Could the movies of your childhood be made today? | July 20, 2014

I’ve been thinking a lot about the effect digital technology is having on society of late. I’m especially curious how it’s changing our most formative years, when the stories we tell about ourselves are generated and our identity formed.

Looking back, my adolescence seems like a halcyon time, devoid of mobile phones and status updates. Heading into the big city was an adventure into the unknown, and even something as mundane as meeting up with friends was fraught with uncertainty and excitement.

A lot of the movie tropes of my childhood, relied on these vagaries. For instance the whole premiss of Desperately Seeking Susan relied on two individuals not being able to find each other, and the hilarity and intrigue that ensued. So how different would this movie have been if it were set in the modern day?

The lead characters would now be following each other of Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare, so only a check-in away. Similarly (spoiler alert) the people searching for Susan would only have needed to check her profile image to know if they’d got the right person. So the whole movie would have been reduced to “I wonder were Susan is?”, swipe, “oh, she’s there”.

A lot of 80s comedies relied on the fish out of water scenario. However can you imagine National Lampoons European Vacation in an age of Trip Advisor? No laughably bad hotels, terrible meals or getting lost on the backroads of Europe. Just highly rated B&Bs and top class restaurants. Similarly Mick Dundee would have had a much easier time navigating the cultural differences of New York with a Lonely Planet Pocket Guide on his Fire Phone. Call that a knife? I could buy that on Amazon for $9.99 with next day shipping.

Getting from A to B was another common trope in these old movies. Whether it’s the antics of Smokey and the Bandit, The Cannonball Run, or Every Which Way But Loose. How different would all these movies have been with Waze telling you the bridge was out and your Sat Nav warning you of speed traps? Right turn in 200 yards Clyde.

I wonder how Planes Trains and Automobiles have played out if Steve Martin was a ZipCar user? Or how about Martin Scorsese’s After Hours if the main character could have called up an Uber? Probably a lot better come to think of it.

I always liked the “day-off” or “parents out of town” fantasy. However I wonder if Risky Business would have been different if Tom Cruise had advertised his activities on Craigslist or set up a Kickstarter campaign? And what about Ferris Bueller? No doubt his performance on the float would have gone viral and he’d now be making a living from posting inane clips on YouTube.

Another popular conceit is the fallibility of memory. About Last Night? Check-out my Instagram feed. Dude, where’s my car? Oh, my parking app says I left it over there.

Other famous plot lines would have similarly shortened. So rather than the “will they won’t they” romance of When Harry Met Sally, all Billy Crystal needed to do was fire up Bang With Friends to see if Meg Ryan felt the same way.

In fact most high school romances would have been rendered redundant thanks to services like this. For instance would John Cusack have traveled across the country for a Sure Thing, when he could have found one on campus with Tinder?

Similarly The Breakfast Club would have been a movie about 6 outsiders playing Angry Birds while bitching to their friends on Facebook. No need to crawl through air ducts or share snatched conversations in the hallway to bond. Swipe left. Swipe right. Let’s meet in the janitors closet in 5. I’m sure what Judd Nelson saw under the table would have gone on Instagram straight away.

So If that’s what’s happened to romantic comedies, what about Sex? Would Sex Lies and Videotape have been renamed Sex, Lies and SnapChat? Would the protagonists in 9 1/2 Weeks have started their own webcam channel, ordering ever more obscure food from Tesco Direct to sate their subscribers increasingly niche interests. Taramasalata anyone?

I can think of hundreds of classic movies that would have been irrevocably altered in todays environment. Sure, some of the examples are slightly artificial, but it’s an interesting thought exercise nonetheless. So hit me with your best shot and let me know what movies you think would have been changed by todays technology and how?

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