As the year trades up, pundits are well known for their predictions and resolutions. My prediction is that the media will refer to The Jetsons or The Flintstones in technology stories they tell in 2022—no matter that these TV characters came out with the baby boomers. Created by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, the Jetsons turn 60 this year; the Flintstones, 62
Thanks to reruns and several latter-day movies, the Hanna-Barbera era has continued to attract attention. But the main culprits in perpetuating the cult of George Jetson, and, to a lesser extent, Fred Flintstone, are editors. The media can’t help inserting references to these clownish characters in stories they oversee about flying cars, video phones, hang-on-the-wall TVs, you name it! Somehow, these journalists must have glimpsed the future at an early age and now feel compelled to share their Hanna-Barbera insights to judge how things actually turned out.
A recent use of Jetson-ism was deployed in a blurb on the front page of The New York Times citing a story about the multi-billion-dollar race to put commuters in flying cars. The headline screamed: “Remember the Jetsons?”
While I remember George Jetson; his boy, Elroy; daughter, Judy; and Jane, his wife; I wouldn’t expect others to.
You might wonder why I’m so passionate about railing against these cartoon metaphors.
It started with a 1997 article I freelanced for the Times in which I interviewed apartment dwellers connected to a T1 line, a type of high-speed internet access that predates broadband. Into my prose an editor inserted:
“Even in these buildings, T1 lines are optional, and many neighbors of the Early Adopters are saying a resounding ‘Who cares?’ If cyberbuildings become common, New Yorkers might be divided into Jetsons and Flintstones.”
Ugh. It was the new haves and have-nots. The digital version of princes and paupers. Pretty depressing, considering that if the world was to be divided between the tech-savvy and the Luddites, it spelled a dystopian future.
I won’t have any of it.
So, besides my utterly safe prediction that sometime in 2022, one or more major media outlets will conjure up the Jetsons and Flintstones to describe a tech-come-true product versus those who couldn’t care less, I’ll leave you with this New Year’s resolution: I promise that in any story I write this year I’ll never, ever refer to either the Jetsons or the Flintstones. That is, after this column runs.
I conclude by muttering, “Yabba dabba doo.” But more to the point, I beg: “Jane, stop this crazy thing!”
Michael Antonoff writes about digital media culture.