by Grace Armstrong
Welcome to the wonderful, and sometimes frightening, world of FIMS. With being in a program like MIT, you get exposed to lots of different pieces of media that you never would have thought to watch otherwise. Or, all of a sudden you see something you have always enjoyed through a new lens (don’t worry, critical analysis won’t always ruin your favourite shows or make you completely hate yourself for being on Instagram). At first, MIT can seem like a confusing program. Like how do you really study media when it’s everywhere? And who exactly is Marshall McCluhan? And, finally, is it normal to watch this many video clips in a university course? With studying media, many movies and TV shows become hailed as FIMS Classics. To help lessen the confusion over the type of content you’ll be studying, check out this list of just some of the iconic movies and TV shows that every FIMS student should see.
1. Black Mirror
Possibly the most FIMS show to ever exist, if you are heading into MIT and haven't seen an episode, I highly recommend you do. Because A: they explore many of the same core themes MIT courses do and B: it’s just a good show, so watch it! Black Mirror episodes also make for really good essay topics and case studies because of how a single episode can connect to so many concepts related to technology, autonomy, and other very FIMS-y things. Chances are you will end up watching the episode Nosedive in one of your first-year MIT courses. I also recommend Arkangel and Whitebear if you are looking for more insight to the types of themes you will be studying in MIT (hint: surveillance!)
2. 2001: A Space Odyssey
Hailed as a classic by many, not just in FIMS. You’ll notice a common theme amongst all these shows and movies: the horrors and wonders of technology. This movie is noted not just for how scientifically accurate it is in the depiction of space flight, but also for depicting the growing anxieties people feel towards technology and the development of artificial intelligence. A perfect segway to the next pick on our list.
3. Ex Machina
A personal favourite of mine I would never have seen without having to watch it in class back in my freshman year. Ex Machina illustrates the possibly chilling future of AI development and makes us realize that what we think happens by chance, can actually be the result of a very controlled sequence of events and surveillance. This movie also makes for a great study of the male gaze in film and in AI development, with the creation of fembots to meet a male ideal of what a woman should look like. Even in terms of how the film was marketed is very heavily based on sex. If sex, love, and robots are your thing (both in general and the animated Netflix show of the same name), then definitely check this one out!
4 . Bladerunner 2049
This movie, like the others on this list, also illustrates the dark side of Technoculture. It raises the big question: are humans extensions of technology, or is technology an extension of humans? The characters within this movie seem the blur the lines of being both human and machine. This is especially prevalent when technology enables the blind to see with the help of drones. This character really makes one think about how we use technology to enhance our biological bodies. The film explores how our relationship with technology can have a profound effect on our personal relationships and relationship to the world around us.
5. The Social Network
The token non-fiction item on the list, this movie gives insight on how these great technological ideas can be formed and brought into existence. It shows the viewer how something like Facebook, with the oh-so-innocent intent to “connect people”, can get taken out of control of those who created it and become something much larger and much more meaningful. Facebook is a large discussion topic in MIT, along with other social media apps, especially when it comes to, you guessed it, surveillance! But also other FIMS-y topics like how it promotes a cybernetic loop, perpetrates fake news, and cultivates a second, online persona.
BONUS! The LEGO Movie
This one is very obviously the wildcard amongst these picks. But COME ON, the main character plays a construction worker that helps take down a capitalist businessman. Rise of the middle class as an autonomous force that threatens the power of the elite? Very FIMS-y. The LEGO Movie somehow manages to capture how ideologies become these naturalized belief systems that produce us and shape our position within society. There is a whole scene where the protagonist, Emmet, sits on his couch watching TV, mindlessly consuming the media that flashes before him. I recommend watching this movie after sitting through a few MIT classes to get it’s full effect.
I hope you will enjoy this list of classic FIMS pieces of media. I swear it is not always dry media texts you’ll be studying. And remember that it is okay to take breaks and sit back and watch a movie if you have too. First year can be tough and put a lot of strain on your mental and physical health. So, don’t feel guilty if you choose to watch a movie or TV show to help you relax. Pick something from this list and you’re practically studying!