There’s a meme circulating online this weekend—and which has been kicking around for the last few months, long enough to have gotten the Snopes treatment already—that tomorrow, July 31, 2022, is the birthday of cartoon future-man George Jetson. As in, the day of his actual birth, whereupon this animated sad-sack will be first exposed to the world that will treat him so cruelly, leaving him to spin endlessly on a futuristic treadmill straight to hell. The surface appeal of said meme is obvious: It’s a textbook (and quite literal, given the show’s use of them) update of the old “Where are the flying cars?’ question, a tackling of the discrepancy between the future envisioned by speculative fiction authors and the reality in which we live.
But it’s also a question that should hypothetically have an actual answer, which is the sort of thing that tickles the most pedantic (and, thus, largest and most imporant) parts of our brains. The problem with solving said question, though, is that The Jetsons isn’t like Terminator or Back To The Future, where we get nice, easy readouts of the (since-past) dates of various futuristic events. Instead, it’s a dopey cartoon that usually went out of its way to obscure when its very weird vision of the future (where walking on the ground has been left behind, but jokes about women loving shoe shopping have not), actually took place.
So, let’s think about this too damn hard: Is George Jetson actually getting born tomorrow?
Let’s dispense with the date, first: As far as we can tell, there is no canonical evidence that George Jetson’s birthday is July 31. Or any date; we can’t find anything in the actual show that ever commits to a birthday for this poor awful man. No episodes seem to take place during it, it never seems to have been referenced as a plot point in any of the show’s three seasons (either the first, from 1962, or the two revival seasons from the ’80s), and the only source that’s ever cited for it is an easily edited Fandom wiki. (Meanwhile, Wikipedia has locked down edits on George’s page in order to combat the hordes of George Jetson birthday truthers currently storming its gates.) So there’s that part de-bunked/definitively de-funned.
The 2022 part, meanwhile, does have at least a little, squint-and-it-tracks, smidge of canonicity to it. As our own colleagues at Gizmodo pointed out a few years back—while tackling the equally important question of whether George and Jane’s seven-year age gap revealed uncomfortable truths about their relationship—there’s text that suggests that George Jetson is, in fact, 40. (I.e., When told he might live to 150 in 1962’s “Test Pilot,” George remarks that he has 110 years left to live.)
The shrug-y, bit, though, is placing the show itself in time. Hanna-Barbera never really gave a definitive answer about the year The Jetsons was set in, although it was frequently described as taking place a century in the future. Many people have interpreted that as meaning the series takes place specifically in 2062, 100 years after the original debut, which would, indeed, mean George himself gets popped out onto the planet as a COVID baby sometime in the next few months.
But. But! Consider this: In 2017’s The Jetsons & WWE: Robo-Wrestlemania! (in which past WWE superstars and Vince McMahon must travel from the past to defeat a revived Big Show after he uses an army of Wrestlebots to take over Orbit City), we are explicitly told that Big Show “has been frozen in ice for 100 years”—while George, Jane, Judy, and their boy Elroy do not appear to have aged a day.
Sure, we have evidence up above that Jetson people are longer-lived (did you know these fuckers only work two hours a week?), but there’s nothing to suggest that their children don’t age at something approaching a regular rate. The only conclusion we can thus draw is that The Jetsons has been running on a Marvel Comics-style sliding timescale all this time, and that the series always takes place 100 years from now. Meaning that George Jetson could not have been born tomorrow, because George Jetson’s birthday will always be 60 years in the future from any given present. And, thus, Xeno’s Paradox-style, we realize that George Jetson will never actually be born. The poor bastard can never be gotten off this crazy thing, because he never got on it in the first place.
(We can also conclude that it’s very weird that WWE made a Jetsons movie in 20-goddamn-17.)
So, what have we learned? On the one hand, you should never trust anything on the internet that makes you laugh, or feel anything, really, because it probably hasn’t properly cited its sources. On the other, you can totally kill an hour of an otherwise productive day by thinking too much about The Jetsons on the internet. And, really, what could be a more glorious future than that?
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