Check out my vlog post on environmental consciousness in dystopias like Ship Breaker.
Bacigalupi, Paolo. Ship Breaker. London, Atom, 2011.
Check out my vlog post on environmental consciousness in dystopias like Ship Breaker.
Bacigalupi, Paolo. Ship Breaker. London, Atom, 2011.
How have divisions in society transformed over time? The answer is complex and the following book is an essential research in being able to compare contemporary society to dystopian society. This book, Understanding Contemporary Society: Theories of the Present, is an excellent resource in addressing the complexity of social theory today. In my research, I focused on Chapter 3, entitled Post-feminism, which defines the post-feminist theory and how it differs immensely from previous feminist thought and theories. Post-feminism is defined as the notion of women having power, but not losing their “femininity”, which stems from the idea feminists lose femininity. In literature, as in dystopias, this provides “a critique of previous assumptions of the self, the social, the political, history, the text, knowledge, and ‘the West’”(Browning, 65). I found this theory and source especially useful and interesting in investigating feminist elements in recent dystopian literature.
This chapter uses concrete examples of post-feminist theory in literature and in television. One key piece used in supporting their claim is that of the series Star Trek: Voyager, which is set in the twenty-fourth century and explores the role of a post-feminist woman as starship captain. Tough leadership and courage characterize protagonist Janeway, though she doesn’t lose her “femininity” in this role, highlighting the post-feminist depiction of this character.
This chapter is a useful tool in identifying the social context in recent years of feminism, and its portrayal in literature. In my project, I am using this to argue the content and focus of women’s roles and depiction in this post-feminism period. Novels like my independent reading book The Selection, feature strong independent female leads, who are still able to embrace their femininity and stand up for female power and fight oppression, while not losing this aspect of themselves, a key factor in the post-feminist period.
Another useful chapter in this book include Chapter 33, entitled Social inequalities: coming to terms with complexity. This section argues that social divisions such as “class, gender, ethnicity, race, age, religion, and sexual orientation [are] intertwined to produce multifaceted and intricate forms of social hierarchy”(Browning, 478). This section would be useful for anyone curious about the divisions and inequalities within a society and comparing that to their independent reading novel or other dystopian societies.
Browning, Gary K., Understanding Contemporary Society: Theories of the Present. London, Sage, 2000.
Dystopian literature is a pivotal tool in critiquing current society and providing us examples, although some more extreme than others, of what could happen if we don’t change or improve our current society’s flaws. With this idea in mind, dystopian novels often try to create realistic worlds in which we can clearly see parallels between the society depicted and our own. Therefore, the political and social climate the novel was written plays a key role in how these divisions of race, class, and gender are represented in dystopias. For my conference and research paper, I will be using my novel The Selection and other dystopian novels written throughout recent history to analyze the difference between female and male depiction in dystopian literature and how situations in society at the time they were written impacted this representation.
Women have been struggling to gain equality in our society for much of the past two hundred years. Through historical periods such as the suffrage movement or women’s liberation movement, men and women have been given more equal roles in society, yet today divisions still exist. As dystopian novels often critique the flaws of our society, when our society refuses to recognize the genders as equal, these novels provide examples of the downfalls of this lack of recognition, or the benefits when one challenges the recognition.
More recently, though men and women are more equal than ever, there still exists gaps in equality between the genders. Currently, difference in wage, political representation, and statistics in employment reinforce the gaps that exist in gender. Stereotypes and social norms still influence society’s thought and perception of the two genders and therefore the fight more recently has been toward changing the social climate of our society and the views of the genders.
My independent reading book, published recently in 2012, The Selection, the strong, feminist lead America challenges stereotypes given by her society, where men are the providers and women are valued moreover for beauty than intelligence. The Selection emulates The Bachelor, where one man chooses from a pool of many women. The Selection seems to be a criticism of such shows like The Bachelor that objectify women.
Dystopian literature allows us to reflect on the current state our society and provides a warning of how portions of our society could worsen. In order to truly understanding the gender systems in dystopias, we must analyze the society at the time By doing so, we can deduce the root of the depiction of gender in the novel and how the dystopia seeks to address or overcome the flaw in gender divisions plaguing society.
Cass, Kiera. The Selection. New York, HarperTeen, 2012.
Dystopias often provide a critique of our own society and it interests me what this critique is and what we, as a society, can learn from it. Obviously, our society is far from perfection and it seems the only way to make any sort of progress is to identify and examine our society’s flaws. Dystopias in general seem to propagate the idea that we must cooperate and collaborate with each other to prevent the extremities of such corrupt societies from taking shape.
My independent reading book, The Selection, follows 35 girls who compete for the love, or rather wealth, of the prince, in a series of highly-controlled, televised updates. The quest of the women is televised, and provides yet another instance of propaganda in which what is being shown is not at all like reality of the situation, but rather what those in power wish the population to believe. This contest has obvious parallels to reality TV shows popular in today’s society like The Bachelor, a highly scripted, unauthentic reality love show. The Hunger Games also provides a similar critique as the games are televised and controlled by the Capitol, similar to how reality TV today is controlled by producers and writers. In The Selection, The Hunger Games, or even in today’s society, television is not the only thing controlled, but rather its control suggests that if something so seemingly insignificant as television can be used to manipulate the population and propagate the ideas of those in power, it evokes the question of what else can they be in control of?
