In the coming months, youth all across America will be queuing up to go see the latest installments of The Hunger Games and the Divergent series. They will likely get into the new Walking Dead spinoff, and may be waiting for the third season of The 100 to begin. We live on a steady diet of post apocalyptic stories, especially our younger generation. It’s not all that surprising. These stories resonate with us because there is a general sense of loss of power and voice that so many of us feel. The future is filled with melting ice caps, foreign crises that are creeping ever closer toward home, and an establishment that doesn’t seem to care about us. There is a reason why the opening scene to Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom went viral in 2012 when Jeff Daniels’s character declares that America is not the greatest country in the world anymore. We all can feel that to varying degrees – especially our youth. After all, it’s their future.
But what if they could see something better?
The Martian premiered this weekend. It’s a story set in our near future where NASA is sending human missions to Mars. It follows Astronaut Mark Watney who, after a storm and freak accident, is stranded on the Red Planet. He must get back in contact with earth and figure out how to survive 140 million miles from home. It is quite entertaining, but it’s also much more than that. It is inspiring. Not simply in the obvious way of how humanity can come together to care about the life of one man, but also the refreshing future it presents its viewers; humanity can care about itself.
There are two large implications of this story:
One is that the United States, and many other world powers, have a renewed passion about NASA’s space program. Watney’s team is the third human mission, and there are plans for more. In this future, we have become willing to invest in human space exploration again. While the movie doesn’t go into this too much, I feel the need to point out that these decisions would bring with it a better economy and important scientific advancements. Space travel is wonderful and epic, but sometimes I think it’s easy for us to forget that with it come important changes that affect those back on earth. It’s not just something we spend money on because it’s cool, and apparently the people in this imagined future have seen that.
The second implication is this future is for everyone. While I wouldn’t say its representation is perfect, it’s very good. Long past are the days we saw in Apollo 13, where it seemed everyone running the show was a white male. Not here. Perhaps there is a hispanic teen who had been feeling increasingly frustrated with being treated like he will never amount to anything, but then he’ll see this movie. He’ll see Rick Martinez, a successful pilot and engineer with a young family back home, coincidentally born right around the same time as him. Maybe a girl who is being told that she is scary and not enough of a lady will connect with Melissa Lewis, who is incredible at her position as commander, and she will notice the men around her respect her. They are even her friends.
The story is classified as science fiction, but the wonderful thing about Ridley Scott’s newest film is the fiction part is only barely fiction. Not only are the implications of this future so filled with hope, but they are incredibly possible. That means the hope elicited in this film can do more than give us a fuzzy feeling inside as we come out of the theatre; it can show the next generation that they can change their future for the better.
Entertainment can often help us understand our potential
In the 1950’s, Walt Disney broadcast the show Man In Space on ABC to over 40 million viewers. Part live action, part animation, the show entertained audiences with television that was rooted in science. It was a huge force in helping Americans both understand and want to put a man in space, on the moon, and beyond. With movies like Interstellar and now The Martian, the entertainment world is starting to challenge its audience to believe in a brighter future by providing the public stories that can begin to tell us of adventure, exploration, perseverance, and the pure capacity of human will. Seeing these possibilities, we can begin to believe in that ourselves.
Here at The Mars Generation, that is the future we subscribe to. “The mission of The Mars Generation is to excite young people and adults about space and STEM education and foster an understanding of the importance of these two elements to the future of humankind on Earth.”
Out of all the films your family will see in the coming months, I propose this is the most important. It will be the movie for our next generation of astronauts, rocket scientists, and a whole host of other people who don’t understand the word “impossible.” This, and hopefully others like it that will soon follow, can show the youth of America that they are indeed, the Mars generation.
Rebecca Moore is part of the media team at The Mars Generation, focusing on public relations. She has a background in online writing and a passion for all things space.