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I voted Kodos: relishing the presidential politics of science fiction

I voted Kodos: relishing the presidential politics of science fiction

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Are you stressed? We are. It’s Election Day here in the states, and American citizens are casting their ballots right now to determine the future of the country. The decisions will influence the future of business, science, foreign affairs, and everyday life.

We don’t endorse outright escapism. Today must be met head on. But after you vote, join us as we relieve the anxiety of the real world by revisiting great election moments in fictional worlds.

Science fiction and fantasy in particular are excellent at picking apart and isolating the hope and terror surrounding our political processes. This year’s election resonates powerfully with some of our favorite genre moments on television and film, from how we view political figures and the issues, all the way down to the how power changes hands.

Consider this a break from fretting over the world of tomorrow by visiting it today.

The Election, Battlestar Galactica

Battlestar Galactica’s second season finale culminated with an edge-of-your-seat election between President Laura Roslin and Vice President Gaius Baltar, an election that represented two different directions for the survivors of Caprica to go. There’s some interesting parallels to the present election: a female policy-driven politician is up against a charismatic newcomer in a race that will have drastic consequences for humanity.

When the crew of a Raptor ends up at the wrong jump point, they discover a habitable planet, which becomes a major political issue in the remaining weeks of the election. Roslin wants to use it as a stopping point on a longer journey, while Baltar wants to settle on the planet. The show did an excellent job at portraying some of the complexity of the political system, while also portraying the importance of a peaceful transition of power from one party to its opposition.

It’s a Two Party System, The Simpsons

With so many in the country committed to voting their conscience as opposed to voting for major parties, classic episodes of The Simpsons continue to feel deeply (and depressingly) relevant. Back in 1996, mere weeks before President Clinton was voted back into office for his second term, the venerable series aired the “Citizen Kang” segment of Treehouse of Horror VII. Here, evil aliens Kang and Kodos pose as Clinton and Republican nominee Bob Dole as a way to take over the American government. Homer manages to reveal politicians are actually space monsters, but Americans are in a bind. It’s either vote for them, or vote for a third party candidate. Sure, no one wants to vote for a monster, but why throw your vote away?

Senator Armstrong’s Speech, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

Winning the award for perhaps the most prescient depiction of the 2016 election is a monologue from Senator Armstrong, the loud-mouthed, nanomachine-infused politician who serves as the 2013 video game Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance’s final boss. In the speech, Armstrong calls for power and justice to return to the hands of the people, derides the media, and flagrantly appropriates MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Oh, and there’s the ending of the monologue, where Armstrong claims that “America is diseased,” and that only by wiping the slate clean and purging the weak will the strongest members “make America great again.” Though Armstrong isn’t a presidential candidate, the clip does hit a little close to home.

Vedek Winn Adami’s Ambition, Star Trek: Deep Space 9

Star Trek: Deep Space 9 is arguably the most political of all the Trek series. It deals with diplomacy, treaties, religion’s effect on politics, and war. Vedek Winn Adami, played by Oscar-winner Louise Fletcher, might be the most politically minded and ambitious character in the entire series, constantly grasping for power and working behind the scenes to get what she wants. (It’s actually become an ugly joke among Trek fans on Reddit this election season to compare her to Hillary Clinton.) In a move that would have led to her becoming her planet’s religious leader, she aligns herself with an extremist group who plan on cutting the planet off from the Federation. But after it’s discovered that the extremists have ties to the planet’s enemies, she quickly betrays them to save her skin. But never count her out: she schemes her way into becoming leader a whole other way.

President Snow’s “Execution,” The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

At the end of the Hunger Games franchise, the revolution has been won. President Coin, the leader of District 13 and the rebellion against the Capital, stands victorious, and Katniss Everdeen is called upon to publicly execute the ousted President Snow, orchestrator of all her miseries. But Katniss instead (and, uh, spoilers?) shoots Coin, having realized that Coin, not Snow, had been responsible for murdering dozens of civilians (including Katniss’ sister, Prim) in an attempt to turn public opinion in the Capital against the already dying Snow.

