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Utopia vs. Dystopia


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#1 Freedom

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Posted 18 August 2012 - 01:38 AM

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Hi, everyone. I just had this question bothering me, and I want to see if you can help me resolve it. When it comes to fiction or media, which to people prefer: utopia or dystopia. Now let me expand on that for those of you too lazy to use wikipedia (I know I am).

- A utopia or utopian society is a fiction where everything is perfect (or has the illusion of being so). There's really no money, or people have it easily and everyone lives comfortably. No war, no disease, no racism or anything else that countinues to plague humanity. Prime examples of this are the Jetsons cartoon, where everything is all hi-tech and awesome; but can also include Star Trek, where we have transcended the boundaries and problems that hounded us. Society is tolerable of new ideas and everyone just gets a long nicely.
Many people may claim this particular branch of fiction is boring and uninteresting, but keep in mind that no one wants to live in pain or constant fear. We want something to look forward to, a future where we don't suffer as much. Why do you think the concept of heaven exists?

- Dystopia is more the opposite. Society has crumbled, or is close to doing so. There's a huge gap between the fortunate and not so fortunate. The same problems we face today are still present, if not evolved. There's little joy in the world, and the happiness there is, probably just comes from booze and drugs and other nast vices. People live in fear and have little to look forward to except death probably. The definition isn't always as rigid as utopia's, though. A dystopia can wear the mask of transcending into a greater future however, but not really. Governments are corrupt, money is still the worst thing that happened to people, and there's little freedom. War's like a regular game of ball. Examples include all post-apoc settings, maybe the Hunger Games, Deus Ex, and other worlds you don't dream of living in.
So while the setting could make for some great stories and characters and something about the beauty of the human spirit, it isn't something you want to live in necessarily.

So my question to you as a reader, movie-goer, and gamer is: which do you prefer to see? Dystopias where we display the worst of humanity and the consequences of our actions? Or utopias that have transcended our current state, a new light at the end of the tunnel; something to look forward to and attempt to possibly achieve, no matter how pipe-dreamy it may look? Basically optimism or pessimism?
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#2 Wang Fire

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Posted 18 August 2012 - 04:49 AM

I'm not really a fan of either honestly, but for different reasons. Utopia, as you said, can be outright dull and boring. It takes a special writer or scenario to make Utopia work, like, as you said, Star Trek. Honestly though I would argue that Star Trek (Next Generation on in particular) is a testament to how unattainable utopia is no matter how we try. So Utopia is a concept that's shaky at best for me, but I've seen it executed well.

Dystopia is the opposite. To me the kind of post-apocalyptic wasteland scenario you described isn't really dystopia, to me dystopia is a crapsack world parading itself around as utterly flawless (except for, y'know, all those glaring flaws the big-wigs gloss over). This is a concept that in theory is good, using a story as a tool to look into how society works, what we could do better, and what can go wrong. The problem is that in execution every dystopian story I've read (and I had to read a fair number in high school) this so-called "discourse" is basically the main characters or the narrator praising the hell out of the author's pet fantasy utopia while laughing at how everyone who thinks otherwise is naive at best and an outright fascist at worst. Screw you Ayn Rand.
The ONLY dystopian story I've seen really done well, or at least in a non-preachy way, was The Giver.

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#3 Michaelangelo

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Posted 18 August 2012 - 10:05 AM

Dystopia is the opposite. To me the kind of post-apocalyptic wasteland scenario you described isn't really dystopia, to me dystopia is a crapsack world parading itself around as utterly flawless (except for, y'know, all those glaring flaws the big-wigs gloss over). This is a concept that in theory is good, using a story as a tool to look into how society works, what we could do better, and what can go wrong. The problem is that in execution every dystopian story I've read (and I had to read a fair number in high school) this so-called "discourse" is basically the main characters or the narrator praising the hell out of the author's pet fantasy utopia while laughing at how everyone who thinks otherwise is naive at best and an outright fascist at worst. Screw you Ayn Rand.
The ONLY dystopian story I've seen really done well, or at least in a non-preachy way, was The Giver.


Uhh, I feel as though this sounds like a silly question, but have you read Brave New World? I'm gonna assume 'Yes', so I'm just gonna tell you that you're only half-right. Because that book John the Savage isn't from BNW, he's actually quite shocked at what he sees in this world and he eventually kills himself (oh hush up, that's an 80 y/o spoiler). I don't think that's quite the main character praising the "utopia". Maybe I'm just misunderstanding what you mean.

