Dystopian Disconnect: Too many stories overloaded with fancy but neglect lessons for exploring today

“Utopia” is a word that within itself is impossible to achieve. This word’s definition is often cited as a majestic, beautiful future time where humanity has solved all of life’s problems, containing but not limited to war, hunger, disease, racism, sexism and terrible pop music. In this coming period everyone is able to be as jolly and loving as possible, life is fantastic and despair is nonexistent. The majority of people who are familiar with this word, though, do not know the origin.

In 1516, a man named Sir Thomas More created the word for a novel about a fictional perfect island in the Atlantic Ocean, simply titled “Utopia.” He created the word from the greek words       meaning “not” and              meaning “place,” translating to No Place. Even within the word itself, it already is impossible. The only way to properly explain it is as No Place, a mystical point in time that will forever be out of reach of us until there is no one left to chase after it anymore.

The mere idea of a utopian society, though, has unsurprisingly driven many different figures to try and create this future land of paradise. The most notable name of modern times who attempted this was a man named Adolf Hitler. That did not go well. This is just one example of many that shows the true fate that so called “utopian societies” end up succumbing to. The polar opposite of the utopia, the dystopia.

People have been obsessed with ideas of a dystopian world ever since 1726 when “Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. In Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships” (more commonly known as “Gulliver’s Travels”) by Jonathan Swift was published. With its unique writing style it was able to show a ridiculous world of chaos and disorder, having rather large parallels to the real world’s absurdness. This started off an extraordinary sub-genre of art focussed on taking issues within society at the time of the certain art form being created and expanding the problems to extreme heights in a fictional future where these faults will ruin a portion or all of how we live our lives. One was able to comment on what they saw in the world by reflecting on it from a future perspective where ideas possibly only gaining attraction when the work was created were then responsible for the absolute failure of humanity.

Incredible novels such as “1984” by George Orwell about the dangers of totalitarianism and the idea of thought crime and “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley about society being taken over with sex, drugs, consumerism and the idea that if too much useless information is flooded out, no one will ever focus on the important news necessary to know were created using this technique. Many more incredible works such as “A Clockwork Orange” by Anthony Burgess, “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury and “The Trial” by Franz Kafka reveal the fantastic criticism that can be made using this extraordinary technique, but a worrying trend has begun within dystopian fiction.

The main problem with it now is that the motives for writing have changed. While in the past it was created as a way of critiquing the dangerous things creeping up that could lead to a disturbing future, now a dystopia is used for entertainment. This goes along with a theme noticeable throughout recent years which is that it is now “cool” to be opressed. Having the man squash you down (whether this is actually happening or not) means that you’re a victim who deserves pity and needs help in fighting back against the oppressive government, with anyone rejecting that being demonized by these “victims.” These people make it infinitely more difficult to fight back against real oppression when everyone is screaming “I’m oppressed” every few seconds.

This has worked its way into literature as the once incredible artform of the dystopian novel now consists of a book targeted to rebellious young adults who will eat up stories like this about a future that usually makes absolutely no sense in how we actually get from here to there as any discussion of actual problems facing society are usually extremely and insultingly obvious, the few that are included, as any intelligent discussion is taking a backseat to the story of a poor teenager who is incredibly relatable (because they are made to be bland in a way that you can personify yourself into their role) who now needs to fight against the dictatorship (because that is the only bad thing these people can think of to critique) in a revolution that never plays out anything like how any revolution has ever occurred.

It is an exact, boring formula at this point that produces bland and forgettable stories as it tries to trick you into thinking that it’s a social commentary when really it’s just a story about a teen kid fighting the power that just happens to be set in the future because that sells. Like previously stated, there is little to no indication in any sort of a probable way to how society got to the low that is shown in these books, which disconnects the reader from making any further connections to present day as the whole point is that this novel is supposed to show what the future might be like. How can anyone believe that when the core idea of the new civilization makes no sense?

The little commentary these books supply are almost always just about fascist dictatorships because everyone hates fascism in America, so it is the easiest to critique. Questions of individuality are as well constantly brought up to fit the reader demographic of teens “discovering themselves,” which is done in predictable patterns where it is obvious the teen by the end will learn that it is good to go against injustice, even if the majority are for it, the easiest message ever to communicate to a person.

In the end these books try to make it look like they are warning people of what the future might hold for the generations to come, but really are just instruction manuals to teach teenagers how to live out their fantasies of going against authority without actually talking about what to go against them for in real life. These books could be brilliant ways to show young people the true problems facing our world today (and God knows there’s no lack of source material there), but instead decide on something that will please the general public just enough to get a movie deal. It’s depressing that this is what we have let happen to such a unique art form.

Maybe one day someone will wake up and say “There certainly are a lot of problems out there, maybe I should show the effects these might have” and then go on to write the next “1984,” but until then, it is important to remember that we are the next generation, and we collectively will be in charge of maintaining art very soon, as well as the rest of the planet. We will be left with this in our hands, so let’s try to do our best at rebuilding whatever has been broken so that the generations soon after are not going through their own real dystopia from the ashes we have left behind.

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