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'Enemy of the State' gets a timely TV series sequel

Reality has overtaken the original fiction.
Daniel Cooper, @danielwcooper
October 21, 2016
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Jerry Bruckheimer has announced that he's developing a TV sequel to his 1998 hit movie Enemy of the State. The series will be filmed with a view to airing on ABC and will be set 20 years after the original that starred Will Smith and Gene Hackman. Of course, back then, the notion of ubiquitous government surveillance that could examine every part of our lives seemed totally far-fetched. The film itself concerned a reckless NSA official who planned to erode traditional notions of privacy in modern day America. Yeah, about that.

In the intervening eighteen years, the US has proven to be exceptionally adept at building a wall-to-wall surveillance system that's far more powerful than its fictional counterpart. Agents don't even need to come into your house masquerading as repair people to use cameras to spy on you given the existence of the smartphone. The UK government has informally banned smartwatches from high-profile meetings out of concern that foreign powers could use them to eavesdrop. In a post-Snowden world, it seems almost quaint that people could attempt to rally against the police state that exists as the new normal.

Footage from a simpler, gentler time.

Speaking of which, the new series will focus on an NSA agent who is alleged to have leaked classified intelligence to the public. Maybe this person can be called Bedward Bowden or maybe Edward Manning or Chelsea Snowden, something like that. They'll be working with an "idealistic female attorney" who teams up with a "hawkish FBI agent" to defeat a global conspiracy that threatens to expose "dark secrets." It's that last bit that seems the most fantastical, since in the real world, the dark secrets that Snowden exposed were pretty much ignored. After all, the NSA was cleared of abuses of power by an oversight committee and Section 702 of FISA remains in force and unchanged, at least until 2017.

Back in 1998, Enemy of the State was closer to sci-fi, but now we're at a point where it's a crushing reality that we all live with. Although, as with shows like Mr. Robot, there's plenty of ways to make a show about arcane government surveillance engaging enough for a mainstream audience.

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