“May you live in interesting times” quoted Robert F. Kennedy in 1966 purportedly based on a Chinese curse. Well we certainly seem to be deeply into an “interesting time” historically. Culturally, there has been a flourishing of dystopian visions in pop culture as a result. From radio to TV and Fine Art, here are a few suggestions for your perusal and to inspire your thinking.
Forest 404 (BBC Drama 2019)
First World Problems (BBC Drama 2018)
Dangerous Visions (BBC Drama – upcoming, not yet broadcast)
Plus a selection by Popular Science of Dystopian Drama podcasts here.
Black Mirror (Netflix)
Years and Years (BBC Drama)
The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu/Ch4 UK)
The Man in the High Castle (Amazon)
Talking Presence, 1987, Sonia Boyce.
Bad Dream, 2019, AC One.
Lea Kannar-Lichtenberger’s ceramics and installations here.
V for Vendetta (2005)
Children of Men (2006)
Plus a list of IMDB’s top 100 Dystopian movies here.
1984 George Orwell (1948)
The Handmaid’s Tale Margaret Atwood (1985)
The Road Cormac McCarthy (2006)
Plus a list of ABE Books best 60 Dystopian novels here.
Making Art in Dystopia
Changing times in a contemporary dystopia: How does art respond to politics?
*Post title stolen from a line in Dad’s Army¹
Many young people feel they are unable to affect the world they live in. Their impotence lies in the fact that adults make the decisions, the laws and the rules. I wrote a recent post on the effect of The News; in my opinion, making them switch off and disinterested. There is far too much of an emphasis on negativity in popular culture today at the expense of the mental health of our young people. I am sure there is a whole spectrum of association from extreme worry-worts to the totally laissez-faire.
Teenagers don’t just consume endless You Tube videos (even if it seems like it), they also are influenced by similar tropes in pop-culture, such as in the movies. Here is a Top 10 list of dystopian movies:
- Ready Player One 2018. In the year 2045, much of Earth’s population centers have become slum-like cities due to overpopulation, pollution, corruption, and climate change. To escape their desolation, people engage in the virtual reality world of the OASIS (Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation), where they can engage in numerous activities for work, education, and entertainment.
- The Maze Runner, 2014. Thomas is deposited in a community of boys after his memory is erased, soon learning they’re all trapped in a maze that will require him to join forces with fellow “Runners” for a shot at escape.
- Mad Max 1979-2015. A lone cop is the only law in a future society run amok.
- The Lobster. 2015. Somewhere in the near future, single people face a choice: join a program to find a mate in forty-five days or be transformed into an animal.
- The Island 2005. A man goes on the run after he discovers that he is actually a “harvestable being”, and is being kept as a source of replacement parts, along with others, in a facility.
- In Time 2011. In 2169, future people stop aging past 25 so time has become the universal currency traded between people. When the time “bank account” on an implanted clock reaches zero, that impoverished person “times out” and is euthanized.
- Idiocracy 2006. An average man is selected for a top-secret hibernation program. When he wakes up 500 years later to discover he’s the smartest person in a radically dumbed-down society.
- The Hunger Games 2012-15. Directed by Gary Ross, based on Suzanne Collins‘ novel of the same name. Katniss Everdeen voluntarily takes her younger sister’s place in the Hunger Games, a televised fight to the death in which two teenagers from each of the twelve Districts of Panem are chosen at random to compete.
- Equilibrium 2002. In a totalitarian future where all forms of feeling are illegal and citizens are required to take daily drug-injections to suppress emotion and encourage obedience, a man in charge of enforcing the law rises to overthrow the system.
- Elysium 2010. In this film wealth inequality, the alienation of the super-rich and class conflict are taken to the extreme: in the year 2154, the very wealthy live on a man-made luxurious space station while the rest of the population resides on a ruined Earth. A man takes on a mission that could bring equality to the polarized worlds. It explores political and sociological themes such as immigration, overpopulation, health care, exploitation, the justice system, and social class issues.
There are so many more classic movies, like Children of Men (2006) and Soylent Green (1973). The list could be endless, but I have selected those relevant to a teenage audience.
Where are the Utopia movies?! The only one I can think of is Interstellar (2014)…
We need to point out to the positives in the world today to remind kids that it really is worth living and taking positive actions yourself really can change the world. We need to be writing scripts and storyboards that can lead to a positive world vision. Producers need to finance movies that can have a positive future for our kids.
¹ “We’re doomed!” Private James Frazer is a fictional Home Guard platoon member and undertaker portrayed by John Laurie on the BBC television sitcom Dad’s Army.