Friday, May 17, 2013

Dystopia

I admit, I've been watching wayy too much anime, but I'd argue that it's not just a waste of time. It actually sets the cogwheels in my head to think and reflect. (Although it is debatable if the thoughts are productive or not. You know I tend to spend time in my head). Futuristic dystopian animes are my favorite. It's like any other dystopia stories you've heard of, and mostly in dystopian literature, it may exist as a form of social commentary which is why I adore it so much other than the fact that I like to see how convincing the story teller puts this "new world" together.

What I like about dystopias is although it makes it seem like a different reality, but it does not give the same feeling as a fantasy world. Dystopias generally try to be as realistic enough to the point that you question yourself, "what if this is what the world to come would be like ?" Since it's based on some social commentary like a fable, you kind of get the uncomfortable feeling that it's the author's predictions of the future outcomes of today's generations' events. The social commentary may cover political, sociological, psychological, philosophical, environmental, economical, technology or religious themes.

However, why go through all this trouble of thinking up of a completely new world in order to critique the present day society ? Well, perhaps 1. The new world is a showcase of the author's creativity of coming up with concepts and descriptions and systems, and it's fun to create new worlds that bend to your own laws. 2. I guess it sends a better message with pictures of "this is what will happen in the future if you don't heed the warning". You can practically exaggerate anything to extremes for emphasis, but of course, to make it believable, back it up with some kind of science, sociology, anthropology, history argument. 3. I guess humans like metaphors and symbolism (erh, a weakly-put argument, but I don't wish to expound this).

When you talk of dystopia literature, I bet 1984 or any Orwellian dystopia comes to mind first, and being the cynic that I am, in times of political rife, suddenly, this novel becomes the in-thing, so much so that you create for yourselves an Orwellian dystopia delusion to justify your feelings- okay, that's wayy off topic.

Yes, people think of 1984, and the more recent Hunger Games. There's actually a lot of dystopia literature, and I think it became popular post-second world war, because the writers write it after their experience with the war, the feeling of bleakness, and of course, the modern age started with the industrial revolution, and capitalism-socialism and all that. My favorite dystopian novels would be The Time Machine, The Sleeper Awakes, Handmaid's Tale, and Brave New World.

There are also dystopian films like Metropolis, Gattaca, and I guess, from all these dystopia stuff comes the cyberpunk, steampunk and biopunk culture, but not gonna go much into those.

However, nowadays, I find that, ehem, excuse my anime bias, animes which have good story lines actually make better dystopian stories compared to any Western media nowadays. I don't know, I've lost faith with Hollywood movies, after watching Project X, not that I wanted to, someone was watching it, but after I did, I shook my head in dismay. This is what it has come to.

Not to say that animes are not laden with ecchi and hentai, bu the very few animes that are thought-provoking really are a gem compared to what the West serves you up nowadays. I guess in anime as well, there seems to be a broader universe in which you can make a story out of anything, and maybe because these Japanese people have weird fetishes. *coughs*

I've pretty much enjoyed animes like Ghost in the Shell, Steins;Gate (urh, don't think this is a dystopia anime, but it's pretty good), and the latest I added to my list is Shinsekai Yori, it draws some influence from Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, but pretty minimal, it retains its Japanese-ness not only in its art and culture, duh, it's an anime, but also in the social themes that plague the Japanese in history. Well, I guess some social themes are pretty much universal, but some of the historical context in which it occurred, varies cross civilizations. I'm not gonna review Shinsekai Yori. After I've watched the whole series, I checked out other people's reviews after writing my own in a short blurb on Facebook, I pretty much had the same thoughts as they did. Maybe that was what the storyteller intended its viewers to think. Who knows.

Some common things that I noticed in dystopian literature is the 1. totalitarian rule 2. banning of books or forms of knowledge or knowledge that is considered "dangerous" 3. regression of humanity 4. caste systems

I guess most of it comes from the critique of totalitarian governments, as a form of protest, I guess which is why in times of political rife, people can connect with it, and I guess it just goes to show that the human nature, the human psyche, has not changed much through times, it's just the manifestations change according to time and place. I kind of get the feeling that these portrayals of the dystopian world seem based on some value system that a society rejects. Whether or not these "values" are universal, well, I guess that's debatable.  I personally feel that I'm Westernized-inclined, but at the same time, I do have this suspicion of euro-centrism in the system, but that's another story.

How accurate are dystopian novels in its "predictions" ? Well, it's a story, real life may not actually turn out exactly like that, but there are some things that are eerily starting to go in that direction, which is what makes dystopian worlds uncomfortably.. real.

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