Monday, May 20, 2013

The Irony of Dystopia

**FYI: I'm out of town this week so while my posts are going up automatically, I won't be doing as much commenting/communicating this week. I probably won't get around to many emails until after memorial day. Sorry for any inconvenience.**

Dystopian literature is fast becoming a staple in our culture. The reasons for that can be psychological or sociological, depending on how you interpret it. The thing that's interesting to me is the inherent irony in our cultural obsession with dystopian, vs utopian, societies.


Definite Utopia!
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Dystopia is defined as: a society characterized by human misery, as squalor, oppression,disease, and overcrowding.

Utopia, on the other hand is:  an ideal place or state; any visionary system of political or social perfection.

You would think, given the definitions, that we'd be more interested in utopian societies. So why aren't we? 


Dystopia
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1) For one thing, the drama of undesirable societies and the structure of going from bad to good is simply more conducive to a great story.

2) The part of the definition that people forget to add to that of utopia, is that there tends to be either something sinister lurking unseen beneath the surface, or a fatal flaw that will eventually bring the utopia down. Obviously, a utopia wouldn't be the best end to a story, but I'm always surprised that more stories don't start out with them.

Of course, this is just me being nerdy and WAY overly analytical.

What do you think? Why don't we see more "utopian" literature on the market?


4 comments :

  1. Agent Smith said it best in Matrix. It doesn't feel real and we keep expecting to wake up.

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  2. I think Utopias are hard for us to believe. Something about us understands that at the heart of mankind is selfishness, greed, ambition, envy... even if a person doesn't believe in God or sin-nature... there's still a skepticism about a so-called "utopia." We sit there waiting for the other shoe to drop.

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  3. I think books DO start as utopias, but I'm inherently skeptical and believe any utopia has to be hiding something. And in dystopias... I'm right. A utopian story with a conflict is not set in a utopian world.. because nothing bad happens if everything is perfect.
    Great post. I think books like Matched, Divergent , and The Giver began as utopian settings.

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  4. I think books DO start as utopias, but I'm inherently skeptical and believe any utopia has to be hiding something. And in dystopias... I'm right. A utopian story with a conflict is not set in a utopian world.. because nothing bad happens if everything is perfect.
    Great post. I think books like Matched, Divergent , and The Giver began as utopian settings.

    ReplyDelete