Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
A dystopia (or alternatively cacotopia or kakotopia) is a fictional society, usually portrayed as existing in a future time, when the conditions of life are extremely bad due to deprivation, oppression, or terror. Science fiction, particularly post-apocalyptic science fiction and cyberpunk, often feature dystopias. Social critics, especially postmodern social critics, also use the term "dystopian" to condemn trends in post-industrial society they see as negative.
In most dystopian fiction, a corrupt government creates or sustains the poor quality of life, often conditioning the masses to believe the society is proper and just, even perfect. Most dystopian fiction takes place in the future but often purposely incorporates contemporary social trends taken to extremes. Dystopias are frequently written as warnings, or as satires, showing current trends extrapolated to a nightmarish conclusion.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term was coined in the late 19th century by British philosopher John Stuart Mill, who also used Jeremy Bentham's synonym, cacotopia. The prefix caco- means "bad". Both words were created to contrast utopia, a word coined by Sir Thomas More to describing an ideal place or society. Utopia combined the Greek-derived ou ("no") + topos ("place"). Dystopia combined the dys, Greek word for "bad" or "negative" with topos. Thus, meaning "bad place".
As some writers have noted, however, the difference between a Utopia and a Dystopia can often lie in the visitor's point of view: one person's heaven can be another's hell.
Common traits of dystopian fiction
The following is a list of common traits of dystopias, although it is by no means definitive. Most dystopian films or literature include at least a few of the following:
- a hierarchical society where divisions between the upper, middle and lower class are definitive and unbending (Caste system).
- a nation-state ruled by an upper class with few democratic ideals
- state propaganda programs and educational systems that coerce most citizens into worshipping the state and its government, in an attempt to convince them into thinking that life under the regime is good and just
- strict conformity among citizens and the general assumption that dissent and individuality are bad
- a fictional state figurehead that people worship fanatically through a vast personality cult, such as 1984’s Big Brother or We‘s The Benefactor
- a fear or disgust of the world outside the state
- a common view of traditional life, particularly organized religion, as primitive and nonsensical
- a penal system that lacks due process laws and often employs psychological or physical torture
- constant surveillance by state police agencies
- the banishment of the natural world from daily life
- a back story of a natural disaster, war, revolution, uprising, spike in overpopulation or some other climactic event which resulted in dramatic changes to society
- a standard of living among the lower and middle class that is generally poorer than in contemporary society
- a protagonist who questions the society, often feeling intrinsically that something is terribly wrong
- because dystopian literature takes place in the future, it often features technology more advanced than that of contemporary society
To have an effect on the reader, dystopian fiction typically has one other trait: familiarity. It is not enough to show people living in a society that seems unpleasant. The society must have echoes of today, of the reader's own experience. If the reader can identify the patterns or trends that would lead to the dystopia, it becomes a more involving and effective experience. Authors can use a dystopia effectively to highlight their own concerns about societal trends. For example, some commentators say that George Orwell originally wanted to title 1984 1948, because he saw the world he describes emerging in austere postwar Europe.
Examples of dystopian literature
For a longer list see Category:Dystopian novels
- 1984 by George Orwell
- Among the Hidden by Margaret Haddix
- Animal Farm by George Orwell
- Anthem by Ayn Rand
- Ape and Essence by Aldous Huxley
- Battle Royale by Koushun Takami
- Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (This could perhaps be considered a utopia, as the people in that society are certainly happy, but it is more generally regarded by critics as a dystopian satire, as they actually have no choice in whether they are happy or not.)
- The Children of Men by P.D. James
- A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
- Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
- Doc and Fluff by Pat Califia
- Die Andere Seite by Alfred Kubin
- The Domination by S. M. Stirling
- Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
- Feed by M. T. Anderson
- A Friend of the Earth by T. C. Boyle.
- The Giver by Lois Lowry (Again, perhaps a Utopia, however it is at a cost)
- The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
- Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut
- The Iron Heel by Jack London
- Incal (and spinoffs) by Alejandro Jodorowsky
- It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis
- Jennifer Government by Max Barry
- Kallocain by Karin Boye
- Level 7 by Mordecai Roshwald
- Logan's Run by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson
- Lord of the Flies by William Golding (an example of a dystopia that takes place in the present)
- The Machine Stops by E.M. Forster
- Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison
- Neuromancer by William Gibson.
- Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
- Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle
- Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut
- Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
- The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
- The Running Man by Richard Bachman, a pseudonym for Stephen King.
- The Sheep Look Up by John Brunner
- The Shockwave Rider by John Brunner
- This Perfect Day by Ira Levin
- Time out of Joint by Philip K. Dick
- Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius by Jorge Luis Borges
- V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd
- The Wanting Seed by Anthony Burgess
- We by Yevgeny Zamyatin
- Welcome to the Monkey House by Kurt Vonnegut
- A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
Examples of dystopian films
For a longer list see Category:Dystopian films.
- A Clockwork Orange
- Aeon Flux
- Alphaville, une étrange aventure de Lemmy Caution
- Battle Royale
- Blade Runner, adapted from Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
- Code 46
- Colossus: The Forbin Project
- Demolition Man
- Escape from New York and its sequel, Escape from L.A.
- Fahrenheit 451
- Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
- Ghost in the Shell
- I, Robot
- Lathe of Heaven
- Logan's Run
- The Mad Max film series
- The Matrix trilogy and The Animatrix series
- Max Headroom made-for-TV film and television series
- Metropolis by Fritz Lang
- Metropolis by Osamu Tezuka
- The Omega Man
- Planet of the Apes filmed on two occasions, by Franklin J. Schaffner and Tim Burton, respectively, plus its sequels.
- Resident Evil and Resident Evil: Apocalypse
- Soylent Green
- The Star Wars film series
- The Terminator and its sequels
- THX 1138
- 12 Monkeys
- Traumstadt , adapted from Die Andere Seite by Alfred Kubin
- The Village
Other Examples of dystopia
- 2112, an album by the Canadian rock band Rush, released in 1976. The title track is about a man living in a dystopian society.
- Time (1981) by ELO features tracks that may be considered dystopian or utopian depending on your point of view.
- OK Computer (1997) by the British band Radiohead.
- Unknown Pleasures by Joy Division views modern society through a glass, darkly.
- Replicas (1978) by Tubeway Army explores life in a devastated, robot-dominated world, with songs such as Down In The Park.
- The Pleasure Principle (1979) by Gary Numan, ex-leader of the Tubeway Army, continued his narratives of a robotic world in songs like Metal.
- Avenger (1999)? by Aska, about a world where humanity is crushed under the heel of alien oppression until the Age Of Light (perhaps a nuclear or antimatter weapons deployment?) reverses fortunes.
- Sliders, Fox, 1995-1997, Sci Fi Channel 1998-2000. Team of three or four people travel ("slide", hence the title) between dimensions, to alternate Earths, where history has taken a slightly different path. Most of these alternate Earths were, in one way or another, dystopian.
- Doctor Who, BBC, 1963-present. The series has featured many storylines set in dystopian times and places, ranging from the war-torn planet Skaro in the 1974 story Genesis of the Daleks to the world of Terra Alpha in 1987's The Happiness Patrol in which sadness is punishable by death, ironically by the ingestion of sweets so tasty that they are deadly.
- Half-Life 2 (2004) by Valve Software features a world ravaged by a "portal storm" shortly after the events at the Black Mesa Research Facility in the original game, rendering the entire planet, spare for a few cities, uninhabitable by humans. The world is policed by The Combine, an alien race who were in control of Xen in the first Half-Life (1998), the Combine control the masses by intimidation, fear, propaganda, and some mass-sterilization device.
- Final Fantasy VII (1997) by Squaresoft.
- Final Fantasy VI, AKA Final Fantasy III in the USA; (1995) by Squaresoft, wherein a powerful empire led by a cadre of deranged madmen seeks to enslave the world with magic. Actually much creepier than that description seems to indicate.
- Deus Ex (2000) by Ion Storm.
- Paranoia (1984) by West End Games, which features every aspect of the above list of things typical of dystopias except for a protagonist who feels something is wrong.
The contents of this article is licensed from www.wikipedia.org under the GNU Free Documentation License. Click here to see the transparent copy and copyright details