The world is facing an existential crisis … thousands are dying … stock markets tumbling … economies decimated … global leaders meet by video link and chart a path to avoid looming disaster. It sounds like a scene from a sci-fi movie.
Actually, it IS a scene from a sci-movie; from several, in fact. From the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to the whole Marvel Universe, no disaster is complete without a video conference to explore the options, often followed by an appeal to Captain America for assistance (assuming Tony Stark in unavailable).
The Marvel equivalent of the G20 is the World Security Council, who meet by holographic projection, beamed to their HQ from wherever they are in the world.
Without that technology, how could Samuel L. Jackson possibly tell them that the world was under threat from Loki? And that Nick Fury’s “response team,” the “handful of freaks” dismissed by the council but known to us all as the Avengers, were on the case?
In movies, of course, communication by video was taking place long before it was technically possible. Contrary to popular belief, it did not begin with the Jetsons, the 1960s US cartoon family equipped with jetpacks and robots. That honor belongs to the Austrian-German-American filmmaker Fritz Lang, who introduced the first videophone in his 1927 silent classic Metropolis.
Since then, James Bond has communicated with M via a video screen in his Aston Martin, and an astronaut has seen his family at home via “Picturephone” in 2001: A Space Odyssey — at a cost, incidentally, of $1.70, which seems even less likely now than it did in 1968.
Curiously, in the one movie most relevant to today’s events — Contagion, the 2011 blockbuster directed by Steven Soderbergh — world leaders take a back seat, and it is left to Kate Winslet and Jennifer Ehle to save the world from a rampant viral infection.
At least, with video technology now so common and reliable, world leaders won’t have to rely on a WhatsApp group chat …
JINPING: This is a bit rubbish, can we switch to WeChat?
Donald is typing …
BORIS: Pffwoar!! And, er, um, no ifs, no buts, we’re leaving!
EMMANUEL: Is it time for lunch?
Donald is typing…
ANGELA: @emmanuel Do you have any of that nice Camembert?
VLADIMIR: I need to pop out for a while, but I’ll still be president when I come back.
Vladimir has left the group