Check out my Vlog on The Hunger Games and how it made me think differently about society in America!
Climate change is a pressing issue of our time, if not the single most pressing one. It is easy to ignore because it is creeping up on us slowly, progressively. The primary propagators of this problem, large firms and governments, choose profits over our own well-being. The secondary issue is educating people about global warming. This is hard since society has no real way to relate to it today. This is where the media comes into play. TV shows, movies, and books give their audience a means to relate to the issues they discuss. When We Wake just does that with climate change.
The reader is plopped into a dystopian Australia, on an Earth where global warming has run rampant. Where there used to be land, there is now an ocean. The gaping hole in the ozone layer does not filter the sun’s rays, so people live underground. Meat has become a luxury good, since cattle produce harmful greenhouse gases. Coastal Sydney has been swallowed by the Pacific Ocean These are all projections for our own world. At this rate, in fifty years, this will be planet Earth.
But the climate change doesn’t just pertain to temperatures and weather patterns, but also to the political climate. A lack of regulation due to international competition has led to distrust amongst the world’s nations which means tighter border controls, and a rise in racism. Unfortunately, early traces of this can already be seen today. Flagship nations such as the USA, Russia, and China are ignoring climate regulation in fear of falling behind the others on a competitive level. Brazil and Australia are already falling behind the Paris Agreement, and President Trump is debating withdrawing the USA from the agreement altogether. It is easy to see how such “competition” could lead to the level of political pressure present in When We Wake.
While I was aware of all the issues and projections of climate change, When We Wake is the book that made it feel real. The world was immersive and believable and I believe it is an eye opener to anyone, no matter how well versed they are on the topic of global warming.
Healey, Karen. When We Wake. Auckland, N.Z., Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind, 2015
Here is the link if the video above does not load:
Brook, Tom Vanden. “Syria Likely Responsible for Chemical Attack Condemned by President Trump.”USA Today, 5 Apr. 2017. USA Today, www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2017/04/05/president-trump-defense-secretary-mattis-chemical-attack-bashar-al-assad-obama-administration/100093210/. Accessed 10 Apr. 2017.
Kingsley, Patrick, and Anne Barnard. “Banned Nerve Agent Sarin Used in Syria ChemicalAttack, Turkey Says.” The New York Times, 6 Apr. 2017. The New York Times, www.nytimes.com/2017/04/06/world/middleeast/chemical-attack-syria.html?_r=1. Accessed 10 Apr. 2017.
Here is the youtube link: https://youtu.be/gv5_Fe8cvAs
I once heard about adderall and other get-smart drugs on some news paper and it instantly caught my attention. The idea of a pill used to help you get better grades was both scary and tempting. It always made me wonder what would happen if a society began to depend on these drugs or make them mainstream. Young adults would flock towards them for sure since that would mean less time studying, higher grades and more time to party. My fifteen year old self wanted to write a story about it but the project was put off due to workload . At that time, I had not yet heard of the movie “Limitless” but when I did and eventually watched it, I thought that it too optimistic about the future of the main character with the drug. There is not a specific ‘event’ for this (unless if you count Aubrey Huff’s confession about using it to win for the Giants) but a series of investigations in schools that helped put this into the light. From the article, I realized that not only was it not as effective, but highly addictive and lethal, resulting in physical and mental health issues. You can also easily get large amounts of it too by obtaining it from a third-party, thus creating an underground ‘drug operation’ off of it.
Since more and more students are using it to enhance their studies (with mixed results for now), the question became: what would happen if it became effective? What if there were several kinds? What if the government promoted pills that each enhanced a specific property such as memory, flexibility, strength etc… Or to sum it all up: what if there was a dystopia who would thrive on it?
First of all, it is not for everyone, some thrive on it, some get immediate side-effects, some do not find it helpful at all. Therefore, for the lucky ones who could resist its side effects and rise up enough so that they could afford the expense while living an opulent lifestyle. It would almost be a game, a dangerous one too where you had to watch your intake, understand quickly how your body adapted to the pills. What about the rest who ‘fall out’ then? I was thinking, while reading many of the stories of those who got hooked upon adderall, that they would eventually reach a ‘peak’ and then spiral down into poverty, depression or worse, needing the pills more for physical and mental maintenance and for boosting their performance. Those who are prone to the lure of the pill (or pills I should say) would be the young, as competition is vital for survival or for a good job.
An interesting aspect about this dystopia is the involvement of the government. At first glance, it seems almost laid back, with a eery hand-off attitude because the pills are stealing the whole show. People fall in and out of grace everyday and those pesky rebellious teens are too caught up trying to top each other in sports and academics. However, it does have a few problems to regulate. The first one would be economics. This is where my idea of this dystopia gets slightly blurred ( I was never really good in economics), because if there are too many people getting accepted then fired, making the jobs unstable. How would it ensure stability? Especially if this is also threatening its own ranks? They have gotten to where they are because of their capacity to cope with the pill but that does not mean they do not depend on it. This is why I think it should be run by technocrats, people who deal and manufacture these pills so that the side effects are not too drastic for some, like a selective process.
