Over the years, the public perception of Bitcoin has been colored by its portrayal in news media, with outlets often showing a lack of understanding for the technology and its potential. The press are not the only ones who have shaped the publics understanding of our community, however. Hollywood has also used Bitcoin as a plot device with greater frequency, as acceptance has grown.
By tracking the evolution of Bitcoins portrayal in fiction, is it possible to determine the future mainstream appeal of Blockchain technology?
Dummies Guide to Bitcoin
The first instance of Bitcoin in film or television actually did a lot to boost the community, during our earliest days. In 2012, ’The Good Wife’ aired an episode about a lawyer, attempting to protect the anonymity of the creator of a mysterious cryptocurrency called Bitcoin. Though not without its faults, this early dive into our burgeoning technology brought a wave of new users, interested in learning more. Not only did the episode take the time to try to explain the benefits of such a currency, ‘the Good Wife’ also became one of the earliest sources to introduce the concept that Satoshi Nakamoto might be a group, rather than an individual.
The Dark Ages
From there, however, Bitcoin’s characterization in fiction entered the dark ages. With understanding of the technology being low, and on the heels of recent hacks, arrests, and bankruptcies through 2013-2014, many shows began to capitalize on Bitcoins criminal perceptions. Episodes of ‘Person of Interest’ and ‘Blacklist’ both used Bitcoin to facilitate ransoms and money laundering. On the Simpsons, Krusty the Clown notes that he lost his fortune investing in Bitcoin. Perhaps the most egregious offender though was ‘Criminal Minds’, who not only made Bitcoins use out to be criminal, but also bungled an explanation of how the technology works - Claiming that $5 million dollars in Bitcoin was found in an offshore bank account.
Although the price would continue to fall for another 6 months, Hollywoods depiction of Bitcoin began to change around the middle of 2014. On HBO’s then-new Silicon Valley, one of the shows leads requests to be paid in Bitcoin rather than via a traditional bank account. Shortly thereafter, the feature film ‘DOPE’ utilized bitcoin as a key plot device which, while used to facilitate questionable activities, was done so in a light hearted and informative way. On Fox, an episode of ’Family Guy’ mentioned Bitcoin in its opener as a potential way to better budget the families money.
The characterization of Bitcoin as fuel for the criminal underworld was slowly being replaced with positive associations.
Now and the Future
Most recently, Bitcoin made an appearance in the background of the ‘Mr. Robot’ season two premiere. A food truck with a Bitcoin logo on its side appears as a mobile exchange service, painting Bitcoin as a financial safe haven, in light of the countries recent economic collapse.
The greatest argument for Bitcoin’s future mainstream potential will come later this year, when a new show called ‘Start Up’ airs. The premise for ‘Start up’ follows the creation of a Bitcoin-inspired surrogate called ‘GenCoin’. This fictional digital currency will be portrayed in the show as a world changing phenomenon, used to revolutionize exchange, and protect the finances of the underbanked around the globe. While it will also show such a currency’s potential for aiding unscrupulous activity, ‘Start up’ seems to have devoted much of its time to portraying the technology in a positive light.
As we have grown as a community, the way outsiders think of Blockchain technology has evolved towards a place of greater understanding. Though there is still a long road to travel, the media’s shifting depictions have already begun to push Bitcoin acceptance closer towards the mainstream.