Dystopias: What Are They Really?

Growing up in the 2010s, the dystopian genre was all the rage. The Hunger Games, Divergent, and Maze Runner were released as movies, what felt like, back-to-back (among others), and they were all received so well by the public. The movies were great, sure, but the books were enthralling, nuanced, and thought-provoking.

These were stories wherein the characters were subjected to the capitalist exploitation in the form of children fighting to the death for entertainment for the wealthy elite, in terms of the Hunger Games; or individuals being forced into niche social groups based upon their personality traits or risk being killed for not choosing to conform to society’s rules, in the case of Divergent. One cannot deny that, when discussing these stories, some themes are evident, but can they be combined to answer one question: What IS a dystopia?

According to reoccurring themes in Hollywood and my experience with the genre, a dystopia is 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. As I mentioned earlier, there are many reoccurring themes within modern dystopian narratives that prove this definition to be true. Let’s begin with the first part of the definition and compare it to the Hunger Games. I stated: “a hypothetical society wherein a group of people is being exploited socially, economically, or politically for the benefit of another group.” The Hunger Games showed all three forms of exploitation wherein citizens were placed into districts, each district focusing on a particular means of production to maximize profits (such as a district for taxtiles, a district for crops, etc.) while simultaneously experiencing extreme poverty, so that covers the economic component. Then, the districts were being pit against one another by forcing the children from each district to kill each other until one was left, and the following “Victory Tour” (which was the tour following the end of the Hunger Games wherein the Victor would tour the districts and celebrate their victory) would stand to divide the districts through bitterness and resentment. These negative emotions would stand to create complacency and hopelessness in the residents of the districts by reminding them that they do not have the power to create change because they cannot even save their children, covering the political and social component! By having these events occur in this way, the citizens of the capital (the wealthy elite) were able to live comfortably, exploit the children for entertainment, and keep the districts separate and from overthrowing the capital through brute force violence, fear, and false class consciousness–Marx is rolling in his grave, I am sure!

This ties directly into my point of intense methods of oppression. There is little in the real world as intense as forcing complacency by forcing people to watch their children be murdered on live television. The fear, confusion, grief, despair, among other emotions. Individuals are forced to watch as they lose people who are close to their heart. Worse, some are forced to martyr themselves for the sake of family, friendship, desperation, or escape from hardship.

However, this definition has not been cross checked with other, let alone older, dystopian narratives. It begs the question, what was considered dystopian 50 or 60 years ago, and if it is different, what contributed to the modern fears which curated the modern interpretation of a modern dystopia?

Maybe it is just human nature contemplate a worse reality to reconcile and to escape from the hardships happening already.

About Taylor

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