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The term "present day" is used to describe the approximate period of time that surrounds the present. Depending on the context, this period may be as narrow as referring to the immediate moment, or as broad as referring to the current year or decade. In general the term is used to refer to the contemporary era at the time it is used.
When used in fictional or non-fictional media such as books, film, or television, the term "present day" is typically used to identify the time-period in which the depicted events are taking place, in one of the following ways:
- The events depicted take place at the literal time that the media is being viewed or read; in this case, the period referred to is subjective and depends upon when the media is experienced;
- The events depicted take place at the exact date in history when the media was published;
- The events depicted take place during the era during which the media was published, where the era may be identified in a way relevant to the rest of the elements in the media.
Setting a fictional work in the "present day" can have many intended effects on viewers or readers. In many cases it is a plot device used to engage the audience more quickly as the events are happening in a context that they can understand. In some cases, the intention is that portrayed events are to be understood as genuinely happening "right now"; the audience is meant to deliberately play into this suspension of disbelief. Many popular soap operas are set in the present day, such as the English television series EastEnders. Other more fanciful productions are also set in the present day to maintain intrigue in an audience, such as Stargate or X-Men.
The use of the term "Present Day" can also detract from media as, in the case of movies and books, it directly reveals the age of the media. For example, the movie, The Terminator, has a title card near the beginning labelling it as taking place in the present day, even though the events are shown to occur in 1984 which was true to the initial release of the movie. This can have the effect of making the movie or book a lot less believable because it is labelled as the present day but the technologies and modern culture in the media effectively display the past and not the present, nullifying the effectivness of the term, Present Day.