Welcome to a whole new level of foresight on my part, three weeks worth of planning has gone in to this post rather than the usual three minutes.
The Blahblahblahgay Dystopian Fortnight is two weeks of posts on dystopias in movies and dystopias in fiction. Thanks in part to Suzanne Collins writing The Hunger Games, dystopias are en vogue right now, children and middle aged women are reading those books and want more dystopias to read, this is a fact that cannot be denied. Cormac McCarthy's The Road and the subsequent adaptation with Viggo Mortensen marked a recent high point in the genre for the darker more literary side of things and even the Booker Prize got involved when Kazuo Ishiguro was shortlisted for one of literatures most prestigious prizes for his dystopian novel Never Let Me Go.
I don't think there has been such public affection for the genre since the height of the Cold War when we were treated to such classic movies as Logan's Run, Planet of The Apes and Soylent Green (all based on novels.) In the coming months we shall be seeing Logan's Run remade by the Drive pairing of Refn and Gosling and with three books in the series this is one that can sustain itself for as long as the demand for dystopian movies is there (not forgetting the re-issues of the long out of print novels to cross promote with.) Plus the sequel to the rebooted Apes movie, naturally, and countless other movies we haven't thought about yet I'm sure.
The classics of the 60s were written as obvious warnings about nuclear weapons and reflecting the fears of the people at the time but what are our current fears? Global Warming must be in there, dwindling natural resources too, post 9/11 fears perhaps, reality TV most defintiely. Largely I get the feeling that there isn't really a message in these new fictions and remakes with the focus on pure entertainment and making money as quickly and in as large a quantity as possible. But then again I can't back that up with examples as yet.
But what is a dystopia? The basic definitions is something like this: Dystopian societies feature different kinds of repressive social control
systems, various forms of active and passive coercion. Works about
dystopian societies often explore the concept of humans abusing
technology and humans individually and collectively coping, or not being
able to properly cope with technology that has progressed far more
rapidly than humanity's spiritual evolution. Not to be confused with a heterotopia which is neither a utopia or a distopia merely a world different from ours.
The last part of the definition is very important. For example some might say that Ridley Scott's Blade Runner is a dystopian world but as Scott never really discusses the feelings of the masses (and infact the masses seem happy enough to me) it is merely a futuristic story, the people are not just surviving they appear to be thriving, wheras the Philip K. Dick novel that it is based upon is definitely a dystopian society filled with people looking to flee the planet.
If you analyse the genre you notice that there are several different types of dystopias; most notably post apocalyptic in which people learn to survive in an environment destroyed by war or famine or pollution (The Road, Wall-E, Mad Max,) societal in which a powerful few attempt to control or enslave the masses (1984, Demolition Man, Total Recall,) and corporate in which society is dominated and run by big business (the basis for a lot of cyberpunk novels and movies such as Gamer or Rollerball.) Some novels and movies will fit in to more than one category but at least one of these three aspects will be present in every dystopian movie.
Andy at Fandango Groovers put together a really nice article back in June taking a look at Contemporary Dystopias and so my first link of this series is to him. The point is raised in the opening paragraph that right now in 2012 we are living in a dystopia, the kind of horror scenario envisioned by white America of the 1950s. Perhaps that revelation accounts for the sudden uptake in interest in dystopian worlds?
Coming up in the next two weeks: book and movie reviews by yours truly, lists, some guest posts, a little help from my friends and something a little different.