In my own words, I would define dystopia as a typically negatively connotated society where its citizens’ and/or their individual rights are compromised in order to uphold a collective greater good (i.e. order, fairness, etc.,).
I think my definition holds true in reference to many literary works and films. For example, the society in The Giver was meant to be a utopia free from pain, capitalizing on the saying, “ignorance is bliss”. However, in order to achieve this greater good, the citizens were deprived of knowledge and freedoms they did not know existed. In The Thinning, citizens lives were put at stake to support the greater good of population control. Another aspect important in recognizing a dystopia is perspective. Using The Giver as an example again, there are two perspectives since the beginning of the film; that of the typical citizen (utopia), and that of the Giver (dystopia). The average citizens saw no problem with society as they were purposely uneducated and stripped of their right to question anything. The Giver was burdened with all knowledge and had no freedom to share that knowledge. I view the world we live in in the same way, although not as extreme. As Americans and any other developed nation, we live in a utopia in the grand scheme of things. We have freedoms, rights, necessities, and so much more. We have the luxury to complain and advocate for changes. On the other hand, there are other nations, some less developed, that have no choice but to make do with what they have despite knowing there are other possibilities. They live in a dystopia where the people have no choice but to work unendingly to just barely survive, which further empowers the rich nations. Even if they have the freedom to emigrate on paper, the real deciding factor is plausibility.
Overall, I do not think that any dystopia was created with the intention of becoming a dystopia. All dystopias are products of ideas similar to those of utopias. The only difference is that one of the two are realistically obtainable. Therefore, I believe intention and perspective are truly important when defining dystopia or utopia.
A realist passing through…