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The Craze for Dystopian and Post-Apocalyptic Literature and Film

It’s back. The return of the popular trilogy by Suzanne Collins is due to hit the big screen November 30th, 2015 with The Hunger Games: Mockingjay-Part 2. After the positive outcomes of the previous three movies, The Hunger Games, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay-Part 1, it is predicted that this movie will be very successful. After the novel was published in 2008, the world became Hunger Games-obsessed. With everything from fan clubs to popular fan fiction on sites like Wattpad, the world has come to know the Hunger Games as one of the most well-known dystopian fiction franchises. Recently, The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials was released on September 17th in theaters, adapted from the popular book by James Dashner. A previous movie was adapted from the first book in the series, The Maze Runner. Twenty two years ago, back in 1993, The Giver by Lois Lowry was published. It was a book in which the people were sheltered from memories of the past, and didn’t know what emotion or color was, due to involuntary daily injections. I remember reading this book for the first time in eighth grade and wondering what my life would be like if I was an individual in their society. Dystopian and post-apocalyptic literature and film has been a very popular genre in the 21st century, although authors have written in that genre earlier. An example would be Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, which was published in 1953. The question is, why is it so popular? By Anna AlloccoSuzanne Collins once said that her inspiration was found watching television one night. She was flipping through the channels and found herself watching a reality show. Collins then flipped to a news report on the war in the Middle East. Thus, the Hunger Games was born. She combined the entertainment of a reality show with the serious nature of war and poverty in the world. She was also inspired by the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur- seven men and seven women were sent to the Minotaur every year to keep him from harming the larger population (www.greekmyths-greekmythology.com). The point is that she took things from every day, ordinary life and fused them into what we know today as The Hunger Games. These authors and filmmakers are inspired by our world, and everything in it that is very real, which is an interesting thing to think about, considering we don’t always know what the future will hold.

So, what is the big deal with dystopian science fiction? Why do people like it so much? The Oxford Dictionary defines a dystopia as “an imagined place or state in which everything is

Unpleasant or bad, typically a totalitarian or environmentally degraded one.” The truth is that people are interested in these alternative worlds, with abysmal and dangerous situations, science and technology that rival our own, and ruthless dictators that have little regard for their people. Futuristic settings offer suspense and excitement, and allow our imaginations to run wild. Some may watch these movies and read these books as a way to fill an unexciting void in their lives, or for entertainment purposes. But, some participate for other reasons. Differences in social classes in these adaptations to the big screen give us the opportunity to see what the world would be like if it was a dystopia, a place where we as human beings would be forced to make hard decisions in regards to survival and ethics. People in these societies are often separated from each other, with different rights, and are involved in strange social experiments, whether it be being trapped in an endless maze surrounded by dangerous, robotic creatures, or being forced to fight to death in an arena for the entertainment of others. Ethics are frequently addressed to cause people to really stop and think about the world we live in, with its flaws and strengths. Science-fiction movies give us endless opportunities to explore all of the possibilities of a different world, one so unlike our own.

So, the next time you watch a science-fiction movie or read some dystopian fiction, think about what you are viewing- look past the mockingjays and Grievers, the blue hair and flamethrowers. Instead, ask yourself this- What is the story really trying to tell us about our society?