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Last week, we discussed dysptopias in detail – various definitions, comparing dystopian novels to other genres, and their usage in Young Adult literature. One topic that was explored in various posts was the idea that one individual’s dystopia could be another’s utopia. Propaganda is defined as “the spreading of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person.”(1) In the same sense, we’ve seen how propaganda has been used to promote the false ideals of a selective utopia to those who bear the brunt of the dystopian aspects.

One of the best examples of such propaganda is presented during the Reaping in the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. The scene starts by describing the selection of a “courageous young man and woman for the honor of representing” the District in the Hunger Games. Right from the start, the speech attempts to influence the districts towards the idea that participating in the Games is a prestigious role, that results in wealth and glory. Even the name of the event could be considered an attempt to disguise its gruesome reality as a show of power by the Capitol. They take the children of the districts and force them to fight to the death for entertainment, and there isn’t anything the people can do to stop it. Obviously, this feeble attempt at propaganda has little success among the districts, however it is supplied with a second message by showing the people the ruins of District 13 year after year. This has the effect of reminding the people that the Games were a direct result of the Districts defying the Capitols power during the so-called “Dark Days”. We only see the video played in District 12, however when viewed on a larger scale, it actually could be considered a very clever work of propaganda. For the Districts, it reminds the people of the power of the government, as well as the consequences of defied the established order. On the other hand, for the brainwashed individuals of the Capitol, who have grown up knowing only the glory of the Games and the Capitol, it functions as a tool to convince them that they were in a time of peace and prosperity, as opposed to the Dark Days, which is portrayed as a direct result of the ungracious districts rebelling against the faultless Capitol. We can see how the meaning and implications of the video is different depending on whether it’s viewed by a struggling, fearful citizen of the districts or a pampered member of the Capitol who lives in comfort and prosperity.

The marketing campaigns for The Hunger Games movie actually presents a shockingly similar view to the propaganda in the film itself. Making use of electronic communication more commonly used by the younger generation that made up their target audience, the producers primarily advertised on social media as a cheap, but effectual method of reaching the public. However, due to worries about marketing a battlefield for children as a young adult movie, they carefully didn’t release any footage of the actual Games, as well as avoided any mention of the concept of children killing other children, directing the advertisements towards the fact that “only one wins”. (2) It’s amazing to think that propaganda so similar that is so obvious in the movie, can go unnoticed by the general populace.

Works Cited:
1. “Propaganda.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/propaganda
2. “How ‘Hunger Games’ Built Up Must-See Fever”, The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/19/business/media/how-hunger-games-built-up-must-see-fever.html
Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3PJ3Du_zDc
Image: http://wp.outbrain.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/content-marketing-hunger-games-movie.png

YAtopia

Dystopia

A dystopia is defined as “an imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and often fearful lives.” The term originated from the word “utopia” which first appeared in a work by Sir Thomas More in 1516. This general genre of writing has been implemented in a variety of different ways, though it often is presented in a sci-fi or post-apocalyptic setting. By the definition, you would view such a world in a negative light, however that’s not necessarily the case. While this may be true in a show like The Walking Dead, where no one remains unaffected by the zombie outbreak, there are cases where a dystopia can be also considered as a utopia. The Giver by Lois Lowry is such a novel where this ‘selective dystopia’ is present. The society itself is presented as utopian, where the citizens live without even the memory of hunger, war, sickness, etc by submitting to very strict regulations by the government and having a single individual bear the burden of negative memories. This begs the question – is a utopian if those living in it is unaware of the dystopian aspects?

YA Dystopia

Young adult literature is made to be consumed by an individual going through a possibly troubled or confusing time in their life as they make the transition out of childhood. YA dystopias often feature individuals similar to ourselves, allowing us to connect to them as they undergo a turning point in their life. The Giver is once again the first novel that comes to mind, as we read about Jonas make the same transition from his utopian childhood to understanding the underlying dystopia in which he lives. A secondary aspect of YA dystopias is that the main character often goes about trying to change or escape the dystopia that they enter into. This could be viewed as an appeal to the minds of the intended audience to not simply accept the world around them, as so many less important characters in the novels appear to do. It encourages them to take control of their lives, and strive to make a change rather than being just another sheep in the flock. Such novels also maintain a sense of ‘light in the darkness’ – no matter how bad the situation is, there is a ray of hope to cling to, perhaps another indication to us readers that no situation is ever truly hopeless. All in all, YA dystopian novels appear to nurture young minds and prepare us for one of the hardest and most drastic transitional periods of our lives.

Works Cited:

“Dystopia.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dystopia

“The Giver” Sparknotes, Sparknotes, www.sparknotes.com/lit/giver/context.html