Dystopia = good place for powerful = bad place for powerless

In the beginning, I defined dystopia as “an insidious controlled environment, created by people in power, that seems quite normal but upon closer inspection the people are oppressed and treated inhumanely”. I still think this definition encompasses many of the traits I think dystopias have: controlled environments, power dynamics, and oppression. I want to revise this definition to: “a controlled society, created by the people in power, to benefit themselves thereby oppressing those they do not deem to fit their standards”.

Oppression is a very broad term that I’ve come to understand more by reading Iris Young’s “Five Faces of Oppression”, which states that violence, powerlessness, marginalize, cultural imperialism, and exploitation are the 5 general categories. I want to emphasize that all five of these categories stem from a power dynamic–there is someone perpetrating violence, powerlessness, marginalization, imperialism, and exploitation and there is someone receiving these. The perpetrator is the one in power.

The idea that power was present in all oppression was also emphasized in Leviathan XIII where he explains the source of unhappiness stems from human’s inability to accept equality–that they (we) are always striving to be the ones benefitting else we become bored and unhappy. Also in the Foucault’s “Panopticon”, we see that those being observed are made to “fit the standards of those in power” and therefore are powerless to those above them in the hierarchy.

I want to exclude insidious because I think that generally those in power aren’t intentionally looking to oppress those below them but simply are looking to benefit and ignore the consequences that do not concern them. When I watched Planet of the Apes (1968), I thought that Ape City was NOT a dystopia because it seemed too normal–too much like the society we live in now (but in ape form). No oppression was exacerbated and even though the chimpanzee scientists (Cornelius and Zira) were treated unfairly, in the end they accepted the culture and chose to stay there. This also made me think that dystopias only applied to societies because even though the humans were treated inhumanely, they were NOT a part of the society. Also in The Purge (2013), the creation of the purge was by those in power seeking to better the whole of society to fit their standards (I feel like they were seeking to eliminate those weaker than them, the poor, with the purge but I digress).

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