During my research presentation, I will be talking what makes dystopias so popular to young adults. There will be discussing five main points that will support my thesis: types of dystopian societies, restrictions as a definition of dystopian societies, the role of young adults in dystopia, the connection between the audience and dystopia literature, and what makes them popular. As you may have known already, every dystopia has some type of control, whether it be by the government, a group of people, or a single person. Identifying the control of a dystopia can make it easier for the reader to understand what is happening in that society. I also want to talk about how the control of a dystopia wants children to behave and why. Why does government control take major risks in order to stay in control? In most dystopias, the main character is usually a young adult in their teens because they are the ones that are mostly affected by the dystopian control. The connection that lies between dystopia literature and young adults is a true definition of patterns that follow through with these young adults. Young adults are revolted by the attitudes and actions that that happen within their societies. They do not find it right that others are smug and bear no feelings towards the injustices and cruelty committed upon human beings. Some people think that dystopian literature would be more appealing to young adults and adolescents merely because it does touch on romantic and platonic relationships. However, a lot of young adults may relate with this as the struggle to transition into adulthood and find one’s identity has been on for the longest time. Base on the events that have occurred in our generation these past couple of years, this makes it easier for authors to have their characters relate to us in the role they play in their community. By reading their books, we gain some type of knowledge of what can happen to us someday and makes us realize that we need to stand up for what is right now than to what when it is too late later on.
As I continued digging into various resources for my initial research question “do people believe that consumerism can lead to dystopia?”, I now have an answer: yes, consumerism is a dangerous and strong force that can transform a capitalist society into dystopia. The evidence I found can be categorized into three divisions: the environmental, social and political impact of consumerism. Considering the limited scope of this research project, I will focus only on the social aspect, therefore raising a more specific question: how can consumerism cause a dystopia to form from a social perspective?
I will address the question from three levels of social analysis: from the most micro level—how consumerism affect individuals in a society, to the ways in which people interact, finally to large scale socio-economic classes that comprise the whole society. Details from the dystopian society in M. T. Anderson’s Feed corresponding to each level of society will be presented and parallels will be drawn to present capitalist societies using sociological analysis.
On the level of individuals, consumption is addictive. In a consumerist society where consumption is promoted as the foremost necessity, consuming easily becomes an impulsive behavior as individuals are never satisfied with what they already own. This turns into a vicious cycle of personal insecurity and consumption, which likely gives rise to mental problems and anti-social behavior. When using social media to show off the products one buys, individuals are also branding and selling themselves as commodities. Such trading of personal identity defined by consumer goods homogenizes people and culture, thus dehumanizing people by forcing them to lose their true identity and uniqueness and shaping them into a uniform and supposedly ideal “one”.
In evaluating interpersonal interactions in a consumeristic society, such connections are severely undermined. In such a society where instant gratification and interest of self are valued, people participate less and less in public life and community values are corroded. Although people tend to socialize more through social media or entertainment activities, such as parties, they approach others with a utilitarian view, creating shallow relationships, which leads to increasing relational crisis in families and between “friends.” With businesses targeting consumers’ emotions in advertisements, people become more driven by emotion rather than logic. Such lack of rationale is also detrimental to personal relations.
From the highest level, gap between social classes are enlarged and the whole society easily turns into a power system. From basic economic analysis, it is fairly straightforward to conclude that consumerism causes accumulation of wealth in the upper class while exploiting cheap labor from lower class. Such rich-poor disparity only increases with time, leading to complete division of people, which is usually one of the basis of dystopia. Another characteristic of highly developed free market economies is the concentration of power, which ultimately turns into authoritarianism. As it may be counterintuitive to imagine how free economies, “utopia of freedom”, can turn into authoritarian societies (typical of dystopia), I am confident that you will find the reasoning very logical and convincing as it will be presented in my research paper “Evolution of Consumeristic Society to Dystopia——A Sociological Analysis.”
Dystopias are interesting because so much of their characteristics are left up to interpretation by writers and readers. They are similar to The Constitution in that there are groups of people who strictly interpret its roots and those who stretch them to fit into other categories. That is why dystopian fiction has bled over borders into the realms of science-fiction, romance, and apocalyptic ideas. These variations in theme, setting, and plot have caused different interpretations of what is considered a “perfect” utopian society, and alternatively its anti-perfect, dystopian counterpart. For my research project, I am hoping to research how each society’s idea of “perfect” differs, and how these ideas shape its culture.
