Where are we going as a society ? What values are we transmitting to future generations?
All these questions can be seen reflected in a dystopia. We explain the definition and meaning of this concept and we leave you some examples from literature, cinema and fiction series.
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What is a dystopia?
In this section we differentiate between the definition proposed by dictionaries and authors, and what this label means for culture and society in general terms. Definition of dystopia
The RAE proposes the following definition: “Fictitious representation of a future society with negative characteristics that cause human alignment”, something that we analyze in more detail below.
The term refers to all that society, presented through a fictional work, which is undesirable in itself.by a series of common characteristics or values. It is believed that the first to coin the word was the philosopher and politician John Stuart Mill, using it or in one of his speeches. “It is, perhaps, also courtesy that I call them utopian, although they should rather be called dystopian or cacotopic” are his exact words. Meaning of dystopia
The meaning is similar to that of cacotopia, which describes a fictitious society that is contrary to what can be considered an ideal society. Dystopia is the opposite of utopia , which is a representation of the ideal society, and therefore non-existent.
Normally, dystopian works are related to the real context in which they are conceived. To put it in some way, they represent the fears of some contemporary individuals that society becomes undesirable. Therefore, they have a real foundation but describe unreal social and political states.
In general terms, it also has tragic or post-apocalyptic connotations , especially because of the treatment this genre has received in film or television fiction. It is possible that some literary works remain outdated and the cultural and technological context in which they were written must be taken into account. A clear example is George Orwell’s magnum opus, 1984. The 4 types of dystopias
Below we present the four types of dystopias that exist depending on the subject offered. 1. Policy
This type of dystopia is about the dangers of taking political ideologies to the extreme , of establishing dogmas in society. In most cases, political dystopian literature reveals totalitarianism, the loss of identity of the individual and social rules as a tool of oppression. Some examples are 1984, by George Orwell or The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. Le Guin. 2. Technological or scientific
In the second type, it is technology and its development that has triggered an unwanted effect on society. For example, in the novel Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, social castes are established based on genetics, which triggers a generalized and conformist society. 3. Feminist
As we can see in The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood, gender identity, the role of women in society and the triumph of heteropatriarchy is one of the most treated topics in the genre. As a general rule, these works have a critical and feminist function. Highly recommended is also Swastika Night, by Katharine Burdekin. 4. Ecologist
Finally, ecology is one of the universal themes of dystopian literature. Normally, an ecological catastrophe caused by humanity changes the world forever and humans must re-adapt to their environment in record time. Another different example is Dune, by Frank Herbert, where the central axis of the plot is the management of resources such as water.
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All types of dystopias according to the theme they present. | Image by: Dean Maddocks / Unsplash. 8 examples of dystopia
Humans have often imagined what society would be like if some of the most negative traits that characterize us as such were imposed. Here are some examples exhibited in works of fiction. 1. Dystopias in literature
Literature has the clearest examples of dystopias. There are three works that have been cataloged as precursors of the genre. 1.1 Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
Brave New World is the most famous novel by this British author, which describes a future in which humans are conceived with advanced reproductive techniques and conditioned by learning processes through sleep.
War and poverty are concepts that do not exist, however there are many other aspects such as cultural diversity, art or any expression of individualism that have been completely suppressed . An individual would question this whole system. 1.2 1984 (George Orwell)
George Orwell imagined for the year 1984 (he fell short) a rather murky social paradigm. In a futuristic London, the government divides society into three layers: the members of the ruling Council, the state bureaucrats and a poor and sedated social mass.
To ensure order, the bureaucrats are subjected to a rigorous control system (Big Brother) that prohibits and strictly punishes any hint of dissidence or critical thinking. George Orwell hinted at concepts that are a reality today, such as a global communications network. Something like the Internet we know. 1.3 Fahrenheit 451 (Ray Radbury)
The novel features Guy Montag, a fireman who must burn a series of books at the request of the government. One day he meets Clarisse, a girl who asks him a series of questions about his work. Again, we come across a tyrannical government that wants to eliminate any thought contrary to its ideals. 2. Dystopias in the cinema
The cinema also represents an excellent way of reflecting decadent societies. Here are three examples. 2.1 A Clockwork Orange (1971)
We cite this example to prove that many dystopias, like this one written by Anthony Burgess in 1962, have been adapted to the big screen. Stanley Kubrick achieved one of the fundamental works in the history of cinema.
In the England of the future, a group of young people find pleasure in the music of Beethoven, sex and explicit violence. Alex, the ringleader, is captured by the authorities and subjected to behavioral therapy that completely changes his personality. 2.2 Blade Runner (1982)
American fiction directed by Ridley Scott that takes place in the year 2019 (the 2018 film version places that dystopia in 2049). In the play, a large corporation creates a robot capable of surpassing man in strength and agility, although it is identical in appearance.
Then there is a rebellion of these robots, the Nexus-6, who are sentenced to exile on earth. Rick Deckard, the protagonist, is called into duty to find a group of dissidents who have escaped conviction (replicants). 2.3 Terminator (1985) The revolution of technology against its creator, the human , is a recurring theme in dystopias. We find notable works such as I, robot, although one of the highest-grossing films is Terminator.
A cyborg travels back in time to warn humanity that the end of humanity is near. To achieve his goal, he will have to save a boy who will later become the leader of the resistance.
Examples of dystopias in cinema, literature and television series. | Image by: Rodion Kutsaev / Unsplash. 3. Dystopias in fictional series Fictional series
allow us to explore the ins and outs of these fictional worlds. 3.1 Tha Walking Dead (2010 –
This renowned series presents us with a society in which a virus has devastated humanity. A few try to stay safe while the majority of the population wanders the world as “walking dead”. The zombie theme is also a dystopian classic.3.2 Black Mirror (2011 –
This series presents us with a dystopian society in each chapter. It also raises a series of questions such as to what extent technology is advantageous for the development of human relations or the prevalence of some of our most questionable traits.
The point is that in many aspects this dystopia that is presented to us has too many aspects in common with reality, and then the question is: can a dystopia be a premonitory vision of what is to come?
- To know more: The 8 best chapters of Black Mirror.
3.3 The Handmaid’s Tale
Yes, we know that HBO’s latest hit is an adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s novel, but the result is so good that we couldn’t ignore it. The Handmaid’s Tale presents us with a future in which the most dogmatic Christian values , among which is the purest machismo (and women as a mere receptacle for procreation) are the order of the day.