Dystopia: Fiction and Reality

I would define Dystopia as a world or society that, depending on whose perspective we see it from, is actively suppressing its people politically, economically, and environmentally.

A perfect example of this is The Lorax (2012) movie. The movie opens up to a society that seems happy on the outside but when compared to ours, would be perceived as dystopian. Nature is artificial and oxygen is bottled, due to corporate greed that destroyed the environment. This already brings the environmental and economic aspects of a dystopian society into play. The dichotomy of the outside world, where everything is a barren wasteland and pollution is overbearing, against the squeaky clean bubble of Thneedville is supposed to show that their city is a Utopia compared to the outside world when they are essentially both the same. For the Onceler, gaining a profit from selling thneeds, even at the cost of destroying the habitat of animals, was his Utopia. Gaining money and love fed his ego, and the destruction he left in his wake only became a “dystopia” to him when he ran out of trees and became bankrupt.

Interestingly enough, it is the company that created The Lorax movie that lends an ironic perspective on who can benefit from a dystopia, and at what point can one be uncomfortable with their “perfect life” while others suffer. The most popular song from the movie, “How Bad Can I Be” is essentially The Onceler admitting to environmental destruction, and nothing more. The company, Illumination Productions, interestingly decides to not tackle the political power the Onceler held and how the environmental decay caused migrations and permanently altered the chemical composition of the air forever. This, however, was done on purpose. The original demo of the song, “The Biggering”, was rejected. While the song from the movie spends its time explaining why the Onceler deserves what he has and how, ultimately, he’s helping the people, the demo paints a picture of a man who fell into the hands of greed. One large difference in lyrics comes at the climax of both songs. In the movie, the Onceler sings, “Who cares if a few trees are dying?” boiling down the problem to simply just trees. The demo version says otherwise with the lines, “Who cares if a few things are dying? I don’t want to hear your crying”. This explicitly insinuates the effect the Onceler has on living things, whether it be killing animals or misplacing people due to extreme pollution. The company made the deliberate choice to forgo those lyrics, which becomes much more explainable knowing their partnerships.

Illumination and Universal partnered with Mazda with their CX-5 model, stating that it was “Lorax approved”. Shockingly enough, this model wasn’t a breakthrough in environmental sustainability with CO2 emissions of about 119g/km, relatively high compared to other hybrid cars of the time. The irony of this comes from the fact that the Onceler also said that his thneeds were Lorax approved when all it did was increase CO2 emissions and hurt the planet, the exact opposite of what the Lorax wanted. Therefore the movie, the company, and what followed after, are all perfect examples of how small and large dystopian elements can be found in fiction and transverse into our reality, whether we choose to see it or not.

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