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dys·to·pia [noun] a cautionary tale against attempts to create an idealised utopia

“A Compendium on Dystopia: Creation and Consumption� was compiled, written, and designed by Ng Peiling of LASALLE College of the Arts, BA Design Communication. This compendium was published in April 2017 for module 2B: Design Thinking and Practice module under the guidance of staff lecturers and tutors. All rights are reserved and no part of this publication may be reproduced in part or full without written or verbal permission from the designer. All content are written in good faith and based on information available to the writer at the time of printing. The writer and designer accepts no responsibility of harm or injury as a result of the publication of this zine. Special thanks to lecturer Stanley Lim, fellow coursemates Yolande Leong, River Garcia and Joshua Lumain for the guidance and helpful advice, and to my personal friend Tan Jing Yee for vetting and reviewing throughout the compilation process. Printed by Brilliant Colors at Sunshine Plaza.

01 Contents 02 Introduction 04 Origins 06 Definitions

08 Tropes & Examples 09 10 12 13 14 16

Brave New World The Giver Unwind Welcome to Night Vale Cloud Atlas The Lego Movie

18 Producing Dystopias 20 Social Warnings 22 Political Criticism

26 Consumption 27 28 30 32

Medium of Escapism Reinforcing Experiences & Values Means to Examine Collective Fears Film Adaptation

34 Adopted Symbols 36 Guy Fawkes’ Mask 40 The Hunger Games Salute

44 Further Research 46 Bibliography


A Compendium on Dystopia

Introduction Dystopias have never gained similar prominence in any point in history than today. It is not a new genre, nor does it appeal to a niche group of audience. Its popularity and correlating proliferation aligns with times of human devastation or societal panic (Sarner “Dystopian Fiction; Wilkins “As Our World Crumbles“). Dystopian literature has long crossed into the realm of moving pictures from the various adaptations of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, to Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, to David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. Rather than dampening in interest, the genre has only rapidly proliferated in recent years through greater understanding and threat of dystopian themes being realised in everyday life (Maloney “Dystopian Books and Films”). The novels that kickstarted the recent expansion of the genre was Suzanne Collin’s young adult The Hunger Games series published between 2008 to 2011, and its subsequent movie adaptations from 2012 to 2015. The extremely successful franchise was quickly followed by Veronica Roth’s Divergent series published from 2011 to 2013, and James Dashner’s The Maze Runner series published from 2009 to 2013, each with their respective sets of movies. While utopia, like paradise or heaven, is theoretical at best, the last few centuries of science and technological progress led to hopes that the unattainable, idealised utopia is within mankind’s reach. Unfortunately, the same technological advancement has led to war and widespread devastation. Disillusioned artists and thinkers questioned the notion of “utopia” and created the anti-utopia called “dystopia” or “the not good place” (Gendler “Recognize a Dystopia“).


The current world, particularly the online community, is populated by millennials (loudly) concerned with agency, net neutrality, information privacy, climate change, corrupt authority, so on and so forth. Therefore what we read, watch, and write reflect these concerns. The sample of works listed and referenced in this compendium were selected based on their influence in furthering my interest in the genre. They include works across various mediums such as print, radio broadcast, television, and film.


Philosopher John Stuart first coined the term “dystopia” in 1868 in a speech against the British parliament regarding policies against the Irish. This was 50 years after his mentor, Jeremy Bentham called the same concept “cackotopia”. Though the term was created in the mid19th century, Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, published a century prior, pioneered tropes used to question utopian ideals by satirically breaking down society into aspects to take them to the extremes to expose and examine their flaws (Gendler “Recognize a Dystopia“; Maloney “Dystopian Books and Films”). Dystopia is a “subset of a subset”, a sub-genre under science fiction under speculative fiction. Popularity of the term is peaking in the field of technological development, net neutrality, privacy, climate change and more, so much so that it’s practically a buzzword of its own. They present exaggerated views of the current, familiar society meant to make a point about its flaws by taking social ills to the extreme. Yet, there are continually developing signs that the world is making its way to the nightmarish landscape authors foresaw (Maloney “Dystopian Books and Films”). Dystopian fiction is not the only outlet for anxious writers or audiences contemplating the next uncontrollable disaster we can only wish we will not suffer alone; zombies, fictitious natural disasters, alien invasions are other manners our fears manifests in fictional form. Monsters that represent our fears fluctuates with the zeitgeist (spirit of a time). Once we exhaust the discussion of one fear, we subvert those depictions by romancing and befriending then, then move on to the next (Rugnetta “Why We Love Zombies“). Utopian ideas straddles many theoretical and practical realms of studies, such as in politics when they are used to portray optimistic outcomes if certain individuals’ ideas were implemented.

A possible cause for subverting tropes and nature of fictional monsters could be due to oversaturation of certain genres. When a trope reaches peak saturation with too many ‘new’ stories or remakes being made of the same ol’ concept, authors and creators find themselves being forced to subvert in order to impress sponsors and the market. It is fact that there is a neverending need to name something that has yet been done, and a somewhat cyclical need to answer the “what do your story have that others don’t?“ question. Like in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series and Jonathan Levine’s Warm Bodies (2013), let’s have the protagonist kiss the monster instead of running away. More on use of similar tropes in the next chapter starting on page 8.




A brief timeline of the genre from its emergence as a reaction to utopian literature to depictions inspired by war-torn nations, and the last decade of notable dystopian works primarily targeted at young adult readers and moviegoers.

1728: Jonathan Swift’s Guillver’s Travels examines a collection of unique societies defect in certain ways. This became the blueprint of future dystopian fiction.

1516: Sir Thomas More’s Utopia about an imaginary perfect island city of the same name. This work established the name of the genre.

c.380BCE: Plato’s Republic about a theoretical utopian city of Kallipolis was ruled by a philosopher king.

A Compendium on Dystopia

2007-2014: Neal Shusterman’s Unwind dystology/trilogy.

1993: Lois Lowry’s The Giver young adult dystopian novel.

1990-2000s: an explosion of dystopian novels, movies and shows, being marketed to young adults.

1924: Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We.

Mid-late 1900s: novels inspired by life under the rule of brutal, militaristic regimes and catastrophic loss of life from technological and scientific development.

2011-2013: Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy.

2009-2016: James Dashner’s The Maze Runner series.

2008-2012: Suzanne Collin’s The Hunger Games series.

1985: Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

1949: George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.

1932: Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.

