4 Movie Myths About Dystopian Living Debunked
Dystopia is a word that in Ancient Greek literally translates to “bad/hard place.” Very on the nose, because this genre of literature and film is one of the bleakest we currently have (excluding whatever genre Lars von Trier functions in). Back in the mid-part of the 2010’s, audiences were bombarded with dystopian films — many of them being of the Young Adult variety — and it’s a cinematic language that’s proven its lasting power time and time again. (See: Idiocracy).
With the Supreme Court recently flexing their muscles like they’re auditioning for a part in The Boys and overturning Roe vs. Wade, talk of that other show where Elizabeth Moss and women play womb slaves has flared up again, because it always feels like Americans are one white supremacist away from sanctioning the death penalty for anyone who doesn’t love God and making babies the most. In light of this, we thought we’d look at some ideas and tropes in dystopian films that, unlike taking away people’s personal autonomy, probably won’t happen. At least, not the way the movies do it.
For instance …
Eating People To Solve World Hunger Is A Bad Idea
This year marks the year in which the ecological dystopian thriller Soylent Green showed humans eating other humans because it's that or starvation. The 1973 movie imagined this special kind of nightmare to exist in 2022, and while it got some stuff right — the wealth gap keeps growing and water scarcity is becoming a major problem for many countries — its satirical idea of companies so hard-up to make profit that they would start mass-producing food that most definitely includes human genitals is (thank goodness) more commentary than a thing that would actually be plausible.
Sure, we totally have the means (and infrastructure) to grind up the dead and make some sort of meal out of them, just like we do animals. Consuming humans would also be more nutritional than most anything you can order from McDonald’s, but as the old adage goes: Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
Meat production as we know it needs a lot of regulation and control to make sure the meat we eat is safe and disease-free. Trying to keep such a huge operation secretive so the population — as seen in Soylent Green — gets tricked into eating the powder of a dead teenager is nearly impossible. The risk of spreading certain diseases and toxins through the consumption of human flesh (no matter how much you cook it) also becomes a huge concern when you consider how easily we humans infect each other. Producing a product like Soylent Green in the same manner the film does would be better at contaminating and killing people than sustaining them.
The entire enterprise of serving up dead people to living people will be unsustainable in itself. Syfy writes that you’d need a “consistent one for one exchange.” Which is impossible when you realize that, on average, every adult American eats around a ton of food per year. The average adult human only weighs 136 pounds. That, and we have more than double the births per year than deaths. If this was really humanity’s final option, we’d be sucking on our own spit and praying for death in mere months.
Like, Where Is The Sun?
Boy, dystopias are so bad, even the sun’s checked out. It’s obviously there, but spotting it would apparently be like witnessing a meteor shower.
“Never Let Me Go” / 20th Century Studios
“Gattaca” / Sony Pictures
“Children of Men” / Universal Pictures
In these grim imaginations of our world, it’s either cloudy all the time, or raining — like the entire world suddenly turned into London.
“Blade Runner” / Warner Bros. Pictures
Yes, we get that it’s part of the cinematic language to make your visuals as gloomy and gray as your story, but atrocities like setting kids up to murder each other for rich people’s entertainment and watching countries turn into full-on police states are arguably more hard-hitting when shown on a contrasting, bright and sunshiny day. But maybe that’s just us.
And yes, climate change is causing havoc on our weather systems and leading to more common disasters like flooding, but in a world where some countries have already been on the brink of absolute disaster due to record-breaking droughts that’s only the beginning, running out of water is a bigger and more urgent threat than city folk having to buy new umbrellas every other month.
In Dystopian Movies, The Masses Conform (And Are Severely Loyal)
Seriously, most people would not be a-okay with a country deciding that they will annually allow citizens to slaughter each other and celebrate the event like it’s the Fourth of July.
“The Hunger Games” / Lionsgate
“The Purge” / Blumhouse
Even better, gamify your murderous tyranny and people will really get into it, apparently.
“Gamer” / Lionsgate
“The Running Man” / TriStar Pictures
Sure, we can make lame jokes like “only in America,” but even Americans weren’t feeling this year’s Independence Day celebrations … what with community gatherings marred by people who actually think it’s okay to just murder other people. Yes, there’s a lot of violence in this world, but the idea that everyone will just be cool with it doesn’t reflect past and current trends. Civil unrest all around the world has doubled in the last decade, because people just aren’t having it with anyone who wants to tell them what to do. In dystopian movies, however, society is mostly shown as totally fine with wearing uniformed clothing, eating their terribly gross food, and doing as they’re told. Which, in fairness, is a scarier type of reality.
The idea that the greater majority would go along with “sameness” over “choice” — as illustrated in films like The Giver — is again refuted by what we’re seeing in the world today. Smaller communities who organize themselves around a common ideology is more prevalent, and the pull toward individualism and individual autonomy is evident by the growing number of protests against discrimination and abuse of human rights. Every region on the planet has seen an increase in demonstrations and protests, because people want change and choice — the opposite of everything and everyone just being the same.
Dystopian Movies Apparently Think Racism Has Been Solved
It’s pretty counterintuitive to imagine a world so bad and the complete opposite of an utopia that doesn’t have a severe racism problem. But, as The Atlantic has pointed out before, there’s a long-running sci-fi trope that seems to think the worst future imaginable is the one where white people are at the bottom, suffering like everyone else.
“The Handmaid’s Tale” / Hulu
It’s strange to think how a deep and destructive division as old as racism could just disappear overnight in worlds where totalitarianism won the day. Maybe it’s because some people still think that it’s not that big of a deal to begin with … which is how you get these kind of terrorized societies in the first place. Racism is the dream of dictators. When Vladimir Putin was criticized for how Russia handles its pro-democracy groups, this is what he said:
“America just recently had very severe events, well-known events, after the killing of an African American. An entire movement developed, known as Black Lives Matter. I’m not going to comment on that, but here’s what I do want to say: What we saw was disorder, destruction, violations of the law, etc. We feel sympathy for the United States of America, but we don’t want that to happen on our territory. We’re doing our utmost in order to not allow it to happen.”
Instead of saying the U.S. should probably take a hard look at their racism problem, he used the uprising of the abused and the discriminated against to prove how democracy only brings problems to those in power, and should therefore be stifled. Suppressing the problem, however, doesn’t and will never lead to it magically disappearing, no matter what these futuristic movies and shows want to believe.