Common Characteristics

A dystopia is defined as a society in which there are great injustices where certain groups or all members suffer oppression. Often we see in fiction the extreme versions of dystopia like in Divergence, Mad Max, 1984, What Happened to Monday, etc… but what we can observe from the core of these works is that dystopias have the characteristics that Iris Young’s Five Faces of Oppression discusses: powerlessness, marginalization, cultural imperialism, violence, and exploitation. Only one of these elements has to be present for there to be a presence of dystopia but usually, there are multiple elements combining to create suffering and oppression of a population. For example, in the movie Divergent, there were leaders of the factions who had higher clearance and knew that certain factions were suffering or that they would be used for tasks that they wouldn’t agree to if they were not being controlled. This is a clear representation of powerlessness and cultural imperialism. Because certain groups were given less and did not have access to certain resources to be able to revolt. Cultural imperialism is embedded in society because of the factions which dictate the function of everyday life and the behaviors of the citizens. We can translate these concepts to real-world issues including the marginalizing of minorities but especially black people. Throughout history, black people in the U.S. were exploited for the economic gain of the majority. Slavery forced a sense of powerlessness on Black people and violence was used as a tactic to keep black people feeling less than others.  Panoptocism is a method that is used to ensure oppression as well. In Foucolt’s Discipline and Punish, he discusses panopticism and it is described as surveillance in which everyone is expecting to be watched at some point and it influences individuals’ behaviors individually and collectively. Panopocism is an element that is visible in real life and in the previous examples I mentioned earlier in the text. All of these factors are put together to create the definition of dystopia and its characteristic of expressing oppression, injustice, and suffering of populations.

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