The Finale

The formal definition of a dystopia is: “an imagined world or society in which people lead wretched, dehumanized, fearful lives,” which describes the common aspects of a dystopian society but still doesn’t define it completely. To me, a dystopia is a real place which has conditions where everything is horrible in all facets based on its ability to thrive off oppression, lack of individuality, and fear. Dystopias are places where oppression is the foundation of society which takes the forms of violence, imperialism, marginalization, powerlessness, and exploitation as explained by Young. This criteria is necessary for any dystopian society to exist which proves that dystopias are more authentic than they get credit for due to the mere fact that these pillars are relevant around the world today. Dystopias are easier to digest when in their literary or cinematic form because it relieves some pressure off of the disgusting reality of the current structure of society. In each and every film or novel that exudes dystopian elements, the lack of individuality always persists, and that is because individualism is the only thing strong enough to overrule a poor bureaucracy, theocracy, stratocracy, monarchy, fascism, totalitarianism, and so on. Fear is also a common trope of dystopias, oppression can’t operate without it which is why poor governments utilize it to their advantage.

Over the semester, I’ve learned how  to identify and analyze defining characteristics of dystopia within real & imagery contexts against that definition through viewing different texts and multimedia. With this ability I have learned that there’s no way to understand a dystopia without recognizing what a utopia is. A utopia stems from the theoretical idea of an ideal society of Sir Thomas Moore, advisor to Henry VIII, developed in the early 16th century. According to this ancient definition, a utopia is seen as a “good place,” despite its literal translation of “no place,” whereas a dystopia is the 1950 coined term meant to oppose a utopia. I’ve learned that dystopia is a “bad place,” meant to be an anti-utopia, a society full of fear, dehumanization, and wretched lives. The key difference between a dystopia and utopia is that the probability of a dystopia becoming a reality is far higher than a utopia’s. Dystopias already exist around us today as a critical part of dystopian society is  being able to distinctly notice when and where the good of the society is being erased. I’ve acquired that this can be validated with the  discovery of the precise constructs of oppression: exploitation, marginalization, powerlessness, cultural domination, and violence. These faces or ways that oppression could take place are key links to how dystopias could form when they are activated; they’re the key component of defining dystopia. We see these in everyday life with gender or race inequality, the hierarchy of socioeconomic status, abuse of child or undocumented people work labor, appropriation, crime, politics, and more. Iris Young even aligned racial oppression in America to be in the form of marginalization. From her point of view, marginals are those who can’t or won’t be used in the labor system. Young quickly noted that Third World countries are prominently known for their use of this type of oppressive act. It is not always based on race, and it could extend to the fact of being “expelled from useful participation in social life,” which results in the lack of ability to provide for oneself. This idea of marginalization weighs heavily on the trans community, especially trans people of color. Young’s breakdown of how oppression exists truly communicates what a dystopian society consists of and how alive it is in society. 

Freud’s writing on the discontents of society revealed that the goal of almost any dystopia is that there’s always a main character (individual) who is trying to maintain their individuality while their society is trying to strip them of it. The goal of any dystopia is to strip the protagonist, or anyone trying to be individualized or different from that; they want everyone to be one, a collective. The main character usually realizes the only way they can remain who they are is to disrupt the society; Freud believed civilization was made to protect ourselves, but all it does is cause harm, he places the individual versus society in an attempt to see what makes us unhappy. The underlying notions of our unhappiness are the very accelerants of a dystopian society and are common throughout the world today. 

Fear is another definitive feature of a dystopian society utilized by a poorly run government or leadership. Hobbes, a strong royalist as reflected in his chapter 13 “State of Nature” wrote, “But because in this the sovereigns uphold the economy of their nations, their state of war doesn’t lead to the sort of misery that occurs when individual men are at liberty from laws and government,” which interprets as a society ceases to exist without the rule of a monarch, as autonomy or Parliamentarism leads to chaos and destruction of man. Hobbes defended the thought that humanity could only thrive under the rule of a crown, as he did not see man being fit to govern themselves which would result in the Hobbesian Jungle. This archetypal symbol of fear and sort of precaution of what man should avoid to prevent mayhem and disarray: nature in its most lethal form. In this Hobbesian Jungle or state of nature, everyone is who they are, basically a reflection of their most unapologetic self following the survival mandate of by any means necessary. In this trope, Hobbes explained that the primary causes of the discord of man are competition, distrust, and glory. These three pillars excel in any dystopia, all fueled by fear of another man. Dystopias always operate under a corrupt form of power, a leading group that manipulates its citizens into fearing this Hobbesian Jungle which in turn causes them to fear all and to only adhere to the ruling power. Dystopias need this internal as well as external fear instilled by some ruling party to flourish for as long as they do. We see this in the world today, especially in Third World countries. 

Lastly, 1984, offered a historical perspective of a dystopia that aligned with the plot of WW2. A real historical event being reflected in its true form as a dystopian construct. Although fictional, this novel gave insight on how even in the past, real events in the world have resembled a dystopian society based on the inclusion of dystopian elements. This further validates how dystopias are real places that exist all around us today which is why these movies feel so relatable. Newer dystopian works involve dealing with issues we face in the real world. Dystopian societies are no longer a pigment of imagination, but possible alternatives to the world we know today. In What Happened to Monday, the society was most definitely led by poor judgment. Other policies or actions could have been put into effect to control the issue of overpopulation besides mass extermination. I still stand on the notion that dystopias are more real than imaginative.

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