"What's wrong with this picture?"
This is the last Sliders episode I'll be writing about on Shredded Cheddar, but not the last of my TV posts. About a month ago, I realised there was another 90s series that: a) I didn't really watch back then, b) is episodic in format, and c) asks the question "What if . . .?" in its very intro. (Can you guess what it is???) And when I learned that it debuted the same year that Sliders Season 2 crashed and burned, I realised I had a strong candidate for my next project. If the pilot is halfway decent, I'll commit myself to blogging about the first season.
This is what's wrong with that picture
Is there any point in explaining the world building when the writers were clearly high? =P The nicest thing I could say about them is they probably weren't even trying with this one, so it's hardly a measure of how bad they are. But seriously, slot machines in phone booths is really pushing it.
When someone mentions Prohibition in the US, we think of the 1920s--but that's because it was the country's only "dry" decade. Had it not been repealed, the rest of US history would have moved on without it--and I'm willing to bet that this world's 1990s wouldn't look too different from our own. But to cash that bet in, I'd have to be able to say what role alcohol has had in shaping American society since 1933.
As fun as that would be to think about (and I'm really not being sarcastic), it would be a pointless exercise for this post, inasmuch as Prohibition is just the window dressing in this episode about wealthy organised crime families and a cash-strapped FBI. It's supposedly a huge enough problem for campaigning politicians to position themselves as tough on crime, unlike that softie Ronald Regan (I don't get the full implications, but the meaning is clear) . . . but all they're making me do is wonder just how bad a huge black market for alcohol would be. If we stay in this world and fast forward about two decades, will there be a hit show called Breaking Bad in which a Chemistry teacher cooks a signature blue "crystal moonshine"?
Seriously, what would a modern US in which alcohol sales are banned look like? Would there be people campaigning to have the "less addictive" beverages, like beer or mead, legalised, while still stigmatising all the "hard" stuff? Would jails be overcrowded with people whose only crime was sneaking a drink? Drawing parallels with the black market for drugs is a start, but if we get into the details of world building, we'd also have to imagine a US in which two black markets exist side-by-side: one for drugs and one for alcohol. How would they affect each other? Would they compete for customers or would the overlap be as minimal as that between coffee and cigarettes?
And what about the law-abiding folk who just deal with it and make up the majority of the population? We must consider weddings and other celebrations . . . the singles scene and the dating rituals . . . the "dry" versions of boeuf bourguignon and rum cake. And so on . . .
Then there is the reason Prohibition got off the ground in the first place. We can't imagine a world in which it was never repealed without considering the forces that would have protected it. So we'd have an organised religious element right along with all the organised crime. Can we base this alt-America on those modern-day Protestant communities which teach that Jesus turned water into grape juice at Cana?
I could keep asking questions all week, but it's really time to give it a rest. Maybe I'll have another ShredChedFanFicWriMo this November and produce some Sliders FF, but until then, I'm happy to let this be my last post on the series. Thanks for reading!
Your Turn to Slide: Which all-too-easily-abused but arguably benign substance would you be willing to use illegally if it were ever banned?