1895: H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine

Late-1800s: the first “Cataclysmic” writers begin publishing stories expressing their fear and distaste of rapid tech and social changes. John Stuart Mill coined the term “dystopia” in 1868.



A Compendium on Dystopia


Due to its intrinsic link to its root word “utopia”, definitions of dystopia are often first prefaced with the definitions of utopia. There are two major groups of definitions of utopia and dystopia. The first group sees them as antonyms and direct opposites of each other. They defined utopias as imaginary perfect societies, and dystopias are therefore horrible places to be (Mahida “Dystopian Future”; Hiner “Critical Essays”). Utopia is made up of two Greek words, “ou” (not) and “topos” (place), therefore, “no place”. Dystopia, the anti-utopia, seen as an antonym, it meant the “not good place“ in Greek. “Scientific utopias” were imaginary futures where technology improved the lives of human beings. “Scientific dystopias” were created based on beliefs that science is “more likely to be used for evil than for good”.

Independence Square in Kiev, Ukraine. “Smile Ukraine! Smile overcomes a crisis!“ student social gathering on 22 April 2009 on the left, and the same square on 20 Februrary 2014 after violent protests of the Russian annexation of Crimea left over 100 dead and 2,000 injured. Image composite of photos by Sergei Supinsky and Bulent Kilic of AFP and Getty Images.


The second group dismisses the comparison as too simplistic. Dunne and Raby along with several other writers claim dystopias are results of individuals attempting to create utopias, citing real life examples of deadly regimes as a result of their leaders’ utopian thinking (Gordin, Tilley and Prakesh 1-2; Dunne and Raby 73; Gendler “Recognize Dystopia”). Utopia was a projection of a world made better through good and just planning. Dystopia is a utopia “gone wrong”, or a utopia that serves select parts of its society. Utopias are reminders of possible alternatives; as somewhere to aim for rather to than build”. Dystopias are cautionary tales of potential consequences of attempts to fulfill the idealised impossibility of utopias.


A Compendium on Dystopia

Tropes & Examples Dystopian tales often contains tropes, or common themes largely inspired by debate or modern day fears. They could be of governments placing economic wealth over the welfare of citizens, or of new technology inspiring legislations such as genetic manipulation of future generations, or even complete loss of choice in matters of copulation and reproduction. Some of the most commonly used themes in dystopias include rule by an all-powerful government, loss of personal agency, segregations or extreme divides in class or caste systems, and loss or restriction of knowledge and information. Young adult dystopian fiction, particularly those published after The Hunger Games’ success use very similar themes of abandonment, coming of age, love-triangles. This repeated use of similar themes in increasingly less successful franchises has led some to believe (or hope for) a decline in YA dystopian fiction. There is an evident build-up and inevitable plateau of tropes and clichés with every successive franchise brought onto the silver screens with authors attempting to join the multi-million trend (Harrison “Dystopia Films in Decline”). Lauren Sarner claimed that the difference in quality is so great that most dystopian fiction could fall in one of two kinds: The first explores and develops every aspect of its invented world, making the protagonists’ experiences convincing and its reality, plausible. Good examples of such dystopian fictions include Neal Shusterman’s Unwind (2007), Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932). The second kind of works simply trailsThe Hunger Games bandwagon with poorly developed worlds beyond their premise. Works like Allyson Braithwaite Condie’s Matched (2010), Carrie Ryan’s The Forest of Hands and Teeth (2009) and Justin Cronin’s The Passage (2010) were all caught up with wanton destruction, oppressive societies, romantic entanglements, and little beyond (Sarner “Dystopian FIction”).


Except for Brave New World, most of the summaries and tropes listed of the following works were written as a combination of available abstracts, synopsis and what I stood out to me most prominently in the stories. Sarner’s observation of subpar and increasingly homogenous works following the successes of well-written and popular YA series is not limited to the dystopian genre. Stephenie Meyers’ Twilight book series (2006-2008) was followed by novels using similar plot devices and nonhuman characters including P.C. Cast’s vampric The House of Night (2007-2014) and Becka Fitzpatrick’s Hush, Hush (2009-2012) fallen angel romance series. Dozens usually take on triedand-tested tropes though most do not end up on our radars plainly due to how comparatively unoriginal and unpopular they are.

Tropes & Examples

Brave New World The novel by Aldous Huxley was published in 1932 and was regarded as one of the canons of classic dystopian fiction. It was adapted thrice into films in 1980, 1998, and 2011. Synopsis Brave New World depicts an industrialised version of humanity where each individual is bred through selective cloning and conditioned with physical and mental attributes that aligned to preassigned castes in Hatcheries. Intellectual thought barely exists in castes below the Alpha caste, while Epsilon embryos are stunted and vaccinated from menial labour in different climates. Infants and children were programmed with insidious hypnopaedic procedures and taught to indulge in hedonistic behaviours, artificial pleasure drugs and mass produced goods at the cost of meaningful emotions. A natural-born Savage was then introduced into this totalitarian society to witness its nightmarish reality (Higgins “Brave New World”; SparkNotes Editors).

Brave New World was written as a satire of earlier utopian novels such as works by H.G. Wells. An example of a similar hightech future is Man Like Gods (1923) about a scientific utopia in a parallel world. While Brave New World could be seen as a utopian construct, it decries the scientific progress contributing to its formation with a narrative that purposefully alienates the audience from gleeful notions of supremacy in mastering genetic manipulation. As David Pearce wrote, the novel essentially suggests a version of humanity that voluntarily gave up elements like “motherhood”, “home”, “family” and “love” for scientific advent (“Defence of Paradise-Engineering”).

Parallels It was written between WWI and WWII amid concerns about rapid technological progress as a result of the Great War, affordability of goods made possible through mass production, and morality regarding sex. These correlates with then-ongoing debates about equality between class and genders. Huxley was optimistic about diminishing divisions in society and hoped for the growth of a more humane civilisation (Higgins “Brave New World”). Another parallel could be the real world use and development of medication to regulate hormones and emotions. Tropes - High-tech medical facilities and techniques - Mind-altering drugs - Dictated destinies - Singular political ideology - Pavlovian behavioural conditioning - Social segregation by class - Docile citizens


A Compendium on Dystopia

From the left to right page: poster of The Giver movie adaptation in 2014; The Giver first edition cover; post-film re-release book cover,


Tropes & Examples

The Giver First published in 1993, Lois Lowry’s The Giver was sometimes named the first dystopian novel written for young adults. It became a staple and appeared on recommended reading lists for middle schoolers in USA, Canada and Australia.

