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All posts by Andrea Guerrero Garcia

A seemingly ongoing debate back home in Spain is the ever-lasting discussion about Catalonia’s Independence and the Catalan language. I have always thought about what it means to be Catalan and what prejudices it seems to come with. We have our own views and the rest of Spain has their own. We are a “bother” but at the same time succeeding is never an option, after all we are the greatest source of tax money for the central government. The situation back home is obviously not a dystopian setting but there is certainly a lot of information masking and how the population of Catalonia is portrayed to the rest of Spain through the main TV channels and newspapers.

I have thought about this topic since we first started talking about propaganda and compared the situation to the different novels we have discussed. It amazes me just how many similarities the situations shared. While in the dystopian governments we have encountered along the semester focus on promoting their personal image and whatever favors their power stance, this is not only a part of the fictional world. Government image and marketing is obviously very important in nowadays political world, now so more than ever maybe, since a lot of debates and issues appear to arise every other day.

I came to believe that Catalonia’s population stand against the situation definitively reminded me about the role that the “rebels” have in the novels we have discussed. In the past decade we have got to manage a referendum and the pacific demonstrations that are held every September 11th have become famous worldwide. It is amazing the amount of people that get together to support “La Diada” that day, and fill the streets of Barcelona. Every year there is a different approach to make the biggest impact and send the most powerful message. However it always revolves around the idea “we want freedom, we want our rights, we are our own people”.

Another issue that makes me think about how propaganda and the government oppress their citizens in our dystopian novels can be compared to this situation, is how many people in Spain and a scarily substantial number of the politicians of opposing groups believe that the Catalan language should be banned. This idea is so frightening to me and it would completely shatter me and my values, since practically my whole persona revolves around my language. It would be something that certainly would be a direct attack against the freedom and culture of the people back home.

Overall, I think that this whole semester has helped me learn about dystopian literature and understand many concepts much more in depth, but what I have learned didn’t necessarily stay inside the classroom in my case. These ideas have been in my mind, especially when I thought about home and the whole situation that been unfolding these past few years. It can be scary to think our reality holds parallels with fictional dystopian plots, but in the end, we all hope for the best.

Tomorrow I am presenting my Academic Conference Paper, where I am going to introduce my class to my research paper. Watch the following video Vlog to get an insight into what I am going to be talking tomorrow! Get excited and ready to LiveTweet my Presentation.

Please feel free to comment any thoughts and suggestions for my research paper. You can even Tweet about it under #1102dystopia and @agg31guerrero so I can read all of your reactions!

At this point in the semester I believe what mostly draws me in about dystopian literature is the general tendency to have protagonists that are generally younger that other genres. It is necessary to point out that I am looking more into YA dystopian books and that can be a contributing factor. In fact, this question is what my research paper is going to focus on. The use of younger protagonists in YA dystopian novels and how this is effective. It is not unknown that YA dystopian literature sales over the past decade have been undoubtedly rising and creating a revolutionary era for this genre.

My independent reading choice was Wither by Lauren De Stefano. I am thinking that this had a great impact on deciding my research project topic. For those who have not yet read the book, and not wanting to spoil the ending for anyone, this novel presents the reader with a reality where women die at the age of twenty and men at the age of twenty-five. It all started with scientists trying to find the cure to all illness and weakness in human nature, which spiraled out of control after the first generation was created, producing this virus that horrifyingly shortens the life of those new generations after them.

Not surprisingly the main protagonist and narrator of the story is a sixteen-year-old girl from New York. It really interests me how young main characters have the power to draw readers in so much and make the novels so effective and popular. Dystopian settings definitively help set a negative environment that the protagonist must learn to overcome, survive and sometimes even change. This is a particular are that I am interested in looking into for my research. How does the dystopian setting of the novels affect the young protagonists in a way that the authors pick them while disregarding adults and older generations that are also present in many of these novels? It seems as the elders in these books are usually those who either hold power and govern society, or are the figures that represent wisdom and are the ones who the here will turn to for help or advice.

I must say that even if I narrowed my research to the study of age patterns in YA dystopian literature, there are many more elements of dystopia that I believe are so interesting and hope to be able to learn more about through other peer’s papers. I have always been enthralled by the amount of action that seems to accompany dystopian novels, even more so those ones that are set under YA literature. Furthermore, it is not easy for me to overlook that they all seem to follow a trend where the protagonist tends to be the narrator. I find this overly powerful when stimulating the reader’s empathy for the protagonist’s actions, even if these are not always the best choice.

Do you believe age has an effect on the plot? Or you believe your favorite YA dystopian novels could have had an adult as a main character?

