If you’re over 50, you probably recall watching the cartoon show The Jetsons when you were young. (The original show ran in 1962 and 1963; a remake was broadcast in 1985 and 1987.) You’ll remember it as a campy, uplifting look at the future.
Well, The Jetsons – father George, mother Jane, daughter Judy, son Elroy, robot Rosie, and dog Astro – are back. But they’re different. Where Hanna-Barbera’s Jetsons lived in a sci-fi utopia set in 2062, today’s Jetsons world is downright dystopian. Perhaps the darkness of this Jetsons reflects our own dark times.
You won’t find the 2017 Jetsons on video, but DC Comics has brought the family back in the first of a series of comic books. Comic book No. 1 was released on November 1, in nostalgic print or Kindle ebook; No. 2 has a December 6 release date.
Let’s explore how 2017’s DC Comics’ Jetsons differ from the 1960s version.
Remember how The Jetsons of old lived in floating cities? DC’s writers figured that out. It’s because an environmental catastrophe wiped out most of the world’s habitable land and cities, killing billions of people, but a lucky few escaped to the skies where they live and work in floating cities. Obviously, just as in the original, flying cars are a necessity.
Jetsons characters circa 1962 were a sexist bunch, but that’s been corrected for 2017. Jane the space-age housewife is now a NASA scientist. The cartoon featured only white characters, but now we’re treated to some ethnic diversity (though the family members are all white). Hurray for future societal progress.
Artificial intelligence and robotics were part of the old Jetsons, but DC’s Jetsons take it to a much higher plane. Remember Rosie the Robot (who wore an apron, apropos that sexism I mentioned)? New Rosie is now George’s mother and Judy and Elroy’s grandmother, since her consciousness was uploaded into the robot. George and his cyber mom have some deep discussions about life beyond biology in the first comic book.
George works as some sort of space-age mechanic, but it’s clear that his job is tenuous. As George begs for some time off, his boss warns, “Don’t give me reason to replace you with an upgraded F-I 14.” Even with billions of humans killed off, it seems that human jobs remain endangered by AI robots.
Still, there are some Jetsons characteristics that remain. The Jetsons are still a nuclear family. Just not the one you remember. As DC Comics’ promotion department writes: “Join this postmodern family as doom rockets toward them from the outer reaches of the galaxy on a crash course of destruction!”
The Jetsons was one of those shows that struck a chord with viewers when it originally aired. Even with only a single prime-time season before the original cancellation, the show remained in the public consciousness for decades. In addition to the 1985/1987 cartoon remake, there was a 1990 animated film. A live-action Jetsons movie is in the works.
In 2016, the innovation firm Arconic produced this look at technology of the future using The Jetsons:
We haven’t seen the end of The Jetsons, not by a long shot.
Top photo credit: DC Comics