The novel’s ending haunted me for days after I finished it. The world was believable, plausible if not for the fact that it would take massive amounts of money and effort to quail the inevitable initial protest and riots that might arise while the world was forcefully homogenised. The uncertain self discovery Jonas experienced would have been entirely relatable to my younger self’s mind. The build up and his subsequent actions made me consider how similarly I might react in the same situation from memories of a similar self discovery I had. It is fiction, but I could easily see myself in the protagonist’s position. The relatability, I think, might be the power of dystopian fiction targeted at young adults.

Synopsis The story follows Jonas who lives in a colourless, content world of “sameness”, conforming to what society and the law dictates. Language restriction and daily doses of medication has stripped most of humanity of their nature and deeper emotions, so much so that rage and frustrations are merely “anger“, and “love” is a disused, imprecise term. Jobs, marital and familial relationships are decreed by the community elders, and sexual desires no longer exist. Jonas was later selected to be the Receiver of Memory and begins to see the emotionless, apathetic community he lives in for what it truly is. Parallels Real world use and development of medication to regulate hormones and emotions, Assigned livelihoods in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), Huxley’s Brave New World (1932), and Jeanne DuPrau’s City of Ember (2003). Tropes - Blatant censorship of facts - Orwellian control of language - Information restriction - Surveillance state - Apathetic citizens - Conditioning - Genetic modification of humans - Mind and physiology-altering drugs - Dictated destinies - Blind faith


A Compendium on Dystopia

Unwind The science-fiction dystology was written by Neal Shusterman and first published in 2007 with the first book, Unwind. Its continuation UnWholly was released in 2012, then UnSouled in 2013, and UnDivided in 2014. A movie adaptation was announced in 2010 to be in production.

“In a perfect world everything would be either black or white, right or wrong, and everyone would know the difference. But this isn’t a perfect world. The problem is people who think it is.” - Connor Lassiter, Unwind


Synopsis As a compromise between pro-life and pro-choice factions of the populance, abortion was outlawed but parents and guardians were allowed to submit their children between the age of thirteen and eighteen to the unwind process. The process reduce individuals’ bodies into component body parts, that are then donated to medical facilities for reuse. This was widely communicated as a method to get rid of unwanted children without actually killing them. A trio of teenagers of different backgrounds find themselves sent to a facility be “unwound” under various circumstances. They escape with fellow victims and anti-government organisations to seek asylum until they are eighteen and legally released from the contract their guardians subjected them to. Parallels Pro-life and pro-choice debates, adolescent powerlessness and conditioning in Huxley’s Brave New World (1932) and Lowry’s The Giver (1993). Tropes - High-tech medical facilities and techniques - Sanctioned/unquestioned euthanasia - Apathetic citizens - Impotence in adolescence - Pro-life legislations taken to extremes - Immoral morals - Arc words: “Somebody else’s problem”

Tropes & Examples

Welcome to Night Vale WTNV is a surreal and humorous online podcast series written by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, and narrated primarily by Cecil Baldwin with occasional characters voiced by guest stars.

WTNV is a long-time personal favourite. Powerful writing combined with Baldwin’s potent voice made for a very addictive storytelling. Each episode contains varying degrees of absurdity, wherein one might be about townsfolk’s writing during a poetry week, the next could be an intense reading of some unfortunate soul’s final day in town, or the radio station’s eldritch boss attacking interns and invading the recording booth while its on air. The podcast is notably queer friendly with the main narrator having an infatuation with Carlos, a outsider scientist whom he eventually ends up in a relationship with. Some would call the radio broadcasts a theatre of the mind. This particular theatre is a good thrilling mixture of inexplicable mayhem with the occasional dash of romance.

Synopsis Cecil Palmer, also known as the Voice of Night Vale (literally), is a radio host that talks about weekly happenings in the fictional town of Night Vale, covering mysterious and horrifying events such as the annual Street Cleaning Day that kills anyone caught outdoors, a dog park no one is allowed to enter on fear of death, secret police that listens in on citizens’ chatter and frequently take people away for “re-education”, many-eyed angels everyone is made to deny they exist, timeloops and portals randomly opening, a sister town of Desert Bluffs with a whole other more horrific version of dystopian corpocratic control with parallelled characters in Night Vale, and so on. The events and characters that appear in the desert town are peculiar and frightful but somehow its townsfolk takes it all in stride. Parallels Albert Camus’ absurdism discussed in the Myth of Sisyphus (1941), during the rise of the similarly nightmarish rule of the Nazi (Olly “Philosophy“), lore of Lovecraftian horrors, surveillance state in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949). Tropes - Blatant censorship of facts - Information restriction - Surveillance state - Conditioning - Apathetic citizens - Rule by corpocracy - Blind faith - Dubious foodsource 15

A Compendium on Dystopia

“Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb, we are bound to others, past and present. And by each crime, and every kindness, we birth our future.� - Sonmi-451, Neo-Seoul, year 2144 16

Tropes & Examples

Cloud Atlas A 2012 experimental science-fiction film directed by the Wachowskis and Tom Tywker that features an assemble cast that plays four to six characters each. The film was adapted from David Mitchell’s book of the same name. Synopsis Six different protagonists and their stories are depicted concurrently, each connected to the next on a chronological timeline spanning centuries of human history. The story depicts how their individual moral or immoral actions affect decisions of their reincarnations and change the course of humanity for the greater good.

The film had polarising reviews due to its somewhat experimental method of story telling with skips in timezones during major scene changes, non-chronological narrative, and controversial yellow/white face casting (although that is a point that contributed to the plot). It tops my favourites list for its complexity, attentiongrabbing arcs, and insane amount of details. It tackled massive themes like love, faith, oppression, discrimination, and the human condition, all with a thread of spirituality running in between. It is impossible to feel bored watching this movie despite how long it runs.

Left page: clone ‘fabricants’ working at Papa Song’s dinery; a fabricant meets her replacement at the end of her 12-year contract term; Sonmi-451 witnessing the fabricants’ final march to ‘Xultation’. Above: post-film book cover adapted from film poster.

