Many dystopias are ruled by a manipulative government which encourages a strict set of rules for its citizens to follow. Through the use of media and propaganda, the government associates the rules with punishment or a life of pain and suffering. Using media, the government spews falsehoods on how society couldn’t be any better than it is at present. The government usually demands gratitude and support, stating that they provide peace, protection and happiness. In dystopias, these propaganda pieces frequently take one of two approaches. Fear, meant to scare the citizens into submitting or a flawed hope which appeals to citizens wishing to believe in their society’s lie are used in order to control the society in which the government rules.
One of the most common examples of propaganda usage creating fear in society is the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. In Collins’ book, media is widely used in order to keep the citizens of Panem from standing up against the Capitol. The government taunts the districts by taking two children from each of the twelve districts and forces them to savagely murder one another. Every year the citizens are required to watch the Games as their children fight to the death. As a means to profit and steer hatred away from the Capitol, the Games are televised as if they are a TV show. Tributes are materialized and branded as products that can be bought. In this sense, the Capitol does an excellent job at using media in order to desensitize and commercialize the Games. The Capitol profits from the exploitation of the tributes and the redirection of hatred and blame onto other districts. By broadcasting the Games and making the districts watch the spectacle, districts begin to believe that other districts are at fault for the death of their children, not the Capitol, losing sight of the true enemy. Through the Hunger Games, the Capitol is able to assert its dominance and power over the twelve districts, striking fear into every citizen’s heart, isolating the districts and capitalizing on the deaths of the district’s’ children.
On the other hand, in the Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld, propaganda is used to manipulate the citizens into wanting to become pretty. Using electronic technology and the promise of a better life, children can’t help but wait for their transformation. By the time they reach sixteen, they are finally able to undergo a procedure making them pretty and are welcomed into an exciting new life. Children are convinced everything is better in New Pretty Town where all the pretties live with amazing technology, extravagant parties and the freedom to do almost anything they want.
In both cases, propaganda and media are used to control and manipulate citizens. Suzanne Collins takes a violent approach, utilizing media and propaganda as a way to strike fear into her characters’ hearts while Scott Westerfeld employs propaganda in order to trick characters into believing being pretty is the only way to be happy. The purpose of propaganda in these dystopias, and others, is to fool characters in some way. Characters believe that there is no other way to find joy in life unless they conform and comply with the rest of society.