The definition of dystopia hovers around the idea that everything is bad. However, “bad” exists as a relative term, varying for each person and for every time period. With this being said, human fears tend to be fairly homogenous on average, like fearing death, starvation, oppression. When examining dystopias, I tend to find that utopias and dystopias are not mutually exclusive; they exist within each other. One of my favorite movies, Pleasantville, exemplifies this perfectly (no pun intended). In their society, basketballs go in baskets every time, everyone makes straight A’s, and couples sleep in separate beds. But the very idea of a society rid of thrills, excitement, and rebellion screams oppression – something heavily associated with dystopia. On the flip side, every dystopian society has a ruling party or oppressor, living their best life in power and watching the “others” as they live at their mercy. Trying to separate an ideal society from its counterpart is almost impossible as long as some peoples’ dreams come at the expense of others’ nightmares.
In making dystopian literature more interesting, it is often combined with other genres to add another dimension to the context and plot. Science fiction is what reminds me most of a dystopia, capitalizing on our natural fear of the future and what is unknown. These books show us a world we would rather live without, often taking a current issue and launching it 20 steps forward. This is seen in Fahrenheit 451, where Bradbury creates a world ruled by technology and void of the deep thought that comes with reading. People fall asleep with tiny ear buds adorning their ears, and spend their days in salons walled with viewing screens. Books and reading are illegal. Describing a dystopia in the scope of a science fiction novel does not change the definition of a dystopia, but instead relates it to the specific fear of technology, and its potential to make us lose our character by being able to do, think, and create for ourselves.
Beyond concentrating on a specific genre, the idea of a dystopia can be targeted to young adults; this implies zooming in on the relative “bad” for young adults. Oppression of character, lack of freedom, a predetermined future – these are all fears of the general population, but are especially amplified in the younger generation that have yet to experience their full potential in their lifetime. The Hunger Games is a modern classic for YA dystopian literature, encompassing all of these “bads” in the society of Panem. It is very much still a true dystopia by genre and definition, but becomes centralized on the fears of the young adult population.