The current coronavirus pandemic has made real life seem like a movie thanks to its quarantine measures and apocalyptic feel. And one movie, in particular, that has drawn a lot of comparisons to our current situation is the 1993 sci-fi actioner Demolition Man. The movie stars Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes as a wrongfully imprisoned cop and vicious murderer, respectively, who are cryogenically frozen in the year 1996 in order to be reprogrammed as upstanding members of society. In the ensuing decades, crime is eliminated — along with many personal freedoms — so when Snipes’ character escapes his imprisonment in the year 2032 and begins wreaking havoc, society is ill-equipped to stop him. Stallone’s character is then thawed out so he can use his 20th century tactics to bring him to justice, and the two engage in a cat-and-mouse game while trying to adapt to their strange new world.
The future world of the film features a number of aspects that seem downright prophetic today. Their society no longer shakes hands and eschews most physical contact, business meetings are conducted via teleconferencing, and there’s no such thing as toilet paper. In other words, 2032 arrived just over a decade early. Vulture spoke with the film’s writer, Daniel Waters, to see what he thinks of all these comparisons, and he agrees that the similarities are uncanny.
“It’s funny, a friend of mine introduced me to her boyfriend at the New Beverly theater, just as the last few theaters were open, and as we did it we were like, ‘This could be the last handshake we ever give.’ Two total strangers, we had a look in our eyes like, ‘That could be it, huh? That felt weird,'” Waters said. “I loved seeing the quote-unquote handshake Rob Schneider and Benjamin Bratt give each other in [Demolition Man]. I can totally see it. Once you get into, ‘We don’t want anything icky in the future,’ then it’s funny how it just happens. You wouldn’t touch.”
“Sandra Bullock is so good in the movie,” the writer continued. “[Her] line, ‘They used handfuls of wadded-up paper?’ (referring to toilet paper) — the way she says it, like, that is kind of primitive, isn’t it? Why would we use handfuls of wadded-up paper?”
The film also predicted that Taco Bell would be the nation’s only surviving restaurant (a future that could very well come to pass depending on how long smaller local restaurants remain closed), an Arnold Schwarzenegger presidency (he did become a governor!), and a series of pandemics that led to society’s uber-sanitization. The movie may have been a parody of sorts, but it’s looking more and more realistic every day.
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