Cinema: Dystopias r’ Us

By Ryder W. Miller


It sure seems like there are a lot of angry and rebellious youngsters on the big screen these day. These films seem to be popping up which are from best sellers that you might never have heard of before. They are fun and intriguing experiences and it sure seems we need to pay closer attention to what our young people are going through.

Recent films have included The Hunger Games trilogy, Divergent, The Giver…. In the past one might have been able to count off the Dystopian films and books they knew about on the fingers of their hands, but there seems to be so many more of them now.

Part of this has come from the splitting of genre fiction into age groups. Calling genre books “books for children” I think has hurt the speculative field, the fantasy film and field. It has also made it harder for people to know what children are reading. There are now books for a bunch of age groups, but there also appears to be movies for such.

There is still some mighty emotions to be experienced from watching an adventure film, even if it is geared for a younger audience. There usually is some bits left of a child in our innards for all of us though. One still likes a good adventure, and these film for children are also for the parents who sometimes have to take their children out to watch them. Some are of books we have needed to wait generation to see on the big screen.

Some are generational blockbusters, movies for large numbers of people, and we can still get together and talk with the young about them. They can also become iconographic performing the role of being cultural references.

The younger folk do seem to be reacting to the world around them. There complaints and concerns can now be seen on the big screen. Some might argue that older people are out of touch with what they are going through. One might say who are these writers writing these things for them. Are they really representatory.

Movies do seem to allow us to be in contact with other generations. They are things that can create a dialogue between the young and the old, between parent and child.

Being older now I do seem to understand why some are conservative and are bothered by those who are shaking things up on the big screen. One can say The Hunger Games is arguing against the counter culture and The Sixties with the adults being willing to sacrifice some of the children for the benefit of the majority and to keep wars from spreading. One can gather this from the wardrobes people are wearing in these films.  Such subject matter is also explored in The Giver which had interesting cinematography and good performances from some award winners. Divergent is also a strange dystopia which have set the youngsters out of control. They are in school here like in Harry Potter and it is going to be their world also.

It is not clear if there is a real social message here that one should take seriously. The future can be dark and too disciplinarian for the young. It does seem like they might be more crass than the left which usually is creating the art. One might not be willing to accept all the limitations and sacrifices necessary to keep society “on track” that they have to make. They do seem to be willing to tear it all down with the films not fully exploring what the consequences will be.

It is fun to bring up such topics. Apparently many have explored these modern “classics” or block busters. One need remember that the younger generations want to rebel as well. One might seek to escape by reading and watching films, but those who don’t, those who do not seek to see things through other’s eyes are escaping as well. We should be happy that the complaints are being made visible.

RyderRyder W. Miller is an environmental reporter, independent scholar, critic, and eco-critic who writes about Nature, Astronomy, the Sea, Academic books, Art, American Literature, and Genre Literature. He also writes short stories (usually genre stories) and poems. He is the editor of From Narnia to a Space Odyssey and co-writer of San Francisco: A Natural History. He is currently looking for a publisher for a book of Nature Writing/News Columns called An Ocean Beach Diary (published in The West Portal Monthly and Redwood Coast Review), and a collection of genre stories (many already published in Mythic Circle and The Lost Souls website). He has published on the web what could be a book collection of essays about science fiction and fantasy. He is also working on a anthology of Environmental stories called Green Visions. Following the dictum of C.S. Lewis he has come to believe that it is easier to criticize than understand, but not every book is worthwhile or a contribution.