Dystopia: What's it all about?

Dystopias: Definition and Characteristics

Utopia: A place, state, or condition that is ideally perfect in respect of politics,

laws, customs, and conditions.

Dystopia: A futuristic, imagined universe in which oppressive societal control and

the illusion of a perfect society are maintained through corporate, bureaucratic,

technological, moral, or totalitarian control. Dystopias, through an exaggerated

worst-case scenario, make a criticism about a current trend, societal norm, or

political system.

Human dystopia

Characteristics of a Dystopian Society

  • Propaganda is used to control the citizens of society.
  • Information, independent thought, and freedom are restricted.
  • A figurehead or concept is worshipped by the citizens of the society.
  • Citizens are perceived to be under constant surveillance.
  • Citizens have a fear of the outside world.
  • Citizens live in a dehumanized state.
  • The natural world is banished and distrusted.
  • Citizens conform to uniform expectations. Individuality and dissent are bad.
  • The society is an illusion of a perfect utopian world.

Types of Dystopian Controls

Most dystopian works present a world in which oppressive societal control and the

illusion of a perfect society are maintained through one or more of the following

types of controls:

Corporate control: One or more large corporations control society through

products, advertising, and/or the media. Examples include Minority Report

and Running Man.

• Bureaucratic control: Society is controlled by a mindless bureaucracy through

a tangle of red tape, relentless regulations, and incompetent government

officials. Examples in film include Brazil.

• Technological control: Society is controlled by technology—through

computers, robots, and/or scientific means. Examples include The Matrix,

The Terminator, and I, Robot.

• Philosophical/religious control: Society is controlled by philosophical or

religious ideology often enforced through a dictatorship or theocratic


The Dystopian Protagonist

  • often feels trapped and is struggling to escape.
  • questions the existing social and political systems.
  • believes or feels that something is terribly wrong with the society in which he

or she lives.

  • helps the audience recognizes the negative aspects of the dystopian world

through his or her perspective.

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Group Assignment

As a group, answer and submit ONE Google Form for your entire group. Make sure to reference your book for examples/evidence to support your answers!