A New Dystopia

At the beginning of the semester, my definition of dystopia was as follows: dystopia is a world or society where people lead the lives of many while being under the control of a few. Now, my definition of dystopia is a society where its people are controlled and oppressed by those in power.

Over the course of the semester, we have seen Young’s Five Faces of Oppression appear over and over again when discussing dystopias. We’ve seen the faces in The Handmaid’s Tale, The Purge, and Brown Girl in the Ring. A common face in all three media was violence; all three stories have a society within which violence is ingrained. The people of the society are controlled through fear of harm. In The Handmaid’s Tale they had the wall where they hung bodies, in The Purge it was the purge itself, and in Brown Girl in the Ring it was the violence under Rudy and his posse. Another way of keeping control is by maintaining the illusion or reality of constant surveillance. In the annotated reading Panopticism, we learned about the panopticon and how the foundation of its effectiveness relied on the illusion of constant surveillance; that the inmates would behave because they did not know when they were being watched. We saw this idea pop up in The Handmaid’s Tale as the main character, Offred, was always worried about The Eyes. An example of this is when she worries that the doctor is an Eye and is trying to catch her doing wrong (ie allowing him to impregnate her). I also saw control through constant surveillance in my dystopian research movie, Fahrenheit 451. In the movie they were not only controlling their access to knowledge, but also their privacy. A big part of this was the AI system that everyone on the grid had and the 9 where they could monitor what people uploaded. Guy Montag was able to be watched and followed throughout the entirety of the movie.

I still think that my definition of dystopia is vague, but I feel that it has come a long way. It is easier to mark a fake world as a dystopia than real life. Based on my current definition we would always be in a dystopia; and maybe we are, but maybe we aren’t.

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