A lawyer questioning the morality of the slave trade, a gay amanuensis, an investigative reporter, a greedy publisher, a sub-human cloned slave, and a tribesman struggling to trust a technologically advanced outsider. As one, they tell a story of love, of changing moralities, and a recurring fight for freedom from their respective oppressors, Parallels Real life slave trade and discrimination, Huxley’s Brave New World (1932), Richard Fleischer’s Soylent Green (1973), fears of artificially manufactured social divide. Tropes - Censorship of facts - Information restriction - Orwellian control of language - Rule by corpocracy - Clones produced for labour - Conditioning - Dubious foodsource - Apathetic citizens - Dictated destinies - Blind faith 17

A Compendium on Dystopia

The Lego Movie The Lego Movie is an animated action adventure film directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller and released in 2014 worldwide.

“Instructions to fit in, have everybody like you, and always be happy! Step one; breathe. Okay, got that one down. Step two; greet today’s smile and say... Good morning, city!” - Emmet Brickowoski, The Lego Movie

Right page: Emmet Brickowoski’s home city Bricksberg; Emmet and the master builders running away from Lord Business; Bad Cop about to glue his parents under Lord Business’ orders after being subjected to brainwashing. 18

Synopsis The film follows the misadventures of Emmet, an ordinary construction worker who was seemingly prophesied to stop a tyrannical dictator from his plot to glue the Lego universe into permanent, ordered stasis (IMDb). Emmet realises he was merely one of many nameless citizens living in a highly regulated pseudo-utopian society. Along the way, he encounters and is aided by master builders including caricatures of well known characters such as Abraham Lincoln, DC Comics heroes, and Star Wars troopers. Parallels John Hanlon wrote an article on The Week drawing glaring similarities between The Lego Movie and George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), from songs and uniformed processes meant to drown individuals in rhythmic motions, to living in a surveillance state, pacifying citizens with mass-produced entertainment, to even torture, brainwashing, physical and emotional manipulation. Hanlon concluded his brief analysis with how The Lego Movie was an unexpectedly successful and thought provoking reinvention of Nineteen Eighty-Four for the younger audience (“New Nineteen Eighty-Four”). Tropes - Censorship of facts - Information restriction - Strictly regulated society - Surveillance state - Conditioning - Rule by corpocracy - Blind belief in broadcasted messages

Tropes & Examples


A Compendium on Dystopia

Creators’ Standpoint: Producing Dystopias Dunne and Raby described dystopias as “cautionary tales” that are warnings of potential horrific effects if humanity was not careful in its pursuit of utopias. They believed that desires for a perfect society are dangerous to entertain, exemplified by deadly atrocities committed by Nazi, Fascist and Stalinist regimes in the name of utopian thinking (73). They are often rooted in lived experiences of creators who perceive their environments to be dystopian. This often arraigns the present as a depressing version of reality that results from an inability or unwillingness to recognise potentially debilitating symptoms today (Gordin, Tilley and Prakash 2). Dystopian and utopian speculative works have been intricately linked with politics at the time of writing as both are inevitably tied to the writers’ political philosophy (Mahida “Dystopian Future). Similarly, the statement that “every film is political” is true in that they are expressions of the dominant, prevailing ideology limited by existing economic systems most filmmakers are subjected to (Comolli and Narboni 197).


Producing Dystopias

Dystopian stories usually express social or political anxieties of the time of writing, often acting as the creators’ critiques of real world situations or cautionary tales of potential futures. Zamyatin’s We (1924) criticised social control in Stalin-controlled USSR, while Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 (1953) was written in reaction to information restriction in USA. The Wachowskis’ V for Vendetta (2005) film staged scenes to parallel infamous internment camps under Bush administration, while Charlie Brooker and Kanak Huq’s “Fifteen Million Merits” (2011) episode on Black Mirror was a warning against extreme digital media immersion and saturation of advertising not too far removed from contemporary society.

Left page: behind the scenes of the domino set of V for Vendetta photograph by Lazy-L on Flickr. Above and below: V toppling a set of dominos arranged to display his logo in V for Vendetta.

A Compendium on Dystopia

Rather than as warnings, they seem to function as an method to archive our present predictions and fears so we could take them out decades in the future when these things do come true, to tell the younger generation, “see, we told you to be careful, now look at us” (if information restriction has not already ripped this from our collective memories, that is). 22

- Bing, “Fifteen Million Merits”, Black Mirror Season 1 Episode 2

While the show and this episode act as a warning and a reminder, I cannot help but question “okay, then what?”. It may be a little fatalistic, but even if we were aware of these potential consequences, we cannot stop corporations and establishments from moving or developing in these directions in the name of technological and econonomical progress. It is an unfortunate fact that our world is lorded by the rich and shaped on their whims.

This particular episode resonated with many because most of its plot devices are already in place in the world we live in. Elements in the show that have real life equivalent include talent show with apathetic and ruthlessly scathing judges, the day to day punch-in and out routine of work, of verbal and abuse targeted at obese individuals, the lack of empathy for fellows due to the anonymity afforded by online personas, and the continuous inundation of advertisements we cannot choose to ignore.

“You pull a face and poke it towards the stage and la-di-da we sing and dance and tumble around and all you see up here, it’s not people, you don’t see people up here, it’s all fodder. And the faker the fodder is the more you love it because fake fodder’s the only thing that works anymore, fake fodder is all that we can stomach... Show us something real and free and beautiful, you couldn’t. It’d break us, we’re too numb for it, our minds would choke.”

Black Mirror as a social warning Some depictions meant to be warnings include tropes of “social decay and cultural dumbing down”. For example, the British satirical television series Black Mirror imagined existing technology being used to subject humanity to unpleasant, nightmarish state of living (Dunne and Raby 75). Its second episode, “Fifteen Million Merits” depicted a nihilist existence that mirrors modern office drones heading to work to earn merits to purchase basic amenities like toothpaste, only to wake and repeat the same process again the next day. It warned audiences of potential consequences to being overly addicted to handy applications on our phones, thereby losing our identities, sense of decency through digital anonymity, and empathy for others. Ultimately, the reminder was to allow those in the first world to take action to avoid the horrific future (Surette “15 Million Merits”).

Producing Dystopias

Bing and Abi sitting in a cafeteria in the episode’s promotional image; Bing trying to physically block out advertisements of Abi’s sexual assault as the screens display “RESUME VIEWING“ warning signs in “Fifteen Million Merits”, Black Mirror. 23

A Compendium on Dystopia

V for Vendetta as a criticism The Wachowskis inseminated their own agendas into the film adaptation of Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta visual novel by altering significant plot points to slant the film’s narrative towards their political ideal and to make it more accessible to movie-going audiences. Moore wrote the 1982 comic in reaction to the nebulous Margaret Thatcher’s administration which lasted from 1979 to 1991 (“Margaret Thatcher Biography”), while the Wachowskis version in 2005 adapted the story’s premise as a critique against the Bush administration that spanned 2001 to 2009 (Goldstein “Comic vs Film”; “George W. Bush Biography”).


