Today I stumbled upon FutureStates – an intriguing independent TV series that features various filmmakers’ visions of what American society will look like in the future. From the digital shorts they have made available on their website, I chose Charlie 13 for two reasons: it’s a Coming-of-Age narrative and it focuses on privacy and individualism.

In Charlie 13‘s version of the future, families are tracked by the government with microchips in their fingertips, so that the government knows where its citizens are at all times.  Charlie is a boy of twelve, going on thirteen, and is required to submit to a government-mandated tracking implant- for his own good, for “his safety”.  He still can make a choice …if they let him….

CHARLIE 13 By Michael McMillian

CHARLIE 13 By Michael McMillian 

These days most people have a camera in their pocket, governments utilize spy satellites and many carry a tracking device with them all the time – their cell phone. Some people would argue that if you are not doing anything wrong then why worry about privacy rights.  But, hey, you don’t do anything wrong in the bathroom too (I assume) but you still wouldn’t want to do it in the middle of Times Square.

In the movie, Charlie’s mother urges him to get the implant with the words The whole world is watching you now. You have to step in line like everyone else”. Another argument for the usage of implants mentioned by one of the characters in the film was that they “make you part of something bigger”.  Hearing this made me recall a similar argument used by people who try to convince you that there is no harm in opening a personal Facebook account.

charlie 13

Charlie 13 makes us think about our right to have our own life and privacy. The media is only too happy to spread paranoia these days – making people believe that children (and even adults) are less safe than they were ten or twenty years ago. Are we willing to give up our individuality for reasons of conformity and safety?

Director/Producer/Writer Michael McMillian states that his film features a universal story about a “13-year-old kid who is a getting a good look at the world of adulthood and doesn’t like what he sees”. I totally identify with that statement and congratulate Mr. McMillian for having the courage to address the now controversial issues of personal freedom.  The short film is shot extremely well and the acting was better than average. But the best feature of the film is its message.

Watch Charlie 13 – A Future Friday Premiere on PBS. See more from FutureStates.