Though I am not a huge fan of the dystopian world set up in The Selection, an important thing it does is show the flaws in of societal structure and the division of classes. In The Selection we are introduced to a world of different castes, from 1, the royal/extremely wealthy class, to 8, the homeless, poverty-stricken. The divisions are so strict, people deemed a certain caste can only work certain jobs and hold specific roles in the society. The lower caste you are, the more likely you will not be able to feed yourself or your family. A higher equates to more wealth and therefore a greater possibility of survival. Corruption like this is often central in dystopian societies, whether at fault of the government or from utter lack of one. This corruption affects the shapes a dystopian society takes. In The Selection your worth is considered as high as your caste and it accentuates the idea there are only eight type of people in the society.
With that being said, I wonder how the class systems in novels like The Selection or The Hunger Games are affected by the dystopian societies they are part of. Do the circumstances that drove the dystopia’s creation play any role in the class system that thereafter developed? Do the class systems today in our society share any commonalities with those of such dystopias? I look to research questions much like these to better understand the classes in our own society.
I hate to admit it, but I first watched Catching Fire before I read any of the books, or even watched the original Hunger Games. Instead, my impression of the series before watching this movie, was shaped by what I viewed in advertisements on television or in magazines, like those for Covergirl’s Catching Fire collection or Subway’s “Fiery” subs. Everything in the media made the world of The Hunger Games seem so extravagant and lavish, however upon reading the book soon after viewing the movie, I realized this initial impression of mine, cultivated by all the marketing, was completely off from the series’ reality. The dystopian society of The Hunger Games is a mixture of extreme fear, poverty, depression, and a multitude of intimidation and corruption at the hands of the Capitol. However, the ads for the movies rarely, if it all, highlighted the uglier truth in the series. The Capitol uses this same technique as it manipulates the districts. It seeks to make the situation of Panem seem a whole lot better off than it is in actuality through an extreme amount of propaganda.
It is undeniable that propaganda plays a key role in Panem and keeping the districts in so called “order”. When the mayor reads off the history of Panem on reaping day, he lists “the disasters, the droughts, the storms, the fires, the encroaching seas that swallowed up much of the land”(Collins). The Capitol seeks to maintain its control over the districts especially on reaping day, which the day itself is plenty of a reason to spark a rebellion, as two dozen children are chosen to be killed by the Capitol. Seeing the obvious reason for potential for rebellion, the Capitol uses propaganda like this to keep the districts in check. They make it clear how worse off the citizens of Panem were before the Capitol came in control. They are making an effort to convince the citizens that with the Dark Days and rebellion, the Hunger Games is obviously the only solution to maintain this “peace”, therefore there is no need to rebel. The Capitol is doing what is best for the citizens, or so it claims. When every piece of information you get about your history is distorted and manipulated, and when you have been told these same lies your entire life, it is hard to see a reason why you would ever have doubt. Even though it seems inconceivable to us today, we don’t know what it is like to not have the freedom to do our own research, form our own opinions, and not have everything we know about anything be based on severe lies. The Capitol needs propaganda like this video to keep their citizens in check and for them to see that their is no grounds for rebellion, even if their current conditions are horrible, the Capitol assures them what they have is good, or rather it could be a lot worse.
Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. NY, NY, Scholastic Press, 2008.
Whenever I used to hear the word “dystopia”, my first thought was of The Hunger Games. Of course The Hunger Games is not the definition of a dystopia, but the novel combines many of the elements of what I would consider a dystopia. The majority of the people in Panem are living in what we today would consider an absolute nightmare. The living conditions are miserable, they lack basic needs, and lack the will to be independent and free-thinking individuals, and instead are forced to conform to the society, often in fear for their lives. The government that controls them would be the definition of corruption, as they feed off this never-ending fear from the citizens. This exemplifies much of what a dystopia is: a society filled with unfavorable living conditions, governmental corruption, and an overwhelming sense of fear. Though the country of Panem may seem to be a dystopia to its citizens, others, particularly those in power, could think of it as their utopia, indicating one’s idea of a dystopia may differ from person to person.
Combining a dystopia with another genre such as sci-fi does not really change the fundamentals of dystopias in my definition, but rather expands the definition into new territory. For me, a dystopia does not necessarily have to involve science fiction, but often does, and when it does the circumstances of the society simply become more fascinating. People often misidentify one genre as the other, but there is a clear distinction between the two. Sci-fi does not necessarily include the chaos and corruption found in dystopias, but rather includes the scientific advancements that seem impossible and unimaginable in today’s society. Dystopian societies and governments that incorporate these scientific and technological advancements often seem to misuse them in order to maintain their control of the population, as in The Hunger Games.
Young adult literature generally has a target audience of 12-18, and I believe this younger audience generally needs something else to get them interested in reading a novel more than just a corrupt futuristic society. For this reason, the majority of the YA dystopian novels I am familiar with have young protagonists themselves, in order to appeal to this audience. For example, when I first read the Hunger Games, I, only a few years younger at the time, could relate to Katniss and her experience as a young adult. I was intrigued to see how someone my own age would navigate through the corruption and disorder of a dystopia while still facing struggles common in all teenagers.