Ben Peek (benpeek) wrote,
Ben Peek

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Over at the Inferior 4 (theinferior4), Lucius Shepard (lucius_t) was posting about dystopian films. A list had been sent to him of the supposed best fifty films, with a very Western feel.

Both of us agreed that most of the films on the list weren't dystopian.

It got me thinking, after that, about dystopian films and literature. I know, I know: a post about defining a genre. Well, yes, but in this case, it's kind of different. I'm not looking at it from the point of view of what is a dystopian work and what isn't, to somehow include one work, and remove another. I'm looking at it instead from the constraints that you would put on a piece of work, the limitations you would use to direct it thematically. Maybe it's the same thing, and as I look at that sentence I just typed, I'm willing to agree that it is, but it feels different in my head. Perhaps it is simply because it's not a saleable genre, a piece of literature ground to be found over for acceptance by the larger community (assuming you can get it, it's up for grabs, and that it matters to you, of course). The debates of what is science fiction and what isn't doesn't interest me overly, since at the end of the day, I don't much care. But a definition like dystopia is fun. It's about constructing a body of thought. Building a scaffolding in which you can form a point of view from, so you can analyse it, debate it, write it. It is in this mental mapping of what is dystopian, for example, that I would say Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange is a dystopian novel, but where I would also say that Stanly Kubrick's film of the same title is not. See, to me, the novel is about youth violence, and the way that it is exaggerated and distorted by adults in positions of power. It is, specifically, the final chapter of Burgess' novel that brings this home, and makes the point of it. Kubrick's film, however, has done away with the final chapter, and is instead a conversation about violence, both within society, and within the institutions who wish to correct it--yet it is, I believe, one without a specific conversation in the real world, a specific reference point from which you jump, and then begin to show the distorted mirror image of the world you live in. The film is too general, too broad to be considered a dystopian.

There are a lot of people, I think, who would view a dystopia as something much simpler, as something that is defined by class divides, by constant surveillance, by darkness, and by paranoia, to list a few. To me, however, it's not enough. To me, that means nothing. That's the human condition, give or take various degrees of each.

No, for me, it's the bounce of our own culture, that's what makes something dystopian, what makes it work.

Also, it's what makes it fun.

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