A second problem would be how to deal with the unwanted, drugged population that is now wasting the dystopia’s precious resources? A good way would be to get rid of them or perhaps make all of these people useful for test trials (although their bodies might be riddled with drugs). This process will be secretive since one would barely notice the disappearance of a tramp or a miserable family. Also, due to poverty and the rest of the population fighting for smaller jobs, crime rates will be high so the police would be more worried in dealing with drug lords and underground organizations than the real issue. However, it is important to note that the results of the pills should not be too drastic, so that after you go over your peak performance, you can still deal with smaller, more lowly jobs until you become completely worthless.
There are still many problems and illogical ideas in this conjecture and I personally feel that the most tragic part of this dystopia is that it will eventually fail, crumble within itself but instead of reaping a new society, it might give way to the total destruction of its inhabitants.
Black Mirror is a Netflix series with non sequential episodes. In other words, each episode is totally unique in setting, plot, and characters. You can watch the episodes in any order and not be negatively affected. Because of this, Black Mirror can make a multitude of commentaries on the human condition and it’s relation to technology in a variety of ways in a small number of episodes. While each episode explores the unanticipated effects of a new or existing technology on humans, each episode is unique in the way it achieves this.
It is a great show for entertainment purposes because it really twists your mind to look at our world in a different way. Some episodes such as s1e1 do this with subtle changes to our current world. Other episodes are drastically different. Regardless of the episodes differences, you can see trends among all dystopias.
The very first episode seems to be in a world portrayed to be exactly like ours. New technologies that have not been invented yet are not present at all. The basic plot is that a English princess is kidnapped and the captor does not offer a cash ransom. Instead, he says the prime minister has to have sex with a pig on live television. The key quote from this episode is the response when the prime minister asks “What is our move? What does the playbook say?” The response is “there is no play book.” The main point being made here is that social media and media in general has a relatively new role in politics. However, despite it being new, it has an extremely high amount of power. It is a new force that when in the wrong hands is impossible to prepare against. It is dangerous.
While the pilot includes no characters or actors in the following episodes, it is the perfect introduction to the series because it shows that a simple twist can point out a major potential danger in a technology advance society like ours. Furthermore, most of the following episodes are even more technologically advanced to show us the unpredictable affects of new technology. While some of the technology being viewed seems unachievable, it is still scary to watch because we know that the pace of our technological advancement far exceeds the pace of the policy regarding it. Simply put, there are consequences when we make things we do not know how to deal and live with it
Dystopian literature consists of many books that are very dissimilar but at the same time very alike; some examples include The Hunger Games, Gulliver’s Travels, 1984, or Matched. These books were all published in vastly different time periods yet they all depict a dystopian future with varying qualities. It would be interesting to determine if there were any parallels between the books and the time period in which they were published. The novels could be based on the atmosphere of that time, and the negative attributes of society are reflected in the dystopia.
Orwell’s 1984 was published in 1949, at the start of the Cold War. Orwell wrote the political novel to warn against totalitarianism and the upcoming rise of communism. He was concerned about the possibility of technology being used by the government to monitor the activities of its citizens; this concern is shown by the Party’s ultimate and unyielding control. The Party even manipulates history to be aligned with their needs, a characteristic found in today’s society with biased “historical” texts. Today, this book is still mildly popular and can still be relevant as a warning about the government and the future.
Whereas Matched and The Hunger Games appeal to a younger audience, they are still novels containing concern for an authoritarian government. The Capitol’s brainwashing propaganda, President Snow himself, certain attitude towards life partners in Matched, and censorship are just some similarities these books have with reality today.
Evidently, there are many more connections between historical and present events and the characters and plots of the dystopian books. Authors such as Orwell are using their novels to depict a dystopian future to caution society about negative qualities and to prevent catastrophes. Conducting more in depth research about specific novels and certain time periods will hopefully show how the reality affects the characters and
plots of dystopian books.
- Flaneur. “1984 – George Orwell.” 2013. JPEG file.
- SparkNotes Editors. “SparkNote on 1984.” SparkNotes.com. SparkNotes LLC. 2007. Accessed 18 Feb. 2017.
- Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. Scholastic, 2008. New York.
- Condie, Allie. Matched. Penguin Group, 2010, New York.
Propaganda serves as a method by the government to control the flow of information to its people. It is so prevalent in dystopian societies because such governments are entirely dependent upon their complete control of their citizens. By managing the flow of information, they can shape people’s views and opinions favorably for that government.
