A dystopia is a reality where society is permeated and governed by fear, oppression, isolation, and haunted by the consequences of mounting rash decisions. A dystopia usually results when a society is at the end of its rope, and its leaders are grasping for their final attempt to get a hold of reality as their immoral or selfish decisions begin to catch up to them before it’s too late. Everyone in society is ruled by fear, fear of different things, and for different reasons.
The oppressors are usually fearful of the projected outcome becoming a reality, which in many dystopias, is the end of humanity. This fear leads them to enforce oppressive laws on everyone to try to control the outcome by controlling the population through surveillance, imprisonment, factions, punishment, and/or control of resources. In The Handmaid’s Tale, The low fertility rate and political unrest lead to the totalitarianism of the Gilead. In the series The 100, it was the earth being uninhabitable from nuclear radiation that led them into space. While in space the civilization on the Ark had strict rules, and scarce resources which created an oppressive environment for the citizens on board. According to Iris Young, the facets of oppression include exploitation, marginalization, oppressed groups experiencing a lack of agency and power in decisions, erasure of oppressed groups’ culture by forcing the dominant groups as the norm, and systematic violence.
The oppressed are fearful of the oppressors and the punishments they subject anyone who rebels to. In The Handmaid’s Tale, the handmaids who rebelled broke rules or were “problematic” and faced physical violence, mutilation, exile to the colonies, isolation, or public execution. The handmaids were already subjected to being human incubators, endured rape, humiliation, loss of autonomy, surveillance, and stripping of all remnants of their past lives, including their children, becoming reduced to the fruits of their wombs.
Although, in theory, dystopias are an imagined society and fiction, many elements within the imagined society are visible in current society. A common theme in dystopias is that the events that create the environment for the dystopia to occur could have been prevented. In The 100, it was poor AI programming. Other dystopias are war and the need for complete control or power. These things could have been prevented, but several bad decisions allowed them to reach the point of no return where morality and humanity were forsaken, and desperation crept in. Will today’s bad decision be the nail in the coffin and put society over the line?