In the dystopia The Hunger Games, the Capitol maintains control of the twelve districts by forcing them to participate in the games. By portraying this to be a dystopia, one can infer that the author’s idea of a utopia would be a society where people are free to do as they please without a ruling autonomous government. Alternatively, in the book Shatter Me, Juliette lives with a touch that is fatal. The society is made up of rampant disease, food shortage, and dreary conditions. The government uses Juliette’s supposed flaw to for their own betterment. She is ultimately left with the choice of either giving into the government’s orders or fighting for what she believes in. Overall, this society seems to be flawed in the way it emphasizes the government’s manipulation of weakness for its own strength. One can infer from this that the author’s idea of a perfect society may be one where people are applauded for their differences and accepted for their disabilities.
I think that discovering how authors’ different ideas of “perfect” influence the way that they shape their dystopias will be interesting. However, I know that basing their ideas of “perfect” solely on the opposite of their dystopian novels is not an effective form of research. Dystopias come out of present day society, so finding out more about how this relates to a perfect society would be interesting. I hope to research more in detail about the history that brought about dystopias as seemingly anti-perfect societies. Moving forward, a question that I hope to answer about Shatter Me is how a certain period of time may or may not have influenced the author to write the book, seeing as it focuses on such an imperfect society.
A prominent theme I have found interesting in the dystopian societies that we have discussed is how the people in control have a tight grip over the flow of information. Most, if not all, of Gathering Blue was focused on the information that Kira became privy to during her time in the Edifice. One of the cornerstones of her identity was that her father had been killed by beasts, leaving her and her mother to fend for themselves. Besides being dishonest about how her father was attacked, the Council tied the attack into a lie that everyone in the village accepts: the existence of the beasts. As Kira begins to find out that she is being lied to about all these things, she lets slip to one of the Council members that her mentor, Annabella, had been telling her the truth. Then, as expected in a dystopian society, Annabella “coincidentally” ends up being taken to the Field of the Living because she had passed away. The Council did not want Kira to learn too much, because it could cause their society to unravel.
Overall, I’m curious about examining the flow of information in today’s society. Is our society as transparent as we would like? I want to explore the obvious examples like how open the government is to the public, but I also want to look at less prominent organizations as well. Lack of transparency has been a huge issue in this election cycle, and it was a large factor in the crash of the housing bubble around 2008. How accurately does our government portray events? How accurately does the media portray events? Who is in control of all these things and who benefits from them one way or the other? With some people claiming that this election is the end of society as we know it, how far are we really from our society being considered a dystopian?
The City of Ember is based in an underground world created hundreds of years ago to preserve humanity after famine, war and disease overtook the Earth. At the end of the first book, the main characters, Lina and Doon, discover the outside world. The city of Ember was dying, so our protagonists needed to find another home for their people. This leads to the second book in the Ember series, The People of Sparks. The second book showcases that while the new world brings salvation it also brings issues. The problem of adapting to the outside world is what I find most interesting about this dystopian novel.
A fascinating aspect of The People of Sparks is how the residents of the city of Sparks utilize and manipulate the Emberites. When the people of Ember escaped the dying city, it was Torren, a resident of Sparks, who first encountered the refugees. When he sees the numbers of the Emberites Torren is appalled, “Four hundred! In [his] village, there were only 322. He swept his gaze out over this vast horde. They filled half the cabbage field and were still coming over the hill, like a swarm of ants” (DuPrau 10). The hateful comparison foreshadows the tensions between the people of Sparks and the people of Ember.
Furthermore, the people of Ember are out of their element, therefore, more susceptible to manipulation. Lina becomes homesick and realizes that “[i]n Ember, everything was familiar to her. Here everything was strange” (DuPrau 42). The Emberites are shown as very ignorant when it comes to many basic elements of the Earth. For instance, while touring the city of Sparks, Lina is blown away by the sight of pine trees, goats, and bread (DuPrau 26-30).
The three leaders of Sparks meet the night of the refugees’ arrival to work out a system that will allow the city to continue to function even after the inconvenience of doubling their population. They unanimously decide that “[t]hey work—they help in the fields, they help with building, they do whatever there is to do […] As far as I can see, they know nothing (DuPrau 45). This method is how the people of Sparks would leverage control.
The conflict comes to a climax when “[i]nstead of getting easier as the days went on, work for the people of Ember got harder. It wasn’t just the work—it was the heat they had to work in” (DuPrau 104). The Emberites lived off of “…nothing but scraps to eat” and become hostile towards the people hosting them (DuPrau 110).
