Come on you apes, you wanna live forever

I know that wikipedia is not a great pillar of knowledge, but in my efforts to distract myself from getting anything done, I was looking at their lists of dystopian literature and film. Wikipedia describes dystopian as being “the idea of a society in a repressive and controlled state, often under the guise of being utopian.” It says that dystopian societies are often portrayed as police states. And I must be a closet fascist, because as I’m reading the lists, I’m thinking, you know, it didn’t seem all that bad. Gattaca? I got that society was prejudiced and repressive to the God-children, but there were laws in place to prevent discrimination (though ineffective). Being an ex-civil rights attorney, I didn’t see much of a difference between the society in Gattaca and life as we know it. Yes, I’m cynical. Their society didn’t seem as oppressive even as Brave New World (I know Brave New World is dystopian, though I love the idea of a society that values the contribution of all its members and has a place for everyone). Total Recall? Mars aside, Earth seemed ok. Dystopia can’t just mean civil war, can it? Is dystopian a synonym for “sci fi that takes place in the future”? Or am I just an idiot? What about Starship Troopers? I’m surprised to see that was not on the film list. Especially since Ender’s Game was on the literature list. In both, humanity survived attacks from alien bugs, and breeding was controlled by the government. I don’t trust myself to edit the lists because clearly I don’t understand dystopia.

ETA: So I talked to my husband about Gattaca as dystopia, and he was as perplexed as I was. We both thought the “God-children” and prejudice were allegorical for racism and prejudice of today. Calling it dystopia cheapens that point, in our view, and weaken the concept of dystopia generally.

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About emmawolf

I'm a freelance writer living in Baltimore with my husband, son, and two cats. I'm working on editing my first novel. I love reading, traveling, and the cello.
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2 Responses to Come on you apes, you wanna live forever

  1. Pingback: More on dystopia « emmawolf

  2. I think that this point that you made is the main thing: “I didn’t see much of a difference between the society in Gattaca and life as we know it.” Dystopias are set in the future but they are about the stuff that’s going on today. I wrote about it here: http://forbookssake.net/2012/05/11/the-dystopians-guide-to-positive-thinking/ in case you’re interested.

    I think the thing about Gattaca is that there is huge discrimination – people are forced not to move through the social strata (he can’t go to space because of his genes) and in Total Recall (I’m talking about the original here) the mutants are massively discriminated against, not to mention the whole idea of not going on holiday for real but just in your head – the way to keep ’em working!

    It’s fun to read your posts 🙂

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