Vintage Tomorrows (2015)

2017 #120
Byrd McDonald | 67 mins | streaming (HD) | 16:9 | USA, Canada, Czech Republic & UK / English

Vintage Tomorrows

Heard the term “steampunk” but don’t really know what it is? Or have an idea, but you’d like a fuller picture of the whole subculture? Then this is the film for you, my friend, because Vintage Tomorrows is basically Steampunk 101.

For those that don’t know, steampunk is a kind of alternate history, where Victorian-esque technology and fashion rub against advanced technology — think steam-powered cars; clockwork machinery; and cogs. Lots of cogs. Although little more than an hour long, Vintage Tomorrows does a good job of providing an overview of the movement, encompassing the cool literature, fun costumes, impressive self-built gizmos, and so on. It also doesn’t ignore the political dimension: how steampunk does — or, frequently, doesn’t — deal with the dark side of the Victorian era: the poverty, oppression, racism, colonialism, misogyny, and so forth. Mainly, the subculture still needs to “grow up” and tackle that stuff. With plenty of featured interviewees, it’s also interesting to hear the different ideas that different people have about what exactly steampunk is and should be — there are clearly dissenting voices, rather than a homogenous whole. I guess that’s probably true of any subculture, but I imagine particularly one that’s quite counter-cultural.

That said, when some people start placing steampunk in the context of widespread movements like the Beat Generation, hippies, punk, hip-hop — asserting that it’s following in their footsteps — I think they’re possibly going a bit far. It may be inspired by the same mentality (the rejection of the mainstream, the desire to create something different, the search for your own identity and people who share it), but to imply steampunk is having the same influence on wider culture that those earlier movements did… I don’t think so. Not yet, anyway. In the future? Who knows.

Fire!

Indeed, some pretentious assumptions come to the fore when the interviewees get on to the subject of modern technology. They don’t like sleek, minimalist, Apple-esque design — it’s not complicated or tactile enough for them. Fine, if that’s your taste — but it is just your taste. A lot of people love that stuff. And, actually, it’s not a different subculture that loves it, it’s the mainstream. If the mainstream didn’t like it, something else would’ve swept it aside by now. But a level of self-absorption seems to go hand-in-hand with those at the forefront of niche movements, so I guess we should expect such attitudes.

Set aside those occasionally presumptive attitudes, and there’s a lot to like about steampunk. Well, if it meshes with your sensibilities, anyway. It’s not something I’d want to partake in myself, but it looks like a fun alternate reality to be a part of. And if Hollywood saw fit to give us a few more movies that fit into the genre (because there haven’t been many, I believe), I certainly wouldn’t complain.

4 out of 5

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Vintage Tomorrows (2015)

  1. I’m glad you put the growing up thing in quotation marks, because I’m not sure it does need to do that. Sometimes, fun stories and good characters are enough, without having to turn it into a sermon, and I say that as someone who is left-wing myself. There can be weight given to it, but it shouldn’t be expected any more than 21st century social issues turning up in futuristic space opera.

    You’re right, I think, about the dissenting voices. In steampunk generally, too much is made of the fashion. For me, it’s a sub-genre of fantasy literature, and the “punk” comes from altering our history. More thought goes into such novels, by definition, than into fashion, which is (arguably) pulling a few things off a rack and putting them together. Fashion, though, is more visual and therefore stands out more.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I guess for people who live wholly (or as much as possible) within the world of steampunk, the need for it to give more consideration to the social dimension might feel more pressing. But yes, as an outside observer, why not just be fun pulp fiction? That’s certainly the aspect that interest me more as well — fashion’s not really my thing.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.