Last night I finally finished the starting episode of The Barrier, on Netflix. While the premise is something I usually jump at, it’s become harder to watch dystopian sci-fi now. I didn’t really know how to articulate this feeling, until I saw a recent This Week in Tech podcast and found this article.
If in December 2019 you told me that within 6 months the entire world would grind to a halt due to a pandemic, I’d have laughed at you. I was still laughing and shrugging it off in February this year, I thought this was something China would extinguish quickly and decisively (the same way they quash dissent, amirite?)
Well, I was wrong.
It’s late October now. Airlines are closing around the world, cinemas are shuttering, and even food courts struggle to survive as the second and third waves of this pandemic hit us. The world we are looking at in 2021 has about as much in common with how we used to live pre-COVID as with the year 1978. There’s real uncertainty, fear, precarity, and depression. People have lost livelihoods and their lives due to the economic ravages of this disease. Governments around the world either react well, or they don’t – and even the best of them are struggling to provide sustainable medium-term solutions, because anyone who says they know what the long term one is, is lying to your face.
In The Barrier, Spain has been taken over by a strong-arm fascistic regime, after what is hinted to be a disastrous world war, and resultant new viruses. Jobs are scarce, people need documents to travel anywhere, and life is bleak. The protagonists find that entry to any government building requires them to be sprayed with disinfectant. Roadblocks and armed military personnel fill the streets. Spies live in each public housing block, reporting suspicious behaviors to the authorities.
This is 2020, and I don’t need fiction to see this in the world. Maybe that’s why dystopian sci-fi isn’t something I can stomach right now. We’re already living in one, and only a thin wall separates us from falling completely.