Dystopias: Art and a Representation of Reality

Due to my exposure to the dystopian genre, which was through young adult novels, fiction movies, and short films, I believed that these media were merely fiction works meant to entertain. However, once taking the time to fully analyze the media I was consuming and to grasp what was happening as it relates to society, I was amazed. Many would be amazed, I would argue; because—can one say that dystopias are only fictional works when there are fulfilled predictions and real-world displays of “dystopian” characteristics in the real world?

At the beginning of this semester, I defined a dystopia as “a hypothetical society wherein a group of people is being exploited socially, economically, or politically for the benefit of another group through intense methods of oppression.” Firstly, I would define oppression, which Iris Young, in her “Five Faces of Oppression,” defines as working through five different operations: exploitation, marginalization, powerlessness, cultural domination, and violence. In summary, she explains that oppression exists due to the social, political, and economic contexts in which individuals live, and these institutions within society create disparities which are perpetuated through multiple mediums existing on every level of society. This is an undeniable truth due to the reoccurrence of an uprising following the oppression of groups experiencing social hardship after a major social or political event. No matter the route that is taken or the plot of the medium, there will always be a group being exploited. However, this definition does not explain the entertainment component of dystopias.

Individuals love to indulge in literature telling a story about the potential hardships that could exist. Dystopias are a commentary on society, but they are also entertainment, escape, and a form of art. In “Dystopias Now” by Kim Stanley Robinson, they mention the art style of surrealism which was an artistic movement surrounding “unnerving, illogical scenes and developed techniques to allow the unconscious mind to express itself.” Due to the extent that dystopian media go to make a commentary about the state of social circumstances in society, creating chilling, unnerving, jolting images, and narratives about a world to be, I would argue that this is intentional. Somewhere along the lines of entertainment and art, dystopias were born with the purpose of creating social commentary which would create a formative call to action for the masses. Art is meant to be impactful, and if individuals are entertained while they ponder the potential downfall of society, contemplating their actions, then people will inevitably be impacted.

With all of this in mind, I formed a new definition. Dystopias are a form of surrealist art, representing the unnerving, potentially illogical, possibilities of a society wherein a group of people is being exploited socially, economically, or politically for the benefit of another group through intense methods of oppression to encourage reformative action or thought.

About Taylor

Pontificator, Overthinker, Lover of Witty Banter. Is this thing on?
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