- Evey Hammond, V for Vendetta

“My father was a writer. You would’ve liked him. He used to say that artists use lies to tell the truth, while politicians use them to cover the truth up.”

In the film, several scenes were constructed to mirror controversial images of abuse in US internment camps. Characters were “black-bagged” as they were detained, shaved bald, and clad in orange prisoner outfits, similar to photographs of mistreated inmates at Guantanamo Bay and other internment sites. Its fictional dictatorship eavesdropped on its citizens indiscriminately, which alludes to the U.S. PATRIOT Act, an antiterrorism edict established in 2001 after 9/11. The Act was meant to pursue terror suspects through digital means and had been accused of violating the information privacy of Americans. This was later proven to be true by Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing in 2013 (Crow “10 Years Later”; Goldstein “Comic vs Film”).

Beyond literary or realms of portrayal, dystopia as a social situation is already true for inmates at various internment camps, not limited to those in the United States. It is discomforting to know that while we are sitting in our insulated rooms drinking our sodas, critiquing someone else’s one or two year long film project, somewhere else, real life people are suffering living hell. What we only take a few hours to try to relate to could be someone else’s years of life or prolonged death. Somewhere else, people resort to selling blood and body parts to sustain their families and education. Somewhere else, children are being groomed into being sexual playthings. Somewhere else, a frail man or woman or snatched child is having their legs broken to serve as beggars. These are real and have already been happening for centuries. And yet, humanity with our technologies and progress, has not moved from all this depraved cruelty. Did Philip Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment really prove our humanity or lack thereof? That our empathy for fellow human beings can be so easily discarded for monetary gains or to sate our inner sadist?

Producing Dystopias

From above: Guantanamo detainees in 2001 and a detainee wearing a mask, goggles and mufflers on an unknown date. Images from Reuters, and Ascot Elite for The Road to Guantanamo (2006) directed by Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross.


A Compendium on Dystopia

A case could be made to say that she started to understand V as a person and as the idea he was trying to get her to see, but (speaking from the point of view of someone who has not been put through what she suffered) a sensible person would not have reacted the same. Not to mention fallen for the demented man who voluntarily tortured her. It came off as another typical Hollywood “romance through strife” scenario.

“Our integrity sells for so little, but it is all we really have. It is the very last inch of us, but within that inch, we are free... I shall die here. Every inch of me shall perish. Every inch, but one. An Inch, it is small and it is fragile, but it is the only thing the world worth having. We must never lose it or give it away. We must never let them take it from us. I hope that whoever you are, you escape this place. I hope that the world turns and that things get better. But what I hope most of all is that you understand what I mean when I tell you that even though I do not know you, and even though I may never meet you, laugh with you, cry with you, or kiss you. I love you. With all my heart, I love you.”

For example, the anti-hero character V was rarely shown to emote beyond rage and cold superiority in the comics, but the film depicted him as a more humane character, playing the disfigured love interest opposite his star-crossed lover like in The Phantom of the Opera. The entire film sets up a violent and horrifying fascist dictatorship culminating in an ironically “bloody catharsis” when V viciously murders its leaders (Orr “Movie Review”; Crow “10 Years Later”; Goldstein “Comic vs Film”). Rather than depicting a neutral version of reality, dystopias in films are often created with agendas, taking liberties with facts and characterisation to sway audiences to the creators’ believes and political inclinations.

The film is political, and some plot points made no logical sense particularly where Evey accepted the torture she was put through and still trusted her tormentor in the end though it made more sense for her not to.


- Valerie, V for Vendetta

Efforts to induce sympathy from the audience also led to changes in character motivations. Antagonists were made facsimiles of real-life dictators and deliberately demonized with repulsive qualities to induce a sense of gratification in audiences when they were violently defeated. Correspondingly, protagonists were made to be more morally righteous with regards to their actions and reactions to events happening around them.

Producing Dystopias

Above: Evey shaved after “capture�. She was subjected to water torture and interrogations during her incarceration. Images from V for Vendetta (2005). 27

A Compendium on Dystopia

Audiences’ Standpoint: Reading, Watching, Consuming The “uses and gratifications” approach in media studies examine desires of active audiences in the consumption of media. Denis McQuail’s study in 1972 identified four main function of media: first, as a short-term diversion from problems in daily life; second, as a resource used to reinforce or develop values and personhood; third, as a source of information or method of engagement with the world through surveillance; and fourth, as a substitute or facilitator of social relationships (Hodkinson 90). Another explanation for the popularity of dystopian tales are due to film adaptations of existing novels. Dystopia, alongside utopia, have firm roots in literary works. Most examples of dystopian fiction in audio-visual form were based off published novels (Gordin, Tilley and Prakash 1). 28

The first three correlate with proposed reasons dystopian fictions are particularly popular in recent years.

Above: Sonmi-451 and resistance fighter Hae-Joo Chang flee from enforcers over Neo Seoul in the year 2144. Scene from Cloud Atlas (2012).


1. Temporary reprieve from present-day woes Contemporary negative portrayals of futures swelled in popularity around the global financial downturn in 2008. Uncertainty of social and economic stability drove audiences towards temporary immersion into sci-fi and fantasy worlds. Seale Ballenger believed that people wanted “to focus on something other than the nonstop woes of the world” (Wilkins “As Our World Crumbles“). Grim socio-economical outlook also served to increase the pool of audience receptive to darker stories that they can now better relate to (Wilkins). The allure of dystopian fictions lies in how depictions of terrible conflicts with high stakes, hopeless situations and overwhelming odds are countered by protagonists that still fight back against dominant powers (Sarner “Dystopian Fiction“).

