I think all of us know in our hearts that the drama we see on our big and small screens mostly bears only a passing resemblance to the ‘real world’.
Mostly we are content to accept this. After all, no-one wants to see all action heroes like James Bond or Jason Bourne spending half their allotted time hobbling on crutches or checking into casualty wards.
When there are villains to track down, there is something reassuring about their apparently indestructibility.
Yet, in the light of the recent backlash in some quarters against the Emmy award winning Homeland, it seems that the collective suspension of disbelief doesn’t necessarily stretch to portrayals of new technology.
This is a field all of us have become experts in over the past few decades. We know how the world has become a smaller place as the power of the web has taken hold of our lives. Yet we also know its limitations. Wi-fi is not universal and broadband is not always mega-sized.
I live in Italy (by no means the back-end of beyond) and when I travel around my local area I have become resigned to the fact that there are more internet ‘not spots’ than hot spots. Because of this, the infallibility of server connections in movies or TV shows looks even more far-fetched.
This is why, when viewers saw Homeland’s Nicolas “I am not a terrorist” Brody texting from a high security Pentagon bunker to the Middle East, many cried out in outrage: “Whoa – my phone can’t do this so why should his?”
It strikes me that most modern-day dramas can’t bear to contemplate a world which is not connected even in the most extreme situations.
In apocalyptic blockbusters like Armageddon and Deep Impact phone/video contact is maintained up until the point that the deadly meteorites are destroyed. In 2012 and Independence Day the world is literally collapsing but the phone lines always seem to be the last thing to go down.
Compare this to the real world panic in the aftermath of the London bombings on 7th July 2005 where the telephone network quickly reached overload and crashed.
A world where technology isn’t on hand to save the planet or get characters out of tight spots becomes as dystopian and nightmarish as The Road. In other words, it may be more real but it’s also very bleak and depressing.
It’s infinitely more reassuring to cling to the illusion that in times of crisis the world-wide web will be on hand to save us. Which is why I want Brody’s magic cell phone …….and I want it now!