Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The A to Z Challenge: Today's Word: Dystopia

Today's word starts with D, and I had trouble deciding what word to talk about: drafts, dialogue, denouement? All the furor today is about The Hunger Games, both the book, or trilogy actually, and the movie, and since the story is about a dystopian society, that seemed the right word.

First, I wanted to define the word, but that is easier said than done. Every definition I found differed somewhat as to what "dystopia" really meant. So this is my definition, which undoubtedly will also differ from the more authoritative ones.

A dystopian society refers to a futuristic world where the society is totally controlled by the government, which is repressive, abusive, and has complete physical control, and often mental control, of the people. It is a society where people are not allowed to express thoughts, ideas, or emotions that are not endorsed by the government, and where technological advances far outweigh the humans' intellectual and spiritual evolution.

I had received The Hunger Games, only because it was a free book, and promised myself I would read it with an open mind, no matter what preconceived ideas I might have about it. The truth? I only read the first few chapters before I closed the book, and offered it to anyone who might want it. I simply could not get in to killing kids is just not my cup of tea. Okay, I know that's not all there is to the story, but it was enough to turn me off for good.

Every where I look, in newspapers, magazines, and on the Internet, there are reviews after reviews about this book and the movie. So I'm going to talk about some of those things that I've learned, simply from reading the reviews. Just the reviews, not the personal opinions expressed at the end.

First, a question for those of you who have read the book: Do you see any similarities to anything going on in our society? Just something to think about.

The first thing that struck me about the book is that these "games" have been going on for what, 74 or 75 years? That's at least 3, if not 4, generations of parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents who have allowed the government to not only take over their lives, but willingly, intentionally, kill their children. Each of those 74 + years, 23 out of 24 of their children have been murdered, one by one, until only one child is left standing.

Come ON! As a parent and grandparent, I KNOW that my husband and I would do anything, including lay down our lives, for our children and grandchildren. I KNOW than any parent, who loves and values their children, would do the same thing. Yet for all these years, these parents have stood by and watched as their children were hunted down, as a "sport," and killed one by one. That stretches my suspension of disbelief  waaaaay too far to be comfortable with. This annual horrific "entertainment" is NOT a reason for these people to rise up and strike out, even if they ALL end up dead in the process? That just doesn't compute, in my mind.

I can see where teens love it: the sense of adventure, of thrills, of excitement, and of course, I do know that somewhere in the book it also addresses some of the rampant teen issues like friendship, the difference between friendship and love, trust in parents, divided loyalties, and so on. Teens haven't reached the level of maturity where they can see and appreciate the need for compassion, the need for deep-seated anger at the outrageous and stuplifying actions of the government, the need to strike out for their own independence and the God-given right to independent thought, etc. But adults have. And yet, from what I hear and read, adults are just as enthralled with this book, and the subsequent movie, as the teens are. Even though I haven't read the whole book, I'm obviously missing something!

The other thing that has bothered me about the book is...umm, well, it's too things. The first is just the way the young characters are written. It just seems too unrealistic for children from the ages of 12 to 18 to be so apparently unafraid of their impending deaths when it's time for their names to be drawn for participation in this horrendous "sporting event." I don't care that they have known about this ever since they were old enough to understand...they are STILL children.  Even though I didn't read far enough into the book to see all this for myself, it is something that was repeatedly brought out in the reviews I read, so that tells me the author missed something important in her characterizations.

The other thing is the comparison a lot of the reviews had between the "games" in the story, and the reality shows we have today on TV. The problem I see with this is that with "Survivor," "The Amazing Race," and others where an aspect of danger is always present, the contestants are adults, they have done their research into these shows and know what to expect, and they CHOOSE TO TAKE PART. The "contestants" in The Hunger Games are kids who are going to be fighting for their lives, they have not "chosen" to enter this contest, and they know in their 12 and 13 and 14 ++year old hearts they are probably going to die.

In case I haven't made myself clear, Dystopia is not my favorite word, and Dystopian societies will never make my A list for reading or movie going! However, for those of you who are laughing at me, and who really, really, LOVE this kind of story, here is a link for you. It will take you to a website loaded with the names of Dystopian novels and their authors. Enjoy!

Until next time,
That's a wrap.


  1. You present valid points, Mikki, and I appreciate your view. I don't, however, agree :D

    Dystopians have quickly become my favorite genre, just because there is so much truth in their depths. No, I should hope such a thing as the Hunger Games would never be allowed to transpire, but (in my opinion) we ARE raising a huge crop of sissyfied citizens, so who's to say future generations would stand up to a government like this?

    That being said, I think some people are a little crazy. I wouldn't let a child under 16 read the books or watch the movie. But I'm a prude that way, I know. I say the same thing about a certain vampire story...

  2. Katie, I know I'm in the tiny minority of people who didn't like this book and would never see the movie. Dystopia is just not for me, I think, no matter what kind of fantasy world it describes.

    One of the reasons is because I see so much wrong with our own world, and in so many places it is already dystopian, in every sense of the word. The extreme poverty and starvation, whole towns and villages of people, men, women, children, being killed, women and children, even infants, being raped on a regular basis, children being forced to be soldiers and taught to kill, genocide... the list goes on. With this a living reality on our planet, why do we need stories about children being forced to kill other children? We have far too much dystopia in egotistical and maniacal leaders and governments who are alive and well, so I see no need to read about those in fiction.

    I do agree about the age of the kids reading the book and seeing the movie. I think parents should think carefully about this, but then, I recently read where one mother bought the book for her 9 year old son and was "so thankful" because it was the first book he'd ever read all the way through. Takes all kinds, I guess...

  3. I haven't read the Hunger Games. The concept of kids fighting to the death while the adults watch is too much for me. But kudos to Collins for writing such a popular series. I give her a lot of credit and thank her for what she's doing for the YA book market.

    On dystopians in general, I've read some really good ones, but they aren't my favorite genre. I do find them a little depressing/scary, and I really hope none of these authors are close to what our future will look like!

  4. I agree, Kelly. When you watch some of these "reality" shows, though, you have to wonder. A few of them are a lot of fun, "Survivor" is one of our favorites, but at least these people are adults who know what they are getting into.