Humans like to watch (fictional) characters suffer. That is fact long established since people started telling stories. Narratives without interor intrapersonal conflicts generate no interest. No one wants to know about Sonmi escaping her assigned role as a cloned slave who went on to live happily ever after with her saviour, No, we like to watch her suffer recapture, narrow escape from contaiment, horrifying revelations about her creation, her efforts to help the resistance, and eventual death by execution because happy endings without trial are meaningless and simply not satisfying to watch. 29

A Compendium on Dystopia

2. Reinforcing own experiences and values Dana Stevens put forth the notion that young adult dystopian stories like The Hunger Games were teenage social and intrapersonal drama codified into fiction. She equated the unwilling ‘reaping’ of Katniss Everdeen and her meteoric rise to fictional-media stardom after surviving a televised killing games as a reluctant homecoming queen. This was reinforced with imageries of characters being put in uncomfortable social situations and fashion parades, made to perform unenthused scripted speeches, and act for cameras. Author Nicole Ciacchella agreed with Steven’s observations and said that “it’s no coincidence” teenagers in dystopian stories are often pitted against the interest of adult characters (Hariharan “Time for Speculative Fiction“).


Now that I have read those articles, I cannot unsee the fact that much of what Katniss goes through in the films could be seen as exaggerations of a typical American teenager’s life. She was ‘nominated’ as an unwilling representative of her community (and later a rebellion she initially wanted no part of), made to parade around in extravagent prom dresses at glitzy parties, fumbling through interviews on live-television, and awkwardly staging a farce of a romance, etc.


Jonathan Jones of The Guardian, somewhat infamous for his scathing and skeptical articles about new trends, played the devil’s advocate against YA dystopia. In an article discussing the Hunger Games Salute as an actual symbol of revolution, he singled out The Hunger Games as something “rooted in teenagers’ sensibilities” with shallow political imageries meant to drive up dramatic narrative tension and sales (“Thai Protestors’ Political Thought“). More on Jones’ article in the next section.

Maybe another question could be whether or not being aware of the fact that a certain YA story extrapolates directly from a student life audiences do not personally experience makes the escapist experience less enjoyable. It has definitely lost some of its charm on me. It now feels like I am more removed from the depiction because I am not an American teenager.

From left: Katniss Everdeen in her wedding gown in a promotional poster for the film; Katniss, Effie Trinket and Peeta Mellark walking towards the Capitol’s Presidential Palace for a party. Both are from Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013). 31

A Compendium on Dystopia

3. Means to examine collective fears Dystopia is a type of speculative fiction that explores the effects of slight modifications to the world we know with “what-if” prompts. It exists alongside other sub-genres such as apocalyptic, time travelling and alternate history. It extrapolates from elements of real world events and anxieties (Neugebauer, “Speculative Fiction”). This in effect made dystopian depictions “excellent social barometers” of present fears and anxieties of the future. Adam Sternbergh named two types of dystopias: one of extreme order and one of extreme disorder. The former is evidenced by older novels written shortly after World War II and during the Cold War era such as George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, published respectively in 1948 and 1985. Both took heavy inspiration from memories of life under heavily regulated

Black Mirror is a satirical show that examines certain real life social phenomenon taken to the extremes. The episode “15 Million Merits” was inspired by our online virtual “life” like social media presence, consumption of talent shows that often humiliate stars on national television, our inability to put digital devices down, oversaturation of advertisements everywhere we go (even in the loo), and the loss of agency in the face of temptations. The episode was intended to serve as a warning for humanity against being so absorbed into fragmented digital realm



Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. The latter version favoured in recent years features cataclysmic breakdown of societal order caused by super-viruses or nanotechnology run amok. This reflects present-day fears of helplessness in an increasingly complex world (Sternbergh “Dystopias are Social Barometers”). Michael Gordin, Helen Tilley, and Gyan Prakash took it a step further and suggested that depictions of utopian and dystopian societies could be used to study historical events and contexts. They are both imagined potential futures directly inspired by sociological settings of authors and therefore contains aspects of reality. Long-established extensive studies of recurring themes used by each could be linked to underlying ideologies and could be critically regarded as “historically grounded analytic categories”.

From left page: Bing looks at his virtual avatar and accumulated merit points; virtual audience avatars at a reality TV show. Both are screenshots of Black Mirror episode “15 Million Merits”.

that we forget compassion and apathy for each other in real life. Dramatisation of our present concerns could potentially be a record to be examined by future generations, much like how we could study Zamyatin’s fear of complete surrender of selfagency through his novel We, or our potential loss of language and knowledge from Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. Bradbury originally wrote his novel out of concern of actual restriction of information in USA in 1940s. He later revised his motivations to be about loss of interest in literature with the surge of television usage. 33

A Compendium on Dystopia

4. Film adaptations Although there are very polarising opinions about whether books triumphs over movies in terms of impact and value, films undoubtedly benefit from its visual form in terms of reach and publicity (Vines “Adapting Books into Movies”). The modern populace regards images and moving graphics as staples for communication in our technologically advanced environment. Films are often treated as a boon to imaginations spurred by written text (Vines “Adapting Books into Movies”). Susan Sontag predicted imageaddiction in 1977 in a collection of essays On Photography. She called the phenomenon of photographs confirming reality or enhancing experiences an “aesthetic consumerism” that are turning citizens into “image-junkies” (Sontag 24). This visual hegemony has irrevocably boosted the popularity of films and television shows as main mediums of media consumption, evident in how they have become a choice medium to inform and educate instead of written text. Newsweek lost the authority it used to command, historical texts have less communicative power about the struggles of King George VI than the 2010 dramatised biographical film The King’s Speech (Drucker “Watching, Not Reading”). Movie watching consumes less time and mental energy than reading a book, and where the former is often a social activity, the latter is usually a personal experience. Individuals unable to make time for novels often choose to commit comparatively shorter hours watching the same stories specifically designed and produced to convey the author or director’s vision in smaller span of time (Vines “Adapting Books into Movies”).


The increasing power of moving pictures and the conversely diminishing supremacy of the written word translates to the prominence and popularity of dystopian tales such as in the case of V for Vendetta comic and The Hunger Games book series. V for Vendetta was an unpopular cult comic until its movie adaptation in 2005. Exposure of the story to the masses in the form of a film reignited interest in the original visual novel that has since been regarded as a dystopian classic (Dekajlo and Nixon “Comics Classic!”). Similarly, The Hunger Games trilogy had an initial print run of 9.6 million copies in 2008 that rose to more than 26 million copies shortly before its first film was released in March of 2012 (Vines “Adapting Books into Movies”; Drucker “Watching, Not Reading”). From left page: cover of V for Vendetta; poster of the 2005 film of the same name directed by James McTeigue and written by the Wachowskis.

