"In Time," the 99%, and the Myth of the American Dream

This past weekend I watched "In Time." I'm a big fan of dystopian sci-fi so this movie was right up my alley. Not only did I really enjoy the movie, but I also found it to be a great social commentary on the distribution of wealth in the U.S.

The basic premise of the film was a future world in which people stopped aging at 25, and are only given one year  past that to live. Time, and not money, is the currency. Work, steal, and borrow to add time to your clock, or die. While you need time to live you also have to pay for everything in your time.

1 day, 12 minutes, and 50 seconds to live

The movie did an excellent job of conveying to the audience how important time was in the world of the film. "Time is money" had a whole new meaning.  Another phrase that caught my ear was "I'll give you ten minutes for an hour." This was said by a prostitute - 10 minutes of her body, to gain one hour of life. This exhibits how desperate those in the lower class neighborhoods were for time. People were literally dropping dead in the streets from their lack of time. Not too far off from people in low income neighborhoods dying in the streets of our society today because they have no food and are hungry or homeless... or because of the violence that comes from a population of people who are so desperate. 

An interesting element in the film was Time Zones. Time Zones were the delineation of areas based on how much time the people of the area had. Essentially, cities divided based on wealth. At one point in the film Justin Timberlake's character finds himself with a lot of time on his hands arm and decides to travel to New Greenwich, a rich Time Zone. As he travels, the tolls get increasingly higher - one month, then two, then years. The further from the ghetto he got, the more it cost him. This was a great exhibition of how life works when it comes to being able to attain success. 

One of the wealthy characters commented that the time system was Darwinian capitalism - and only the strong survive. While this is a sentiment many politicians like to express, particularly those whose constituents are wealthy, this is not true. Everyone is not born with the same propensity to make it New Greenwhich, to the richest Time Zones, to the American Dream. In the film, there is no way someone from the ghetto could make it, because they simply didn't have enough "time" to get out. It would take more than just pulling up their bootstraps.

It is MUCH harder for poor people to make it to the top than it is for someone born privileged. It just is. The difference between the 1% and the 99% is not hard work, it's opportunity, and there is more opportunity for those in the world who can afford them. 

The end of the film was the poor's dream, and the rich's nightmare - an even distribution of wealth, an even playing-field. I wish there was an epilogue that showed what happened in the world after that...  


  1. Great movie on social class. I actually don't like Justin Timberlake as an actor, but in this one, he was cool.

    Have you seen the older movie, GATTACA? Same film director and equally awesome.

    1. Yes, I loved Gattaca! I agree, I'm not usually a JT fan, but he did well in this one.

  2. This expresses what I was thinking about today extremely well. I was discussing this with my mother, but this said it perfectly. That's what people don't understand. I'm not a bleeding heart liberal, I'm a realist. We aren't all equal. period. I want to reblog this on my site, but I don't know how. :(

    1. I don't know if you can reblog from blogger to wordpress, you might just have to link it. Glad you liked it!

  3. I liked the plot idea, but didn't really enjoy this movie.


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