This conflict demonstrates a similar theme in many dystopias: the battle for control and power. The people of Sparks hold all of the supplies, rations, and necessities that the people of Ember need to survive and therefore there is building tension between the two populations as they try to cohabitate. The people of Sparks utilize their control to make the people of Ember work long and hours to survive. This idea creates the basis for a dystopian society.
DuPrau, Jeanne. The People of Sparks. A Yearling Book, 2016. Print.
In dystopias, many authors use propaganda in their societies to show how the citizens can be controlled. Propaganda plays a central role in keeping the ruling government or leader in power. It provides them with a way to keep the citizens in order and providing them with only the necessary information.
Suzanne Collins uses quite a lot of propaganda in the novel, The Hunger Games. One of the first occurrences is the short film shown at the beginning of the reaping. It is a speech by President Snow to remind the districts of the terrible war and the uprising, which then led to a new era which included peace. To protect the districts and to remind them that freedom has a cost, the Hunger Games are held annually. They glorify sending tributes to their deaths by stating that they are fighting for “honor, courage, and sacrifice.” The capitol also mentions that the single victor is promised riches which “serves as a reminder of our [the capitol’s] generosity and our forgiveness.”
In the film, Snow appeals to all the districts, even though they are all very different from each other. There are the poor districts such as District 12, who will relate to the beginning of the film when war and hardships are mentioned and that the Capitol provides food to the districts and without them, the poor would be even poorer. The districts where the Careers come from, will relate more to the second half of the film, when Snow mentions the fight for glory, and honor. They prepare for the games and even have volunteers to be tributes in the games.
Even though the history of Panem is described in the propaganda video, the Capitol makes sure not to provide the districts with too much information. A war is mentioned, however, the cause of the rebellion is not revealed. The Capitol picks and chooses what information to reveal to its citizens and also requires everyone to watch these broadcasted films, to ensure that everyone receives the information that they want the citizens to know and to remind them that they are in control and that the districts need the Capitol for protection and survival.
Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. Scholastic Press, 2008.
Propaganda is commonly thought of as information used by governments to convince people to follow a certain cause such as the World Wars, the Vietnam War, government policies, or political agendas. Propaganda plays a key role in dystopian literature, books that revolve around this one fixated society where the rules are unbending and social expectations.
In the book Matched, the Society has constructed a perfect system to guarantee a long, satisfying life, provided you follow the rules. Cassia, the protagonist, has grown up with the same information, that the Society has replaced a failing and miserable way of life. Routines ensure maximum efficiency, Matches are made for ideal life partners, secure jobs provide comfort. in other words, there is order and peace. While at the recreational center, she and her friends watch a video of the history of Society and how it came to being. The video emphasized the horrors that the Society eliminated and how everything would collapse if the Society failed. Cassia described the video as “overdone” and “ludicrous”; the scenes are overdramatic with actors exaggerating death scenes. Her and her friends do not take the showing seriously; they know how fake it is, but they continue watching it since it is one of the few films available to them.
The Society may have removed diseases and hardships but also anything of the past. Only a hundred poems, a hundred songs, and a hundred painting were kept; it was reasoned that an excess of information causes chaos, thus all that was deemed unworthy was destroyed. Censorship is another form of propaganda, by limiting the public’s access to information sets up a biased atmosphere. The people have no choice but to trust what the Society tells them for they have no other resources. The Society has even deprived them of writing; everything is technology, ports, tablets, screens, and computers, devices easily monitored by the Officials. Writing is a form of communication, but it poses a threat as it is much more difficult to regulate. The secret poem Cassia’s given is easily disposed of, reducing the words to “ash and nothing.”
Controlling the means of communication and all history records allows for complete power over people; their citizens will believe any of the propaganda the Society feeds them, since all other sources of intelligence are nonexistent.
- Casey, Ralph D. “The Story of Propaganda”. American Historical Association. www.historians.org/about-aha-and-membership/aha-history-and-archives/gi-roundtable-series/pamphlets/what-is-propaganda/the-story-of-propaganda. Accessed 3 Feb. 2017.
- Condie, Ally. Matched. Penguin Group, 2010, New York.
- Thomas, Dylan. “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.”Literature and Society: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, Nonfiction. Pamela J. Annas and Robert C. Rosen. 4th Ed. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2006.
