You already know utopia, but what is a dystopia? It is somehow its opposite as suggested by its etymology. We will describe you more precisely and give you a definition of what a dystopia is.
But first of all to better understand, let’s quickly see what his antonym is: Utopia.
What is Utopia?
Etymologically, Utopia is a word for a place that does not exist with an ideal universe. Indeed, it is an imaginary place where everything is perfect. Utopia does not take into account realities. It refers to a world where people and organizations have no flaws. “Everything is fine in the best of all worlds” (Candide of Voltaire)
Utopia often associates itself with illusion because the individuals living in a utopia veil the face of all the real problems that surround them. It is common to use utopia to describe and especially criticize indirectly for issues of literary style but also to avoid censorship.
What is Dystopia?
A dystopia is simply the opposite of a utopia. Etymologically it means a bad or difficult place. Dystopia is a society or organization managed in such a way that there is simply no possibility for the majority of its members to be happy and to know happiness.
It often appears in the very strict implementation of an ideology that quickly turns into a nightmare for the inhabitants of this society. A standardization of thought operates there and censures all freedom of thought and speech. There is also often a serious climate, political or technological cause that establishes this new order of things.
What is interesting in a dystopian story is the arrival of a hero who becomes aware of all this common evil and wants to change things by himself and / or by federating a resistance. This allows some people to identify themselves in one way or another, to create an awareness of his reader or spectator so that he can in turn change things in his daily life at his scale
The perfect examples to describe a dystopia are:
- Kinji Fukasaku’s Battle Royale in 2001 tells the story of schoolboys forced to a deserted island where they will have to kill each other until there is only one left. This last survivor will have the right to return home. All this comes after a new reform of the national education to train healthy adults according to the government. This film was made to subtly denounce the government that was set up in Japan. Fukasaku criticizes the defeat of Japanese democracy, the mismanagement of youth education and the increase of social violence. The director wants to make people think with a violent film and thus make it understand that it is important that everyone make his opinion heard by going to vote for example.
- George Orwell’s 1984 book describes a world just emerging from a nuclear war between the East and West bloc, Britain decides to set up a dictatorship focused on monitoring all the facts and gestures of these citizens. Georges Orwell describes a company with an organization called Big Brother that monitors absolutely everything and it destroys any hope of freedom. This book written in 1946 is bluffing with veracity with its proximity to the news, especially with the system of monitoring and rating of the Chinese population by the government set up in 2014.
See our article on the top 5 dystopian books.
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(Illustration by Rudy-Jan Faber)