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It’s a Wonderful World...
...or is it?
The Truth About Dystopian Fiction
“Radioactive” - Imagine Dragons
I'm waking up to ash and dust
I wipe my brow and I sweat my rust
I'm breathing in the chemicals
(inhale) (exhale)
I'm breaking in, shaping up, then checking out on the prison bus
This is it, the apocalypse
Whoa
I'm waking up, I feel it in my bones
Enough to make my systems blow
Welcome to the new age, to the new age
Welcome to the new age, to the new age
Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, whoa, oh, oh, oh, I'm radioactive,
radioactive
Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, whoa, oh, oh, oh, I'm radioactive,
radioactive
I raise my flags, don my clothes
It's a revolution, I suppose
We're painted red to fit right in
Whoa
I'm breaking in, shaping up, then checking out on the prison bus
This is it, the apocalypse
Whoa
•
Read more: Imagine Dragons - Radioactive Lyrics |
MetroLyrics
Answer after: How is
“Radioactive” a
dystopia theme
song?
Utopia
In order to understand a dystopia (a messed-up utopia),
we have to understand what a utopia is.
In ancient Greece, Plato’s Republic (380 BC) was one of
the first writings to touch on the idea of a “perfect” society.
The pure definition of a utopia was coined by a man in
England named Sir Thomas More. He wrote a tract called
Utopia (pub. 1516), and that’s when the word really took
off.
Utopia: a place, state, or condition that is ideally perfect in
respect of politics, laws, customs, and conditions.
Wait...are utopias for real?
YES! There are several famous examples of utopian experiments.
Canberra, Australia
New Harmony, Indiana
Amana Colonies, Iowa
Oneida community, New York
Lebensraum, Germany (Hitler’s regime)
Pitcairn Island, South Pacific
Jacobopolis, USA
Mennonite community, Delaware
Charlotta, Florida
Haifa, Palestine
Maxwell Owenite Community, Canada
Brook Farm, USA
China: Attempts at a modern
utopia?
Think back to the Beijing Urban Planning Museum we
visited during interim.
We watched about video about the “Beijing of the
Future.”
What were some elements that seemed utopian or
unachievable to you?
Watch this video about Tianjin, an eco-friendly
“utopian” city being built near Beijing.
So if that’s a utopia...
A dystopia doesn’t automatically mean “not” a utopia.
A dystopia often is the result of a failed utopia.
Meaning, the founders tried to create a perfect world,
but, since they are human, it turned into something not
so good.
Dystopia: a futuristic, imagined universe in which
oppressive societal control and the illusion of a perfect
society are maintained through some kind of control moral, technological, bureaucratic, corporate, or
totalitarian.
Dystopias as Social Commentary
Dystopias are often written with hints of either
current or past social commentary.
It is not uncommon to read of fictional situations
which sound eerily familiar to us - one child policy in
China, murder of the Jews during the Holocaust,
perfection of society through plastic surgery, etc.
Dystopias, through an exaggerated worst-case
scenario, make a criticism about a current (or past)
trend, societal norm, or political system.
Examples of Dystopian
Novels
Among the Hidden - commentary about limitations on family & children (China’s one
child policy)
The Hunger Games - dictatorial regimes, children during war time, use of child
soldiers, hint of the Holocaust/genocide, mass extermination using technological
weapons
1984 - “Big Brother,” technological control of ideas, oppression & fear
Divergent - destroyed society, control through factions, differences are frightening
(you should fit in)
Fahrenheit 451 - control of information, gov’t censorship, illiteracy, world consumed
by technology
Pretties, Uglies, etc. - use of plastic surgery to be “perfect”
Unwound - use of technology to create a perfect world by getting rid of undesirables
Characteristics of Dystopia
There are commonalities among many (if not all) dystopian
novels. That’s why it is a genre of literature. These are some
of the characteristics of a dystopian novel:
Propaganda is used to control the citizens
Information, independent thought, and freedom are
restricted.
A figurehead or concept is worshiped by the citizen of
the society.
Citizens are perceived to be under constant
surveillance.
Characteristics, contin.
Citizens have a fear of the outside world.
Citizens live in a dehumanized state.
The natural world is banished and distrusted. (Ex. Wall-E)
This might mean the artificial formation of families or artificial
production of people and goods.
Citizens conform to uniform expectations - individuality and dissent
are bad.
There are very strict social structures which should not be crossed.
The society is an illusion of a perfect utopian world.
We like control!
Part of a dystopia’s definition is that it’s a perfect society
maintained through some kind of control mechanism. These
are the four types of control that exist:
Corporate control: One or more large corporations
control society through products, advertising, and/or the
media. Ex. - Minority Report & Running Man
Bureaucratic control: Society is controlled by a
mindless bureaucracy through a tangle of red tape,
relentless regulations, and incompetent government
officials. Ex. - Brazil
Yet more control...
