Ridley Scott Imagines TED2023, Badly
In his new movie (Prometheus), Director Ridley Scott (@ridscott) included a scene depicting a TED Talk in the year 2023 with a character named Peter Weyland playing the part of the esteemed TED speaker.
I like Ridley Scott’s work (he’s gotten plenty of my movie-going dollars in the past decade). But I’m not too sure I agree with Scott’s future TED Talk. As much of a cultural iconic institution as TED is today, I wouldn’t bet on it being around in ten years. That’s not a slight against the organization, of course. It’s a reality of the times we live in. I doubt many institutions birthed out of this digital media age will be here and thriving in ten years (not even your beloved Facebook).
TED’s relevance in the future aside, Ridley Scott’s futuristic interpretation of TED looks unremarkably like TED today. Instead of truly reimagining an event that takes place in the future, Scott gives us Hollywood cliche’s depicting a “scary and distant” future with a TED Talk that is dimly (don’t they believe in light in the future), an audience that looks and sounds like they are dutiful members of a large cult (like the TED audiences today), gigantic screens with the speaker’s image projected onto it (because in the future, sitting in the back row still sucks) and a character (our esteemed speaker) who, in order to generate awe, has a deep voice tinged with an indiscernible accent that sounds mildly British and oily-slicked back hair (because being profound and awe-inspiring in the future requires having guido hair).
But the bigger problem I have with this scene lies in the speech itself. Look, I get that this is a typical Hollywood blockbuster movie — so I didn’t expect an Oscar-worthy speech. But the monologue in this scene is, literally, laughable (a throwback to bad villain dialogue of the 80’s– check out Die Hard). The dialogue, if it’s meant to mimic a TED Talk speech failed to do the one thing that TED talks do usually very well: inspire. Pacing the stage like he’s off his meds, Peter Weyland says to his ever-so-attentive flock: “We are the gods now!” The audience gasps in awe. I don’t know about you, but if someone told me that I’m a god, I’d show them my stack of bills from creditors and ask them if gods go into debt? Because if so, I don’t want to be a god (I’ve got enough troubles being human). Aren’t we past the whole wanting to be gods thing yet? Maybe not. But I’d like to see a movie that shows us what lies beyond humanity’s ego.
Back to Ridley Scott. For someone whose job it is to imagine, I’m surprised at the lack of creativity in this scene. In all fairness to Scott and other Hollywood directors, it can’t be easy creating the future these days (even the near future). Technology is accelerating at a rate where we barely can understand the present, much less imagine the future. Still, I expect more from Scott (at the very least, better hair for the lead character).
Is this how the TED Talks of the future will look? Also, if you want true comedy, pop over to the YouTube page for this video and read the hilarious comments (apparently, I’m not the only one who sees the #FAIL in TED2023).