The worldwide phenomena that the YA dystopian novel The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins has become in the recent years called for an enormous amount of advertisements, movie posters and all sorts of marketing to cater to the audience’s demands. Lionsgate Films, while promoting the third movie in the franchise “Mockingjay, Part 1” decided to design and release a collection of portraits depicting and representing several of Panem’s districts.

Each of the images came accompanied by a blurb about the individuals portrayed in the collection.  These portraits were published in the Capitol’s website as if they were designed and distributed all across Panem by the same Capitol with the objective of glorifying the citizens of each district and thanking them for their hard work and contributing to the community where they belong.

If these portraits have been supposedly created and designed by the Capitol it is obvious that there is always going to be an underlying message. I decided to analyze in particular the portrait associated with District 10, because I believe it has a lot to say and holds a lot of hidden meaning. I am going to refer to different objects and areas of the portraits that I labeled in the images.

The first thing I noticed when looking at the image for the first time was the smoking pipe (1). It is most certainly something placed on purpose and I believe it is a way to depict the Capitol. It is there to show their veiled presence throughout Panem. People in the districts hold no riches when compared with the Capitol and therefore the pipe would seem absurd if it were not mimicking the citizens of Panem’s capital.

Secondly, I started to notice how they turned the model into a citizen that fits into the definition of “cattle” by using a furry coat and a nose ring (2). Clearly the nose ring is an icon that is widely associated with cattle, as it is a symbol we can find in many advertisements and related products. The furry coat obviously envelops the model as if it were his second nature, its clothes, and its comfort. It can also be thought that it is the Capitol’s way to mask their belief that the people in the districts are more animal-like and savages when compared to their own.

It is also important to notice how the district’s seal (3), a cattle and two crossed butcher knives, is then contradicted by how the model is holding the lamb, as if it were its own baby or prized possession, close to his heart. Therefore we are lead to believe that citizens in District 10 value their cattle, but as the emblem shows, in the end they are as lethal as any other for “the good of Panem”.

 

Finally, I would like to talk about the text in this portrait (4). The blurb itself is already downgrading the citizen by saying “raised amongst the herd” as if he were part of the cattle of District 10. However, it is masked by thanking the citizen for its hard work and its contribution to the nation, placing importance in the recognition of “love your labor” and “make us proud”, which ultimately leads to the famous “Panem today, Panem tomorrow, Panem Forever”.

As a whole I believe these portraits created by Lionsgate Films were thoroughly thought through when being designed to align them with the Capitol’s ideology and propagandistic views that are so widely represented throughout the books and movies. These portraits have veiled meanings, thus, the truth is found between the lies.

I always felt like I knew what utopia and dystopia meant and didn’t put much thought into either of them. However, after CCUL readings and class discussions I have come to realize the depths behind the words. While utopia describes an ideally perfect society, dystopia presents us with a broken social atmosphere where the government paints this seemingly perfect view of society through oppressive control; however both of them make a criticism of a current social system, political tendencies or trends. We live in a world where the analysis of societal norms is not a foreign concept, and our trending YA literature is apparently shifting towards dystopian novels.

While dystopian novels may range from science-fiction, horror, fantasy, post-apocalypse…; there are many elements that are common in the majority of examples of this genre that should not be overlooked:

  • Propaganda is a very iconic feature of dystopian literature. Advertisements, pamphlets, television, posters, flyers… they are specifically design to control society while depicting this utopian society.
  • It is not surprising to read about citizens who have been stripped of their freedom, independent thinking and access to information. We usually encounter with descriptions of characters who are under constant surveillance and cannot exercise their free will, having to conform to a government-set uniformity.

  • Natural environment seems to have reached a point of near destruction and is scarce. Many dystopian novels set their plots in futuristic scenery with barely any greens.
  • It is also worth mentioning the fact that control is not only exercised by the government (The Hunger Games), but sometimes corporations (The Maze Runner) and even technology (The Matrix).
  • The main character prototype of this genre tends to be an individual who questions authority and the existing regimes that are oppressing society. The protagonist is someone who tend to realize the negative aspects of their dystopian society. It is not uncommon to find novels where the population is drugged or brainwashed to the point they do not understand the reality of their situation and it is often the main character the one who wakes up from this state due to diverse reasons.

In my opinion, the combination of dystopia with another genre definitively means a shift in the topics covered and how the plot unfolds, adjusting literature towards these other subgenres. I however do not believe they immensely change the definition because its basic traits continue to be present, mildly affected, but still there and creating the atmosphere previously discussed. Combining dystopia with YA literature probably means adjusting the context to a younger audience and making sure the reading is appealing to the younger generations that are picking up the book. One can notice the trends in slightly younger protagonists and the frequent apparition of young romance that tend to attract the public they are targeted at.

So, why is it that such a perfect word describes such an imperfect reality?