Get ready to meet George Jetson, because he is about to be born.
The iconic button-pressing, flying car-driving man from the future entered the galaxy on July 31, 2022, according to “The Jetsons” canon. As George celebrates his first birthday, the show itself is about to celebrate its 60th birthday: It debuted on September 23, 1962, a century before its premiere.
That means we’re supposed to be only 40 years away from the world of Rosie the Robot’s Jetsons, toothbrushing machines, and apartment buildings above the clouds.
So why are we still stuck on the ground waiting for our jetpacks? And why, all these years later, do we still have a slightly cheesy old-school animated sitcom as a beacon of what could be?
“We still talk about the future in terms of the Jetsons,” said Jared Bahir Browsh, author of the 2021 book “Hanna-Barbera: A History.” “A show that originally ran for one season had a huge impact on the way we view our culture and our lives.” (“The Jetsons” actually came out in two parts: Its original ’60s run was just 24 episodes, and then a 1985 reboot gave it another 50.)
Read on to see where “The Jetsons” got right about the future, and where it got hilariously wrong.
Despite its sci-fi setting, the show was a typical 1960s patriarchal sitcom, showing how George, his wife Jane, their teenage daughter Judy, and their young son Elroy had their needs endlessly met by automated devices. and ubiquitous treadmills, but they still fought for the typical job. and family theater.
And yet “The Jetsons” “stands as the most important piece of 20th-century futurism,” according to Smithsonian magazine.
One of the things that separates “The Jetsons” so clearly from other sci-fi movies, according to Danny Graydon, author of “The Jetsons: The Official Guide to the Cartoon Classic,” is that it’s neither dystopian nor utopian, definitely. It’s not “Mad Max” but it’s not the peaceful Federation of “Star Trek” either.
“I was trying to have this progressive vision of where we could be a century after the show first aired,” Graydon said.
To 1960s audiences, the Jetsons’ videophone, a huge piece of hardware whose static screen gives way to an image of the person trying to reach you, seemed like a dream.
By 2022, we outgrow that technology without even realizing it, and we’re sick of it. Skype appeared in the early 2000s, and FaceTime followed in 2010. Thanks to the pandemic, we’re all experiencing video chat trauma, even if the name “Zoom” sounds a bit Jetsons-y.
“It’s pretty amazing how accurate it was, especially in the age of Zoom,” Browsh said. “We’re starting to, more and more, live that life.”
While edgy robot maids like Rosie won’t be hitting the market any time soon, we’ve had cleaning help in the form of Roombas, which are actually based on landmine technology, and other robotic vacuums for a long time.
We also have flat-screen TVs from the Jetsons, cameras that can look inside your body, and drones that dot the sky. In 2062, Elroy Jetson and his friends watch reruns of “The Flintstones” in the back of the class on a watch TV, something you can now do on an Apple Watch, which came out in 2015. bracelets can’t record video calls like on the show, additional accessories can accomplish the feat, and Apple is expected to add a camera to the watches very soon.
Graydon said he recently tried a fitness app on his Apple Watch and it reminded him of an episode where George just watches a fitness show, not participating.
“The technology literally takes away the need to do anything right,” he said.
Almost there, but you can’t use it.
Matriarch Judy Jetson had a home machine that delivered breakfast at the push of a button. Technically, that technology has been around since 2006 in the form of 3D food printers, but it’s limited to exhibits, labs, and experimental uses. One startup, for example, is using 3D printers to make meaty steaks from plant-based ingredients.
While the world waits for these devices to become widely available, you can get a smart oven from June, which costs around $1,000, works with Wi-Fi and can detect what food you’re cooking. Meanwhile, smart fridges will let you see the contents of your fridge from your phone, but you still have to cook them yourself.
And that’s just the kitchen.
“The Jetsons” promised us a morning routine full of automatic hygiene machines that comb your hair and brush your teeth at the same time. Instead, we have some electric toothbrushes that are advertised on podcasts and still use AA batteries.
Skin care is a bit more advanced: we have masks that shoot LED light at your face and homemade lasers that renew your skin. “The Jetsons” definitely underestimated how worried everyone would be about getting older in 2022.
When it comes to transportation, experimental military “jetpacks” also technically exist in crude form, but you can’t use one. And self-driving cars could hit the market before 2062 if they can ever stop killing people on the streets.
Many fans, including Browsh and Graydon, cite flying cars as the Jetsons’ invention they yearn for the most. But they are also realistic about the challenges.
“[A flying car] It also seems like a lot of fun,” Browsh said, “until the first accident happens.”
Capitalism still exists in the future, even though George Jetson only works a three-hour, three-day work week, pushing a button in the gear factory. The portrayal of a workday is where reality differs most from the world of “The Jetsons,” Browsh said, at least in the United States, which still lags far behind European countries in terms of hours worked, balance between work and family life and paid family leave.
“In this era, I think a lot of us are working harder than ever,” he said. “This idea that automation was not only going to make our lives easier has led to a panic that it is going to replace work.”
No more ‘wow’ factor
We’ll never have a new show like “The Jetsons,” Graydon said, because we’ll never be that naive about the future again.
“It’s more challenging to create really amazing views of the future,” he said. “Technology is advancing so fast that it’s actually very difficult to achieve the ‘wow’ factor.”
By 2022, our optimism for the future has also given way to a clear view of the obstacles: endless energy demands, supply chains, climate change, socioeconomic gaps, government shutdown, and chimerical tech billionaires with their hands on all the buttons. . Our science fiction has turned decidedly bleak. Apple TV’s “Severance” imagines a world where the workday technically never ends, while “Westworld” is filled with killer robots.
Now, savvy audiences would demand to know what the world looks like beyond the Jetsons’ space-age home.
“What about the people on the ground?” Browsh wondered. “Do they still live there?”
The show heavily implies that Earth was destroyed by smog, pollution, and extreme weather, creating a grim reality in which humanity decided to live on top of its problems rather than make lifestyle changes. to fix them.
When you think about it, all of the show’s technological advances suggest a lazier future, a possible precursor to the world of Pixar’s “WALL-E,” where clueless humans live sedentary lives, oppressed by scheming robots. In “The Jetsons,” moving walkways and power chairs are everywhere; sky-based buildings make walking impossible anyway.
In the cartoon, everything is amazing, and yet no one is happy, but this is how the creators planned it.
“It speaks to this idea that as human beings, we will always have something to complain about,” Graydon said. “One of the problems with utopia, if you create a perfect world, that world can be pretty boring.”