In Ender’s Game, Propaganda is the tool of the International Fleet, a far-reaching government instituted with cooperation from all countries for one purpose: The Protection of Mankind. Eighty years ago, the people of earth were caught off-guard against a dangerous foe, now known as the “Formics” or Buggers due to their exoskeletal appearance. The Formics were an advanced alien race, and even though Earth managed to defeat them, humans now live in fear that one day the Formics will return. Before, the Earth was on the verge of a Third World War but suddenly they all had one rallying cry that every human could share. “Never Again.”
In the Hunger Games, President Snow says “The only thing stronger than fear is hope.” Like the Capitol, The International Fleet knows this too well. As long as there is a greater enemy, the Formics, then the earth is one nation and the International Fleet is in total control. The Propaganda posters loudly declare that the Formics are their one true Enemy and they must be defeated at all costs while fostering hope that some “hero” will end the threat. Any sympathy for the Formics is crushed. They are the enemy.
It’s somewhat important to recall that the last time the Formics attacked was 80 years ago. But the International Fleet has had 80 years to convince people that they’re coming back. It’s that one unifying thread that keeps them together, the survival of humanity.
Most often, Propaganda is viewed as the tool of the weak and a largely negative thing. In most cases, it usually is. However, the International Fleet had one purpose: to keep mankind alive against a dangerous threat. Who was to know that this thread was also itself. The Formic Wars were the only thing that kept the world together. The external threat forces a pause on Earth politics so that Human Kind could survive. And when the Formics were ultimately slaughtered by Ender, the world fell back into war, proving that they needed a reason to look over their should so they had no time to look upon their neighbors. It’s not to say that propaganda is positive, only that bias is a necessary thing to hold together a Nation.
Ender’s Game Trailer. www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=19&v=0MOqoRSWHCs.
Card, Orson Scott, and Alan Smithee. Enders Game. Boekerij, 2013.
Card, Orson Scott., and John Harris. Ender in Exile. Tor, 2008.
“Los Angeles Times.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, herocomplex.latimes.com/movies/enders-game-new-propaganda-posters-appeal-to-honor-fear/#/0.
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?
Dystopias, as a genre, contain a huge amount of content. They consider all that is in a society, and pushes them to the extreme. A dystopia represents a stratified socio-political state that exercises total (or near-total) control at the price of their subjects’ individual rights, and uses deceptive appeals in the form of slogans and propaganda to maintain order according to a corruptive governing doctrine.
(1) Organized Division
The atmosphere of a dystopian world is characterized by the presence of a caste or divisive mandate. In the Divergent series, we see that to maintain order and control, hope is only placed on the “ones that know” and have a place in society. We witness a division of friends and even family members, based on character and individual qualities, into four groups that accentuate an individuals primary trait (knowledge, bravery, selflessness, honesty, kindness). This separating and hierarchical influence is also established in the in-class text The Hunger Games in which Panem is divided into 12 districts that have distinct cultures, customs, and commodities, while only interacting with one another through the televised bloodshed between their tributes. Both texts show how divisive measures are placed on the populaces in efforts to maintain order, and, in other ways, limit communication.
Dystopias are NOT societies run per the govern. These are communities that have essentially given up on human nature, and therefore do not trust the decisions made by their citizens. In dystopias, this control is presented as security and protection from the unpredictable flaws of human nature. This heavy hand has its grasp on every facet of an individual’s interactions. Individual rights do not exist in a dystopian society, and if they do, they are limited or an item of deception. Dystopian control also extends further to surveillance and forced uniformity. In dystopian text like The Giver, everyone is denied knowledge, sexual relationship, and even to see visual color. This “sameness” illustrates the control that is relinquished by the individual to the “betterment” of a society.
(3) Doctrines and Deception
Dystopias are also a socio-political entity, and are run by a governing doctrine. Looking through the eyes of a radical socialist, one would see many similarities. Dystopias often thrive on exaggeration. A slogan is often the core of the verbiage within these society doubling as the source of deception. These doctrines and mandate are usually contradictory to their method of execution. For example, in The Hunger Games, in efforts to maintain peace, the Capital established violent gladiatorial combat between teenagers while simultaneously pinning the 12 districts against one another. Even looking at a classic dystopian text like 1984, we are presented with a term called “double think” which is the act of holding two contradictory opinions at once and simultaneously believing in both of them, which is said to be a talent every Party member was required to possess.
These are just three core principle that go into defining a dystopia, but there are many more. Dystopias are fluid concepts, and, depending on what is exaggerated, can appear in many different forms.
Work Cited (Books):
- Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. New York: Scholastic Press, 2008. Print.
- Lowry, Lois. The Giver.Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1993.
- Roth, Veronica. Divergent.HarperCollins, 2011.
- Orwell, Georgia. 1984.Harvill Secker.1949