A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this documentary-style show demonstrates weapons that are new or forthcoming. Viewers see guns, tanks, bombs, and other war-related technology being tested and occasionally used in real life (footage of bombs being dropped in Iraq, for example). Some test footage repeats multiple times during a single episode, reinforcing the particular weapon's destructiveness. Though most segments only allude to the destruction of human life, some show examples of a weapon's power, such as one in which a test dummy's body disintegrates in the face of an explosion. In one episode, viewers briefly see real human skin that's been affected by the anthrax virus. Content is potentially scary to viewers of all ages, especially in a time when war and violence are a steady feature on the news.
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What's the story?
The documentary-style series FUTUREWEAPONS details emerging warfare technology, such as a so-called smart bomb that, after being dropped from a plane, splits into 40 different heat-seeking missiles and delivers incredibly accurate results. Host/former U.S. Navy Seal Richard "Mack" Machowicz tours the world looking at new or prototype guns, tanks, bombs, and more, testing many of the weapons himself and interviewing the designers and engineers behind the goods. Mack, a stern figure with a shaved head and an intense demeanor, rarely smiles and often uses tough talk to match his military persona. While most of the show discusses weapons without much emphasis on the human toll they're designed to take, some segments do address this fact. In an episode about weapons specifically created to elicit fear in their targets, for example, viewers see brief shots of real human skin eaten away by anthrax.
Is it any good?
When talking about war and weaponry, it's difficult not to think about politics. Futureweapons clearly stands behind the U.S. military and America's current foreign policy. Most of the weapons featured are designed by the United States, and those that aren't are from Israel or European countries. When meeting with an Israeli military officer to discuss the Tavor rifle, Mack and the officer joke around about the gun, calling it a "new toy." The officer's proclamation that he will sleep better at night knowing that this rifle is being designed is unquestioned, and the Palestinian perspective is completely absent.
A similar implicit agreement with the Iraq War pops up. Mack shows footage of bombs being dropped in Iraq and dramatically talks about their ability to "deliver a clear message to the target below." Because Mack and his interviewees discuss guns and other weapons with almost-fetishistic adoration -- and due to the occasional descriptions of a weapon's affect on the human body -- many parents will find Futureweapons a questionable choice for younger viewers. If parents decide to let teens watch, they may want to remind them that while the technology may be fascinating, it's important to keep in mind that these are tools designed to kill people.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about war and weaponry. What are family members' feelings about war in general? What about current global conflicts? What are the benefits of creating new war technologies? How do you think weapon designers deal with the fact that their work is designed to kill? What political issues are absent from the show's discussion of weaponry? What is the effect of language and rhetoric (like that used by the host) in warfare?