Modern society is as close to a dystopian lifestyle as it ever has been these past few years. With technology overtaking the world and a plateful of questionable acts from different governments, it is not hard to envision the world through the eyes of the new and old dystopian novel characters that we have today. When thinking about the world falling apart tomorrow, what would you expect the outcome to look like? Of course, the dreary weather and crumbling cities come to mind, however not much else is in the forefront of my mind after that. For various modern dystopian novels and media, most apocalyptic new world order issues tend to be conveniently solved by the end of the book or movie. While the interest in these story lines are captivating and showcase numerous problems with today’s society, the question whether this could still be a reasonable outcome is a harsh struggle within the human psyche. It’s hard to image that everything will be tied up in a nice complete bow by the end of disasters, because even after natural disasters, that’s hardly the case. Dystopian pop culture contains conveniences that would be considered too ideal and romanticized in today’s society and set up expectations that are far beyond our reach.
Margret Atwood’s 1980’s novel “The Handmaid’s tale” has recently made it to screens within the past year, and perfectly showcases these conveniences. Atwood’s story describes a society in which there is a disturbing lack of pregnancies due to the toxic wasteland that the Earth has become. In response to this epidemic, the rise of a new religious government takes place where a select number of women, who are still able to bear children, are stripped of their rights and given to select households as handmaids. The reader’s first indication of convenience is the main character June, or “Offred,” a fairly well-off editor, who is placed within a home where she is assigned to a high government official. While most would think that this a horrible placement, June’s master has taken an interest in her and starts to do small gestures of appreciation for her: including, photos of her daughter that was taken away from her. Not only is her master conveniently interested in her, the secret “eye” service soldier assigned to this house has also taken an interest in her as well. June is able to use these affections to her advantage and is able to get into the minds of high government officials to head her escape out of the country. All the while, this convenient placement allowed her to see her daughter, not just once, but twice after she was taken from her. If the conveniences were not already mind blowing, the main character is also able to get her new born baby daughter out of the country as well after just a year with this family. While all of this would be fine and dandy for a great story, if women were to imagine themselves in a situation that June was, it’s hard to think that we would all be left in the greater circumstances that she was, let alone find the chance at freedom within a year.
Atwood’s story is not the only dystopian story that ends up tidy, and it is not the only version that attacks the freedom of females. In the beginning of Christina Dalcher’s “Vox,” the main character Dr. Jean McCallean has her job, freedom, and voice stripped from her; as well as all the other females of the country. Not only is Jean essentially put to house wife duties, she is also limited to one hundred words per day that is recorded by “counters” that are strapped to all female wrists. While this already sets up another well-off white female heroine that just happens upon her fate, the main stickler in this entire book, is that all of the supporting characters in this novel are so easily accessible to Jean when she most needs them. Unfortunately for this plot line, each character we are introduced to from the beginning are a means to an end for this heroine. Not only does Jean temporarily get her job and speech back, she quickly is able to get her daughter’s voice and old boss back into the picture as well. To make matters even more ridiculous, her old office love affair is back in the picture as well. While this may seem like a coincidence since they all worked on the Aphasia cure together, all the relationships and characters that are introduced during this all lack meaningful development and connection. These turns of events were not her only convenient saving graces throughout this storyline. Jean also meets a mailman who is a courier to the rebellion, who conveniently also is able to remove the “counters” without alerting anyone; and more so conveniently, when the team really ends up needing backup at the medical lab they are introduced to a security guard willing to help them. With all of this going on, you’d think that something would at least let up just a little bit; however, in the end, Jean McCallean gets everything she wanted: a cure for aphasia, a life with her love affair in Italy with her children, and a tidy clean up of her conveniently deceased husband.
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Regardless of the fact that these story lines are a massive exaggeration of the world we live in today, we are still faced with a handful of dystopian issues. For example, in current America there are a number of questionable acts that are happening in our time, including: President Trump’s border control wall, a transgender ban (that has now been lifted), and multiple travel bans. While separately these may not seem like a big deal to one or the other, when looking at our country in a bigger picture mindset, these are all fairly concerning issues. Unfortunately, unlike the previous examples, convenient help is not going to come to our every beck and call and help us escape the pre-dystopian society that our world has become. The romanticized idea that we can become our own heroes and heroines, is muddled with the harsh reality that not everything can be fixed and tied into a nice little bow at the end. These types of stories create the illusion that regardless of the hardships there is always a way out, when this is entirely untrue. The human psyche is programmed in a way that it thinks of all the possible outcomes of catastrophe, and while a way out is one of them, it is rather difficult and unrealistic.
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