real-life Killian.
4. Corporate Government
Though The Running Man never shines a spotlight on the ruling bodies of its futuristic 2017, it can be inferred that the governing classes operate more like a business than a government. This is because the government has become nearly inseparable from the business-minded media conglomerate, as both need the other to survive.
During the American presidential campaign season, both Trump and Hilary Clinton came under fire for having supposed conflicting interests, since both had economic backers who had a lot to gain from their respective administrations. This controversy has always been around, but it saw new light during the 2016 presidential race. Even the foundations of The Running Man's world have been set, since America is still recovering from the "Great Recession" of 2007 that was brought about by corporate interests getting in the way of policy-making during the Bush administration.
It would be a stretch to think that Trump and his chosen aids would legalize something like The Purge, but recent events are beginning to mirror the political climate that created the world of The Running Man.
5. A Post-Truth World
Thanks to the media, Ben's life is turned upside down and he is branded a terrorist before he knew what even happened. Ben's fate demonstrates just how influential the media has become in the film's futuristic setting, but the media today is a force that's so powerful that it determined the political fate of many countries in 2016.
The past decades saw the rise of highly influential media networks, which successfully influenced their target audiences' mindsets. Social media sped the process up, since it made information and misinformation easily accessible. Propaganda and fake news have become a major issue, since these have proven problematic for existing governments. Russia has been accused of interfering in the American presidential election through means of hacking, fake news and paid trolls, while Pakistan's Defense Minister threatened retaliation against Israel after fake news claimed that Israel declared nuclear war on Pakistan.
The apparent disdain for actual information and the favoring of questionable sources that only confirms one's biases has become so prevalent in global politics that it has been dubbed "post-truth" and was also Oxford Dictionaries' word of 2016. The world of The Running Man televises a warped version of reality and discredits the truth when necessary. This trend of deception could define the rest of 2017 and beyond if nothing is changed.
Many of the satirical cult hits of the '80s have seen new relevance and with the way things are going around the world in recent years this shouldn't come as much of a surprise. The Running Man is just one of these many movies and in ironic twist of fate what should have been just another tongue-in-check nostalgia trip for some has become something more possible than ever before.
The fears and concerns of the supposedly-bygone Cold War are on the rise and if those in power are to be believed they intend to stay. However, the silver lining in this trip down memory lane is that a new generation of fans who took notes from the likes of Paul Verhoeven and The Running Man will emerge and they may be the beacon of clarity in these uncertain times.