A Compendium on Dystopia

Adopting Fictional Dystopian Symbols Fictional symbols sometimes are sometimes adopted by real life political or social movements. Art beat writer Jonathan Jones of The Guardian wrote in an article how the Hunger Games salute being used by Thai anti-coup protestors as a sign of “tragic intellectual vacuum”. He claimed Occupy Wall Street’s similar adoption of the Guy Fawkes’ mask, also known as the Anonymous mask, is similarly “corny”. The so-called “bankruptcy of political beliefs” was contrasted with the Marxist clenched fist of the Soviet Union which he claimed to have ties to revolutions in the eighteenthcentury, accompanied by literature and discourse by historical figures (“Thai Protestors’ Political Thought”).


Above and below: the revolutionary march from V for Vendetta (2005). Jones’ commentary on several other subjects in the arts field similarly condemns convenience of the art world today. For example, he disapproved of people using guides while looking at artwork, with accusations like: “The idea that in order to

Adopting Symbols

In response to this, Emily Asher-Perrin of wrote an article defending the use of the abovementioned salute and mask as clear displays of people who made connections of their own sentiment to the depictions on the respective films. She saw Jones’ article as “paternalistic at best, and at worse completely dismissive” of the protestors’ opinions and real dangers of persecution from their public dissent. She cited examples of how fiction appropriated real life symbols such as how The Hunger Games salute was originally used by the Scouts since the early 1900s, Star Trek’s Vulcan salute as a Jewish symbol Leonard Nimoy learnt from his grandfather’s synagogue, and sci-fi TV-series Farscape used prominent Soviet propaganda in the Peacekeepers’ banners. She is of the opinion that political and fictional symbols being copied and linked back and forth is not new, nor are they made on vacuous impulse. Another example of similar thread she cited include the Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance group’s use of the Mockingjay symbol with the quote “the odds are never in our favor” in a protest banner against fracking practices by Devon Energy. Both symbol and quote were direct references of the The Hunger Games novels and films (Goldenberg). As forming patterns and connections are natural to humans as a species, there is nothing inherently wrong when certain symbols move or relate to certain groups of people who then adopt them as part of their identities (“Fictional Symbols on Political Stages”).

appreciate a work of art you need to be spoonfed amazing facts about it is erroneous and slightly pathetic.“ (“Art is Best Shrouded in Mystery“). He incorrectly claimed in the article about the Thai protestors that both The Hunger Games and V for Vendetta are entirely removed from reality, and that the former is “rooted in teenagers’ sensibilities” with political imageries and dramatic narrative meant to drive sales. His refusal to acknowledge fiction interacting with the real world could not have been borne from ignorance. Of his hundreds of articles, there were some that seem to be deliberately provocative. As my journalism lecturer advised, editors love these sort of writers; the more it angers people, the greater its reach, the more gleeful the editors. 37

A Compendium on Dystopia

“Million Mask March London 2015 Live: Bonfire Night Chaos Ensues As Three Police Officers Injured And Patrol Car Set Ablaze.” on The Huffington Post, 5 Nov. 2015. Images by Jack Taylor and Ben Pruchnie on Getty Images.




-V in V for Vendetta

Governments should be afraid of their people.”

“People should not be afraid of their governments.

Adopting Symbols

As mentioned by both writers, one of the examples of dystopian visions being adopted by its audience is the use of the Guy Fawkes mask by the Anonymous hacktivist group. The mask was originally a caricature of Guido “Guy” Fawkes, an infamous character in the gunpowder plot to assassinate the then-Protestant British king in 1605. The plot was foiled when Fawkes was caught in the act, and his fellow conspirators executed. The Parliament made the 5th of November an anti-Catholicism national day that is still celebrated with burning straw effigies of Fawkes’ likeness on Bonfire Night (Macphail and Lockhart). Alan Moore and David Lloyd, the writer and artist behind the 1982 V for Vendetta comic took heavy inspiration from the historical event for its main protagonist, V. V was portrayed as an anti-government vigilante who wears a mask designed as a caricature with Guy Fawkes’ signature moustache. V quoted

a modified version of the 1870s English folk verse, “Remember, remember, the fifth of November, the gunpowder treason and plot. I know of no reason why the gun powder treason should ever be forgot.” (Habing). The popularity of the comic and its vigilante soared when its film adaptation was released in 2005. It was credited for bringing the littleknown cult-comic to the wider audience and the mask became inspiration for anti-government or anti-establishment protests (Dekajlo and Nixon). Soon after the movie was released, the high-tech hacktivist group Anonymous adopted the spirit of the “tyrannyshattering vigilante” and his mask as their global identity with his mask featured in protest and announcement videos. The mask has since been used in all manners of anti-government protests to keep the identity of the wearer hidden, worn as an icon of resistance against authorities, or simply to celebrate the novel or film (Tognotti). The annual “Million Mask March” organised by Anonymous worldwide encouraged supporters to don the mask, inspired by one of the climatic sequences in the film where members of public wore the mask as they marched against armed government enforcers (“V for Vendetta”).

Left page: V introducing himself to Evey in V for Vendetta (2005).


A Compendium on Dystopia

Protesters against military rule displaying The Hunger Games salute in flash-mob protests at train stations and popular shopping malls. Images by Erik De Castro and Jack Kurtz of Reuters and Zuma Press.


Adopting Symbols

21-year old activist Nachacha Kongudom raises a three-fingered salute as she was arrested by plain clothes police at a cinema in Bangkok where “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1� is showing. Photo by Sakchai Lalit from Associated Press. 43


-Graffiti in Catching Fire

“The odds are never in our favour!”

Adopting Symbols

A more recent example similar adoption of dystopian symbols in real life is the use of the “Hunger Games salute” in Thailand by protestors of a military coup in May 2014. On 22 May 2014, the Thai military successfully assumed control of the government for the twelfth time in the attempted 19 that took place in the last 80 years. The coup was met with objection by members of the public in the form of staged protests organised over social media and mobile applications (Chandler “Life Imitates Hunger Games”). Anti-coup protestors were seen displaying the three-fingered “Hunger Games salute” with the appropriated slogan of the French Revolution, “liberty, brotherhood, and equality”. The salute was made popular in The Hunger Games film series as a silent symbol of resistance against the ruling government. It stood for freedom, liberty and peace (“3-finger Resistance”).

