Analyzing an over- and ill-used term.
You hear the word – especially nowadays – “dystopia” tossed around a lot. It’s come to be a catch-all term for a dissatisfied society, one in which authoritarian rule is the law of the land, individual rights mean next to nothing, and life in general is bleak, oppressive, uncaring, and largely hopeless.
In media, dystopia almost always manifests as science-fiction, with people touting titles like Soylent Green, 12 Monkeys, V for Vendetta and other such dark, pensive thrillers. While these titles absolutely fit the definition of dystopia, the term means more than just a less-than-ideal civilization, and in the following succinct video essay from Filmgeek for Fandor you get a full explanation along with examples like the ones listed above that demonstrate the qualities of a true dystopia. Coming from literary origins in the 19th century, the term was initially used just as an antonym for Utopia, and carried connotations of being a purely imagined place. Over time, imagination shifted to speculation, even forecasting, and the interpretation of the term shifted. Today’s dystopic art is far more literal and plausible than early, more fantastical examples, which in turn is a reflection of our progress – or lack – as a people.
So if the end of the world is your bag, check out this insightful video. Or you could just turn on the news, but that’s not nearly as entertaining.