Where the new movie “Around the World in 80 Days” comes in a nutshell

Occasionally, and more daringly, Verne has considered how these new materialistic ways of being have implications for societal relations. In contrast, the PBS series indicates a lack of connection. This may be the wrong kind of escape. Rethinking technology and energy will be crucial to imagining and creating a better future for ourselves.

Jules Verne (1828-1905) was a prolific French author who wrote everything from poetry to scholarly articles, but was best known for his speculative imagination, especially his book Extraordinary Journeys.. These 54 novels—among them “Five Weeks in a Balloon,” “From the Earth to the Moon,” “A Journey to the Center of the Earth,” “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea,” “The Mysterious Island,” and “Around the World in Eighty Days.” But it is also realistic. Verne was fascinated by tangible things: steel, iron, telegraph cable, gases, rubber, and pressure gauges that made his extraordinary voyages possible (or at least plausible).

He was not naive about the energy costs of such projects, even in his most realistic anecdote, “Around the World in Eighty Days”. When the novel’s central character, Phileas Fogg, bets that he can circle the world in 80 days, he’s based on steamships, railways, and an environment designed for them, including railroads, coal stations, and the newly opened Suez Canal. Verne plays on the contrast between the coal-fired parts of the voyage and its charming old commas: an elephant, a sleigh full of sails and, eventually, buys a Vogue steamer halfway across the Atlantic so he can unwrap its wood to feed the coal-starved cauldron.

Verne cleverly demonstrated that travelers always burn fossil fuels – the new technologies of his era had a steadfast global impact. As Fogg and his French servant Jean Pasparta board a night train, leaving London, Paspartout desperately shouts: “In my hurry…my confusion…I forgot…turning off the gas lamp in my bedroom.” “Well, dear friend,” replied Fogg, “you’ll pay the bill.” This law accounts for all the resources, especially fossil fuels, expended to move around the world as fast as they could in the 1870s.

The illustrations for the first edition of the complete novel (1873) made this point three times. A small photo on the title page showed Passepartout rushing to blow up an abandoned gas lamp. A page-size illustration at the end of the book showed him sitting in his bedroom, gloomyly frightened, clutching a long beak down to his feet. Most impressively, the first book front of the novel presented Passepartout and Fogg gazing at an image of the planet they roamed around, the center of which is studded with a burning gas lamp. Verne’s contrast between coal and elephants showed a world on the verge of happening, whether recent or not.

He also explored the changing social relationships of the Steam Age. This was more empirical speculation. Verne was not an advocate of social equality; His novels are known for their racial and cultural stereotypes. Passepartout is never represented as a friend or equal to Fogg. In India, when a regiment rescues a widow condemned to be burned at her husband’s funeral pyre, the episode completes a long imperial campaign to stigmatize Hinduism and proclaim European moral superiority.

But the widow Odeh turns out to be the most important character in the story. After she, Fogg and Passepartout arrive in London, they believe Fogg has lost his bet, his fortune, and all of his friends. Odeh proposes marriage to him, introducing herself as a friend and family. When Fogg accepts, they send to a clergyman to marry them, they discover that they have won a day all over the world – the bet is won. By making a comeback’s choice and action key to the plot, Verne introduces an upside-down element, challenging the novel’s dominant social conservatism.

He also, as a Frenchman, made a statement about the British Empire, by subjecting the Englishman Phyllis Fogg to the power of return. In a rushing coal-powered world, a woman of color appears to be as powerful as a steam engine.

The PBS series is more invested in this element of the story, and more outspoken than Verne in targeting racism, colonialism, and sexism. The series casts the black actor as Passepartout and invents a new character, a white companion, journalist Abigail Fix. A widow’s burning incident has been replaced by a village wedding in India. But by putting the new character of Fix in a comeback place, thus focusing on the ambition and actions of the white woman, the series feels less daring than Verne’s original story. In the end, it was the White Regiment’s butler who returned to London who would reveal the day’s acquisition. On the other hand, the romance between Fix and Black Passepartout is more radical than anything Verne suggested. An episode focused on black American vigilantes bringing the founder of the Ku Klux Klan to justice may be the best approximation of the novel’s criticism from abroad of a morally imperiled global power, in this case a British view of the United States today.

The chain’s perception of the physical costs of global travel is more mixed. It includes some form of pre-steam travel – ballooning across Europe, camels overland to Eden, and a wagon train from San Francisco – within a series of steamships and railroads. Occasionally, coal shares the spotlight, as when a train’s supply must be disposed of and its wooden body dismantled to burn instead.

But neither a constantly burning gas lamp nor a hint that the fossil fuel demands of the age of the tale shaped our needs. Instead of a lamp-pierced globe, the series’ central icon is a circular ticking clock, and its mechanical movement is actually pre-steam, medieval.

This is a missed opportunity. Verne has inspired countless brilliant rethinkings of steam-era technology and society. In this type of liberation, the authors explored past prophecies about the future, and in steampunk, they postulated that the physical dimensions of the Victorian era were inadvertently liberating, the means by which colonized peoples and women could fight oppression. Some authors have thrown in speculation about alternative energy, as in the solar subtype.

The PBS series comes closer to this speculation when it introduces the Telegraph System – the so-called “Victorian Internet” – as the source for editing. When the telegraph system is working, for example, the Fix can send its newspaper stories and assert its independence. When telegraph lines are cut or telegrams are delayed, they threaten and impede travelers. Yes, modern media has opened up new opportunities, albeit not without risk, and it began with the metal-coated gutta percha-coated wire telegraph network that was installed around the world in the 19th century. More hints about those physical characteristics and their social costs and opportunities would have added significantly to the series.

It is necessary for us to imagine more equal social relations, to do away with the harms of colonialism and to confront racism and sexism. But in 2022, in the midst of a climate crisis as well as a pandemic, after 150 years of Jules Verne’s speculation about coal, imperialism, and the state of the world, it’s naive to speculate about social justice without rethinking energy and technology, and especially ways we shake off the heavy legacy of steam power. Without alternatives to fossil fuels, the imagination wouldn’t go anywhere, let alone around the world.

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