Technological control: Society is controlled by
technology - through computers, robots, and/or
scientific means. Ex. - The Matrix, Terminator, and I,
Robot
Philosophical/religious control - Society is
controlled by philosophical or religious ideology often
enforced through a dictatorship or theocratic
government.
The Protagonist
A novel’s protagonist is the main character, often the hero or
heroine of the book. The action revolves around how they think,
act, and feel.
Katniss, The Hunger Games
Guy Montag - Fahrenheit 451
Tris Prior - Divergent
Neo - The Matrix
In a dystopia, even the protagonists have specific characteristics
that you can often see across numerous books.
Dystopian Protagonist
Often feels trapped and is struggling to escape.
Questions the existing social and political systems.
Believes or feels that something is terribly wrong with the
society in which s/he lives.
Helps the audience recognize the negative aspects of the
dystopian world through his/her perspective
*May often show reluctance to be a hero/heroine despite
the above characteristics, perhaps due to family
obligations, fear, uncertainty, or feeling like s/he is a
pawn in a bigger game. (Miss L’s sidenote)
Miss L’s Four Cardinal Points
of a Dystopian Novel
Loss of the Individual: There is little chance to show individuality in a
dystopian novel. There are uniform expectations of citizens, usually
enforced through control and fear. You aren’t able to think or do
anything different from what has been established by the norm (or the
authority in place). Sometimes, you are expected to physically or
mentally change in order to conform to your society. If you don’t...that’s
not good for you!
Control & Fear - People, technology, and/or nature are highly
controlled by an overarching government or corporation. There is little
chance of changing it without a drastic overhaul of authority.
People/citizens are held in a suspended state of fear - fear of pain,
torture, death, recrimination, punishment, etc. This helps the authority
figure(s) control the people the most effectively.
The other points
Cracks in the Foundation - Usually the novel starts with some
kind of “crack in the foundation” of the dystopia. The protagonist
is put the position of exploiting that “crack” in order to solve a
problem or change the society. The dystopia has “peaked,” and
now it must be changed - or collapse completely.
Eerie Parallels to Our World - As you read, it’s important to
keep in mind historical issues and current events which may
“pop up” in a dystopian novel. Since it’s meant to be a
commentary, in a way, about our own world (disguised as
fiction), you should notice these commonalities. What social
and/or historical issues do you see being discussed in the
novel?
Quotes from/about Dystopian
Novels
How are some of these quotes representative of dystopian societies?
“Human reason can excuse any evil; that is why it's so important that we don't rely on it.” ― Veronica Roth,
Divergent
“Everything - our houses, our clothes, our hairstyles - is meant to help us forget ourselves and to protect us from
vanity, greed and envy, which are just forms of selfishness. If we have little, and want for little, and we are all
equal, we envy no one.” ― Veronica Roth, Divergent
“And what would they be scared of? There's nothing to fear in a perfect world, is there?” ― Catherine Fisher
“Someday all the wilds will be razed, and we will be left with a concrete landscape, a land of pretty houses and trim
gardens and planned parks and forests, and a world that works as smoothly as a clock, neatly wound: a world of
metal and gears, and people going tick-tick-tick to their deaths.” ― Lauren Oliver, Pandemonium
“Knowledge is dangerous.” ― Patrick Ness
“No one believes more firmly than Comrade Napoleon that all animals are equal. He would be only too happy to
let you make your decisions for yourselves. But sometimes you might make the wrong decisions, comrades, and
then where should we be?” ― George Orwell, Animal Farm
“The life where nothing was ever unexpected. Or inconvenient. Or unusual. The life without colour, pain or past.”
― Lois Lowry, The Giver
“Taking the kids from our districts, forcing them to kill one another while we watch – this is the Capitol’s way of
reminding us how totally we are at their mercy.” ― Suzanne Collins
So...
How is Imagine Dragon’s “Radioactive” like a theme
song for dystopian novels? Discuss.
I'm waking up to ash and dust
I wipe my brow and I sweat my rust
I'm breathing in the chemicals
(inhale) (exhale)
I'm breaking in, shaping up, then checking out on the prison bus
This is it, the apocalypse
Whoa
I'm waking up, I feel it in my bones
Enough to make my systems blow
Welcome to the new age, to the new age
Welcome to the new age, to the new age
Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, whoa, oh, oh, oh, I'm radioactive, radioactive
Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, whoa, oh, oh, oh, I'm radioactive, radioactive
I raise my flags, don my clothes
It's a revolution, I suppose
We're painted red to fit right in
Whoa
I'm breaking in, shaping up, then checking out on the prison bus
This is it, the apocalypse
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