Katniss realizes that despite the battles she’s fought, politics is sometimes a circular game, and that the people of Panem had merely traded one tyrant for another of a slightly different shade. It’s certainly a nihilistic take on politics, but this is fiction! The people we elect to lead us do matter! And besides, none of the candidates will try to institute a murderous teenaged thunderdome sport! Probably.

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed Sep 24 Striking out

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Emma RothSep 24
California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoes the state’s “BitLicense” law.

The bill, called the Digital Financial Assets Law, would establish a regulatory framework for companies that transact with cryptocurrency in the state, similar to New York’s BitLicense system. In a statement, Newsom says it’s “premature to lock a licensing structure” and that implementing such a program is a “costly undertaking:”

A more flexible approach is needed to ensure regulatory oversight can keep up with rapidly evolving technology and use cases, and is tailored with the proper tools to address trends and mitigate consumer harm.

Andrew WebsterSep 24
Look at this Thing.

At its Tudum event today, Netflix showed off a new clip from the Tim Burton series Wednesday, which focused on a very important character: the sentient hand known as Thing. The full series starts streaming on November 23rd.

The Verge
Andrew WebsterSep 24
Get ready for some Netflix news.

At 1PM ET today Netflix is streaming its second annual Tudum event, where you can expect to hear news about and see trailers from its biggest franchises, including The Witcher and Bridgerton. I’ll be covering the event live alongside my colleague Charles Pulliam-Moore, and you can also watch along at the link below. There will be lots of expected names during the stream, but I have my fingers crossed for a new season of Hemlock Grove.

Andrew WebsterSep 24
Looking for something to do this weekend?

Why not hang out on the couch playing video games and watching TV. It’s a good time for it, with intriguing recent releases like Return to Monkey Island, Session: Skate Sim, and the Star Wars spinoff Andor. Or you could check out some of the new anime on Netflix, including Thermae Romae Novae (pictured below), which is my personal favorite time-traveling story about bathing.

A screenshot from the Netflix anime Thermae Romae Novae.
Thermae Romae Novae.
Image: Netflix
Jay PetersSep 23
Twitch’s creators SVP is leaving the company.

Constance Knight, Twitch’s senior vice president of global creators, is leaving for a new opportunity, according to Bloomberg’s Cecilia D’Anastasio. Knight shared her departure with staff on the same day Twitch announced impending cuts to how much its biggest streamers will earn from subscriptions.

Tom WarrenSep 23
Has the Windows 11 2022 Update made your gaming PC stutter?

Nvidia GPU owners have been complaining of stuttering and poor frame rates with the latest Windows 11 update, but thankfully there’s a fix. Nvidia has identified an issue with its GeForce Experience overlay and the Windows 11 2022 Update (22H2). A fix is available in beta from Nvidia’s website.

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If you’re using crash detection on the iPhone 14, invest in a really good phone mount.

Motorcycle owner Douglas Sonders has a cautionary tale in Jalopnik today about the iPhone 14’s new crash detection feature. He was riding his LiveWire One motorcycle down the West Side Highway at about 60 mph when he hit a bump, causing his iPhone 14 Pro Max to fly off its handlebar mount. Soon after, his girlfriend and parents received text messages that he had been in a horrible accident, causing several hours of panic. The phone even called the police, all because it fell off the handlebars. All thanks to crash detection.

Riding a motorcycle is very dangerous, and the last thing anyone needs is to think their loved one was in a horrible crash when they weren’t. This is obviously an edge case, but it makes me wonder what other sort of false positives we see as more phones adopt this technology.

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Ford is running out of its own Blue Oval badges.

Running out of semiconductors is one thing, but running out of your own iconic nameplates is just downright brutal. The Wall Street Journal reports badge and nameplate shortages are impacting the automaker's popular F-series pickup lineup, delaying deliveries and causing general chaos.

Some executives are even proposing a 3D printing workaround, but they didn’t feel like the substitutes would clear the bar. All in all, it's been a dreadful summer of supply chain setbacks for Ford, leading the company to reorganize its org chart to bring some sort of relief.