The Thai military junta quickly banned anti-coup apparel and protests, and detained anyone caught publicly displaying the salute. A chain of cinemas in Bangkok pulled screenings of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 following arrests of student protest groups at theatres who claimed to have bought hundreds of tickets to the shows to hand them out to the public to decry the military rule (Mydans “Thai Protestors Detained”). Francis Lawrence, director of three of the four Hunger Games movies was quoted on The Sydney Morning Herald, saying, “Part of it is sort of thrilling that something that happens in the movie can become a symbol for people, for freedom or protest. But when kids started getting arrested for it… it takes the thrill out of it and it becomes much more dangerous and it makes the feeling much more complex.” (Miller “Hunger Games Director”).

Left page: injured revolutionists raising the silent salute to Katniss in solidarity. Scene from The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (2014).


A Compendium on Dystopia

Further Research In short The examined sources discussing dystopias span a multitude of fields including sociology, politics, philosophy, history, economy, design, media and mass communication. They unveil possible futures, methods to construct society, and serve as historians’ means to assess collective anxieties of different time periods. The peaking popularity of the genre could be attributed to socioeconomic agitation, supremacy of visuals, and audiences’ appetite for escapist materials. Communicative depictions of dystopias are often designed to be political or sociocritical. Many were created with the intent to affect an awareness, or change audiences’ perception of the world they live in. Whether this influence is to the benefit of the audience or to the creators’ agenda is entirely up to the individual and their willingness to question or even appropriate the beatifically or tragically presented messages, much like how protagonists eventually gain awareness and will to challenge their fictional dystopian establishments oppressing their rights. “Okay, then what?” How do or should audiences actively react to dystopian depictions? Many contemporary depictions meant to act as warnings rarely tell audiences what to do to avoid a given scenario. They are questions and what ifs but do not offer solutions. Should or could they offer solutions? If dystopian stories are warnings and prompts for actions, how and what are those actions? Could film or novel promotional collaterals or marketing be used to further a story’s narrative beyond the screens or pages? For example, in the case of extreme social media immersion in Black Mirror, events could be organised by cell groups around the world to promote social contact and offline communication after certain related episodes have been aired. Public relation, marketers, or social cause designers and workers could then promote those offline activities for long term use. 46

Further Research

Are dystopias predictions or self-fulfilling prophecies? How has contemporary living fulfilled dystopian tropes envisaged in past renditions? Dystopias often fall under the umbrella of sciencefiction. Many modern inventions were inspired from the speculative imaginations of writers or directors such as with hovercrafts and militarised suits like that of Ironman. Similarly, Anonymous is a nearly complete mirror of vigilantism in V for Vendetta with heavy use of its expressed ideas and symbols. Unwind featured institutionalised organ harvesting from children, while real life blood banks set up clinics for poor university students to sell their own blood plasma to pay for tuition fees and textbooks. Could designers and writers change or create futures through speculative or design fiction? Columbian hacker Andrés Sepúlveda claimed in an interview that he could change public opinion by posting and reposting messages through his “army” of 30,000 twitter accounts. With algorithms and programmes to generate life-like responses and speech, he could prime the social media landscape to believe anything he wanted them to believe. He realised “people believe what the Internet says more than reality“. Sepúlveda managed to rig the 2012 Mexican presidential election on a budget of just $600,000 with prerecorded messages sent to tens of thousands through s.m. at critical junctures of elections (Rivero “The Scariest Sentence About the Internet“). This suggests that if enough people are exposed to a certain fiction, or given the impression that a certain view is supported through appropriate mass media platforms, it could convince them to a new “truth” the sender designed. On the one hand, it may be used as another plot device in a dystopian fiction, on the other hand, it could be used to further a designer’s intent, be it good or bad. A branch off from this could be designs for good. Could design be created as cautionary tales? Design briefs often require solutions to address issues. What if the design solutions don’t have immediate use or functional purpose? CV Dazzle was a style project by Adam Harvey about makeup and styling designed to thwart advanced digital face detection programmes. It combined the use of military camoflage and avantgarde styling to conceal the wearer’s features from face detection. This has potential to be extremely functional in a speculative dystopian future as a privacy safeguard against constant surveillance (“Camouflage from Face Detection”). What if prepatory kits or handbooks could be be made to function both as a caution and a self-help “to-do” package in case of emergencies? It could be designed to warn of potential man-made disasters, that could still be prevented if the right actions were taken, while being a ready kit in case the worst case scenario took place. 47

A Compendium on Dystopia

What would a dystopian media or design landscape look like? The beneficiaries of a dystopian system are usually featured with clean and somewhat cold, digitally rendered graphics and typography. The opposing side of the rebels or the victims are rough and primitive, represented with sprayed walls and handdrawn illustrations. What would a pro-government television station look like? What would a rebellion’s television station look like? How would propaganda posters could be used to promote certain activities or behaviours? What would the corresponding anti-propaganda posters or graffiti look like? If certain parts of the population live in technologically savaged living conditions, how would antipropaganda messages be created or delivered? Are dystopian stories modern fairytales? As mentioned by Rugnetta, this dystopian bubble of the ongoing and ever-changing zeitgeist could be just one of many cycles of “monster fiction�. In this case, the governing system of dystopias are the monsters and the unfortunate self-aware victims are the protagonists. Both serve as cautionary tales against misdeeds or transgressions, with moral lessons to be learnt in the end. What other parallels could be drawn between dystopias and fairytales? Since it is proven that the heavy themes in Nineteen Eighty-Four could be rewritten as a child-friendly Lego movie, could or should dystopian tales be written and marketed at children? Could dystopian stories and their tropes be categorised? Sarner named two categories of classifying what she regarded as well-constructed dystopian worlds and what she did not. Are there ways to determine whether a certain dystopian vision is better rounded than another? Like fantasy has sub-genres of gothic fiction, steampunk, occult fiction, high fantasy, and so on, could sub-genres of dystopia be established? Could a rating system be created for this genre such as age-appropriate categorisation? Gordin, Tilley and Prakash believe tropes could be used in historical studies. Another possible avenue to investigate could be a study of existing and prospective tropes in future dystopian fictions. While tropes in dystopian fiction never fully fade in relevancy, orders or degrees of relevancy could be established, in which some could be of greater immediate concern than others.


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u¡to¡pia [noun] a reminder of possibilities; somewhere to aim for rather than to build

A Compendium on Dystopia: Creation and Consumption  

A 48-page A5 research compendium on the genre of dystopian fiction, designed and printed in black and white. It is a compilation of researc...

A Compendium on Dystopia: Creation and Consumption  

A 48-page A5 research compendium on the genre of dystopian fiction, designed and printed in black and white. It is a compilation of researc...