I recently discussed the 2013 film Elysium in the “Got Health?” podcast project due to its illustration of neglect as a dystopia. The film is placed in 2154 where society on Earth has shifted into mass poverty and terrible public health due to pollution and overpopulation. The elite and rich live in a high-class space station called Elysium where they have access to technologically advanced medical care. Those on Earth are governed by police robots who serve as parole officers and guards while those on Elysium have a connection to their human government. A major aspect is the Med-Bays product which can heal any illness or ailment for citizens of the station, otherwise known as Elysians. The main character Max lives on Earth and plans to be smuggled to Elysium after being exposed to lethal doses of radiation in a factory and helping an old flame’s daughter who has leukemia. Max and his friend have to deal with the social predatory behavior of his smuggler who intends to harm them. In his journey, they find out that Med-Bays are only accessible to citizens registered in Elysium. The film ends with Max sacrificing himself to activate a program that would register every person on Earth as an Elysian citizen and grant them access.
The unique aspect of Elysium is that is both probable for our future but realistic in comparison to the healthcare experience today. The film is relevant today as it illustrates a separation amongst the lower class and upper class through technological advancements that affect both Earth and Elysian citizens on a biological, social, and psychological layer. In today’s climate because access to proper health services is determined by a class system and hierarchy that one can’t control but only move throughout. The film fits well in our expectation of a dystopia because the individuals live oppressive and restrictive lifestyles due to the government on polluted Earth but also on Elysium simultaneously. Elysians are overregulated by their government in which individuals aren’t free to leave or deviate from the status in society while individuals on Earth are left neglected while restricted. A government neglecting the health of a perceived lower class is a direct analog to not only the recent presence of COVID-19 but also the inadequate healthcare for those in food deserts, reservations, or urban neighborhoods. Inhabitants of all these areas all tend to be minority or low-income with difficulty navigating the biased and predatory practice of medicine.