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Are we headed towards a Demolition Man future?

By Afiya Augustine
Demolition Man: Sylvester Stallone and Sandra Bullock

October 1993 saw the release of Demolition Man, which follows Sylvester Stallone as the LAPD's John Spartan, a decorated sergeant who is sentenced to being cryo-genetically frozen for the assumed death of civilians while attempting to apprehend lethal criminal Simon Phoenix (Wesley Snipes). When Phoenix is mysteriously defrosted in the year 2032, Spartan is thawed out as well, given that he's the only person who's ever been able to successfully apprehend this villain.

This is one of my favorite movies from the '90s — not so much for the cast of familiar faces (including Sandra Bullock, Benjamin Bratt, and an uncredited appearance by Rob Schneider), but because of the way the writers envisioned the world in 2032. And looking at the world in 2020, we just might be getting there.

In March 2020, the global pandemic known as coronavirus (or COVID-19) started taking its toll on the United States. With each passing day, the number of cases of infected individuals skyrocketed, prompting local and national officials to create stringent policies to contain the pandemic — and the effects are eerily similar to this blockbuster.

Mother Nature Shapes a Community

Set in San Angeles (a metropolis of San Diego, Santa Barbara, and Los Angeles), Demolition Man depicts a seemingly utopian society created following massive devastation to the human populace. After an earthquake in 2010, a series of diseases, fear, and panic, the community found solace in the ideas of a revolutionary man: Doctor Raymond Cocteau. While some of his policies were severely restrictive, it did serve to help the vast majority of the people.

Unfortunately, no such thinker has come into our midst (or maybe we're not ready to receive the revolutionary ideals of such a thinker yet), but our community will definitely never be the same again.

We're already seeing some side effects of COVID-19, with its contagiousness leading to shelter-in orders across the globe. Foot traffic is low, some pollution is down, nature's getting a chance to shine, and humanity is becoming a little introspective. We know things won't go back to the way they were, and it's quite possible to think people will look to a leader who will do their best to help us all and bring us into a time of peace.

A Society of No Touching


The most glaring correlation between Demolition Man and the present day is one of the far-reaching policies: the lack of human interaction. In the '90s movie, all skin-to-skin contact has been outlawed: sex, kissing, handshakes, tight hugs, and even high-fives are a thing of the past. According to office Lenina Huxley (Bullock), physical interaction was banned after a series of illnesses and diseases ravaged the health of mankind and copulation was done out of the body at a lab.

Well, it looks like we're headed toward this. The coronavirus has led to the practice of "social distancing," an act of staying at least three to six feet away from company in order to reduce the risk of spreading the potentially fatal disease. To add insult to injury, it's been recommended certain sexual acts are put on hold as we battle the virus.


In 2032, the only way to get it on was by wearing a helmet and doing "it" in VR. Are we headed to a world of sex in virtual reality? It wouldn't be a far leap, since we already have the tech for it. Maybe it's time for us to step our game up and stop DMing crotch-shots.

A World Integrated With Technology

Speaking of automation replacing social interaction, Demolition Man's integration of technology into society is relatively seamless. The police department has smart computers and AI at its literal beck and call, much as we've got Siri doing menial work like making phone calls or finding our favorite taco spot. Video calling was absolutely a thing, and now thanks to COVID-19, remote interactions have become a way of life — both professionally and personally — for many.

People are becoming more reliant on their smartphones and apps like Zoom or WebEx. It's definitely the new normal now.

Policing Has Become Less Violent


The San Angeles Police Department has a very diplomatic approach to crime: Ask the criminals to stop doing what they're doing.

To be fair, in this new world order, crime was significantly down. The biggest criminal offense was the theft of food by "rebels" of the society. Other than that, cops were trained to speak to potential suspects in a calm tone, and the only force they exerted was that of a glow-rod that would render a person unconscious with no hurt to them.

While we don't have glow-rods, coronavirus has made policing less hands-on due to its contagiousness — well for some, anyway.

Rebels Partying In Secret

Despite orders to stay inside, practice healthy hygiene habits, and not congregate in groups larger than 10, there are those who still go against these warnings and mandated orders. Civilians are still throwing house parties, running the streets at night, coughing on grocery store products, and even licking toilet bowls during our time of crisis. In Demolition Man there are those doing the same — albeit for reasons other than just being stupid.

The point? No matter how much people evolve, there will always be those who go against the grain of society, for the better or the worse.

Celebrities Becoming Politicians


Demolition Man makes reference to a library named after former President Arnold Schwarzenegger. We laughed at it in 1993, but the Terminator star eventually served as the governor of California from 2003 to 2011. Now, we've got the host of The Apprentice running the nation. If that's not a prediction of the future to come, I don't know what is.

Fast Food Chains Are King

In Demolition Man, Taco Bell became the only restaurant standing after the "Fast Food Wars," and as such, all restaurants after that were turned into Taco Bell, with a vastly different menu including nothing but clean unrefined foods in tiny portions.

Thanks to COVID-19, anything that can be delivered or picked up is what most are going for now, including fast-food chains like McDonald's and Burger King. Maybe Wendy's Twitter beef with all other chains in an indication it's looking to dominate the game! Get ready for the food wars, y'all.

A New Music Scene

Recently, the app known as TikTok has boomed, with everyone hopping on to have a little fun with dance challenges to snippets of music. It appears these soundbites are becoming more popular, which is what happens in Demolition Man. Instead of traditional full-length music, the tunes people are living for are what we call commercial jingles.

Can you imagine kids in 20 years singing a 30-second song that was once a song choice on TikTok? I can.

Toilet Paper Alternatives


As many times as I've watched Demolition Man, I never would've thought our society would get to a point where we were fighting over toilet paper. Once word of the pandemic's impact spread, people across the globe began pouring into supermarkets to stockpile on supplies, and toilet paper became such a hot commodity that fistfights and shouting matches would break out in the aisles over it.

In the futuristic film, paper waste has been banned and our precious TP has been replaced with three seashells — and nearly 30 years later, we still don't know how in the hell they were used. The only logical explanation is an accompaniment to bidets, and with people buying all the ultra-thick tissue with ripples, we can expect sustainable options for our bowel movements to be a forthcoming innovation.

The 2032 of Demolition Man is only 12 years away from our current reality, and for those of us who make it through COVID-19, a future like the one in this film may come true in some ways. Our best advice? Take ridiculously good care of your health (because anyone who says they're OK with not being touched is a liar). Get better acquainted with your Google Meet capabilities, start searching the beaches for clamshells, and hope someone with the capacity to bring out the best in us comes forward to shake up things in what may become a very sterilized version of our world.

Until then: Be well, friends.

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