How Brave Will Spielberg’s Brave New World Be?

By Robert Moeller Published on May 11, 2015

Good news from The Hollywood Reporter for fans of classic science fiction:

The Emmy-winning team behind Syfy’s Taken is reuniting for another science fiction classic.

Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Television is adapting Aldous Huxley’s novel Brave New World as a scripted series for the NBCUniversal-owned cable network. ...

The piece continues:

First published in 1932, Brave New World will be adapted by writer Les Bohem, who penned Taken, which won the 2003 Emmy for best miniseries and racked up six other nominations. Amblin TV co-presidents Darryl Frank and Justin Falvey will executive produce alongside Bohem. The drama hails from Universal Cable Productions.

Most Americans (barely) read Huxley’s Brave New World for the first time at some point during junior high or high school. But the title has become one of those phrases in the popular vernacular that loses its meaning due to some combination of over-use and muddled understanding of what the book is actually about.

That’s what SparkNotes will do to your brain, kids!

I am excited to hear that such an interesting, important novel will be turned into a dramatic series. Despite the fact that American moviegoers and TV watchers are on the verge of “dystopian future” fatigue from the seemingly ceaseless waves of Mockingjays and zombies roaming the pop-culture landscape, there is a reason that Brave New World is considered a classic: it is better than those other things.

While the technical and aesthetic components of the end product for this SyFy Channel project have yet to be seen, we can say a word or two about the ideology of Brave New World and the irony of Hollywood’s inability to move past their politics. The most creative today consistently fail to learn important lessons about history, government and society from the most creative artists of previous generations.

Steven Spielberg is among the most influential people in the country today. Not only is he a top dog in Tinsel Town when it comes to film and television projects, but the guy also helps more entertainment industry money land in the hands of progressive politicians and activist groups than nearly any other celebrity. It is unfair to force Spielberg to stand for all that you or I might not like about the values Hollywood promotes, so let us instead simply compare and contrast the type of society Huxley imagined in Brave New World with the socio-economic, political and cultural values of modern Hollywood progressives generally.

In Brave New World, it is the year 2540. Judeo-Christian religion has been all-but banned and is held in utter contempt. Human lives are designed in a laboratory and any “imperfect” embryos are aborted. The private life (and conscience) of citizens is considered dangerous and unhealthy. Everything is public and everything is political. As an extension of this, sex is an open and public act that is encouraged in children as young as six or seven years old. The population is given a legalized narcotic to keep people mellow and “all chilled out.” Things like ambition or entrepreneurial activity are prohibited and, for all intents and purposes, unnecessary. The concepts of a nuclear and extended family have been removed from the collective consciousness for fear that human beings might put the needs of those closest to them ahead of the State. So-called experts and bureaucrats rule the land.

Need I go on?

In no way am I claiming that Aldous Huxley would be a Tea Party conservative if he were still with us today, but the futuristic ailments of the society predicted in Brave New World read like the Facebook wall postings of your most liberal friend from high school. This is Nancy Pelosi’s political platform in narrative form. In a different format and context, these things would have the writers’ room at The Daily Show nodding in agreement.

I wonder what someone like Steven Spielberg thinks when he reads a book like Brave New World? I wonder if he and his team will be willing to fully explore all of the profound ideas contained in Huxley’s seminal work?

The question is larger than this one project. The frequent unwillingness of Hollywood to candidly examine the full gamut of emotions and ideas when it comes to dystopian stories like this is as routine and it is disappointing.

Why not equip a key character with a stinging monologue about the failures of socialism? Why not allow an extremely talented actor to portray a member of the clergy who is not a rapist or raging hypocrite? Why must they avoid scratching the surface of the horrors of key historical events like the 20th century revolutions in Russia and China?

If nothing else, the politics of many in Hollywood limit their story-telling abilities and options. Let’s hope SyFy’s Brave New World has the guts to bring to life Huxley’s bravely prophetic vision.

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