In dystopian novels, authors use propaganda in the dystopia to show how the citizens of the nation can be controlled. The leaders use propaganda to prove that they are in control of everything that goes on. When those who are in control of a dystopia (or think they are in control) use propaganda, they want to show the populace that they are the ones who call the shots and that they are the ones who are always right.
Propaganda is prevalent throughout the novel 1984, written by George Orwell, in which “Big Brother” always watches them. In this novel, the citizens watch telescreens, which seem to be omnipresent. They are told what to think, which further proves that this novel is a dystopia because the citizens’ feeling and thoughts are controlled, taking away freedom of speech. In 1984, the citizens cannot turn the telescreens off, so the propaganda coming from the screens is always being put into the citizens’ heads. The screens are always giving new information about rebels and what happens to them to try and scare the citizens into believing the government.
Not only do the words in the propaganda tell the citizens how to think, but they also play patriotic music to make what they say seem better for the nation. Even though the information being put on the screens isn’t necessarily right for Oceania, the government makes the citizens feel like it is. Since propaganda is such a major part of 1984, the citizens have no time to plot against the government or to think for themselves. If the citizens even react weird or dissatisfied with the propaganda on the screens, they could be labeled as troublemakers and get in serious trouble. The idea that “Big Brother is watching you” inflicts fear in the citizens, and it enables the dystopian government to control the citizens through propaganda on the screens (Orwell).
Orwell, George. 1984. New American Library, 1950.
Propaganda plays a big role in many dystopian novels and movies. Wherever there’s an authoritarian government or any kind of oppressive system, both of which are commonly seen in this genre, there’s an exchange of biased information between whoever’s in charge and those who are being controlled. However, throughout Suzanne Collins’ Mockingjay, this trading of persuasive campaigns comes from not one direction, but two: from the Capitol, who already has control, and the rebels, those who represent the people of the districts and are trying to take power. The differences in the type and style of propaganda that we see from either side give us a look into the goals of either side and to whom they’re trying to appeal.
Capitol propaganda is always very slick, clean, and designed to be visually pleasant. It often makes use of negative space, and the color white is common throughout. This gives the impression that they’ve got everything under control, and dissuades the idea of chaos. A government that’s got everything handled is one that’s easier for people to look up to, and it makes the idea of a rebellion seem out of place. They also never forget to remind the districts of the power differences between them, always showing certain districts as “better” than others.
Rebel propaganda, however, is most successful when it’s less clean, but more emotional and real. The leaders in 13 quickly realize that scripted and sculpted messages are the least formidable type for their cause. They’re trying to elicit a powerful reaction from the districts and show the capitol that they’re strong and aware of their corruption. They don’t have the means to produce widely broadcasted media, therefore they need to make a point with whatever time they get, however little it may be. This means they often show direct proof of the corruption and malice of the capitol, and take advantages of the symbols of the rebellion, such as Katniss, to help get their message across.
Between the dystopia books I have read and the movies I have watched, each dystopia has some type of control playing out in the plot of the books or films. The people within the society are being controlled, but we have to figure out what type of control is playing out. Is the control from the government, a single person acting as a dictator, or technology? Which every control the dystopia you are watching or reading has, every dystopia has something in common: propaganda.
Propaganda is like advertisement to persuade people to do or think a certain way. Dystopia uses propaganda to make a citizen be biased toward an idea, a person, or a group of people. Here, look at the propaganda below and think about what it is trying to do.
What is the first thing that pops into your head? To me, seeing the word “HOPE” make me think of the changes America is making these days. Barack Obama is the first and only black president we have had in the White House. That itself is a big change for Americans, especially for African American. It makes citizens believe that there is hope after all for change to happen to make America better than it was before.
Dystopia makes their audience think what would happen if this certain event happens to the world. Using propaganda, controlling the citizens of the society becomes a little easier for whom every wants them to be controlled. Propaganda makes it harder for people to have an opinion of their own about something or someone. For example, let’s look at the company Puma. Puma is well known fashion company founded in 1948. A lot of people used to wear their products a lot in the beginning and then people stop wearing and buying products because it was old fashioned to them. Puma now has to persuade people that they are the new and improve fashion company by having famous Olympian Usain Bolt wears their clothes to advertise their styles in the world. By doing this, Usain Bolt is helping them persuade people that wearing Puma is cool and is the new fashion to wear just because he is wearing it. People look up to celebrities as a guide for what to wear and what to have. Just like in The Hunger Games, President Coin had Katniss be in the video so that she can inspire and persuade people from other districts to fight with her against the Capital.