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#4 Risk

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Posted 18 August 2012 - 11:58 AM

Uhh, I feel as though this sounds like a silly question, but have you read Brave New World? I'm gonna assume 'Yes', so I'm just gonna tell you that you're only half-right. Because that book John the Savage isn't from BNW, he's actually quite shocked at what he sees in this world and he eventually kills himself (oh hush up, that's an 80 y/o spoiler). I don't think that's quite the main character praising the "utopia". Maybe I'm just misunderstanding what you mean.

I think he means the ideal situation that the world can be in, brought up by either the characters or author, as opposed to the world they find themselves in.

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#5 Wang Fire

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Posted 19 August 2012 - 08:57 AM

Uhh, I feel as though this sounds like a silly question, but have you read Brave New World? I'm gonna assume 'Yes', so I'm just gonna tell you that you're only half-right. Because that book John the Savage isn't from BNW, he's actually quite shocked at what he sees in this world and he eventually kills himself (oh hush up, that's an 80 y/o spoiler). I don't think that's quite the main character praising the "utopia". Maybe I'm just misunderstanding what you mean.

Actually I haven't read Brave New World, and I'm embarrassed to say that 1984 bored me so much that I put it down before quite finishing the first half, which I later learned was the dull half of the book. Most of what I read were little short stories by authors I hadn't heard of before and Ayn Rand.

I think he means the ideal situation that the world can be in, brought up by either the characters or author, as opposed to the world they find themselves in.

Indeed, the examples that stick out for me are a story in which an anarchist disables ALL security on a "free park" in some far off (dys/u)topian future to prove that anarchy is awesome, and thinks that everything came out alright despite this triggering rape, assault, and the beginnings of gang violence. The other is something about the main character and the Pope discussing how "inherently silly" the idea of humanoid robots is, using stuff like "well a TV doesn't look like an eyeball" as their alleged evidence.

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#6 Michaelangelo

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Posted 19 August 2012 - 09:31 AM

Actually I haven't read Brave New World, and I'm embarrassed to say that 1984 bored me so much that I put it down before quite finishing the first half, which I later learned was the dull half of the book. Most of what I read were little short stories by authors I hadn't heard of before and Ayn Rand.


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Haven't read Brave New World? Well, that's okay. If it makes you feel any better 1984 makes me feel like an idiot because I didn't quite understand what the hell George Orwell wrote... it was written in a very strange style.

Indeed, the examples that stick out for me are a story in which an anarchist disables ALL security on a "free park" in some far off (dys/u)topian future to prove that anarchy is awesome, and thinks that everything came out alright despite this triggering rape, assault, and the beginnings of gang violence. The other is something about the main character and the Pope discussing how "inherently silly" the idea of humanoid robots is, using stuff like "well a TV doesn't look like an eyeball" as their alleged evidence.


Huh. I can honestly say I have never read/heard/are familiar with these stories. The only one that sort of sounds like the first one you described is A Clockwork Orange, but that book is difficult too, mainly because of the fictional language/slang Burgess uses in it. The second one just sounds like a bizarre version of Farenheit 451 without the book burning and the inclusion of Asimov.

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#7 Yava

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Posted 20 August 2012 - 12:40 AM

I am not a fan of either, really. If I would find a good Utopian book and a good Distopian book, I would choose Utopian. Here's why: I love Post-Apoc as much as the next guy but sadly it doesn't usually fit into Distopian because usually in a post-apoc story there won't be any society really, Look at Fallout, there are small pockets of society but those aren't totally distopian, but they are very close. I like the books that have society on the edge of falling apart completely. Or on the edge of Distopia. The Hunger Games is the only Distopian book I have read that would be an exception. There is (more or less) an actual story there.

#8 Michaelangelo

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Posted 20 August 2012 - 01:27 AM

Yava, I don't think you quite understand what a dystopia is. Nor do I think you know what a utopia is.

A Utopia, according to Wiki is "an ideal community or society possessing a perfect socio-politico-legal system." Whereas a dystopia is the opposite, according to wiki it is "the idea of a society, generally of a speculative future, characterized by negative, anti-utopian elements, varying from environmental to political and social issues."

What you're talking about is just post-apocalyptia. You're right though, it doesn't fit the dystopian future because the post-apocalypse doesn't equate to a dystopia at all. Yeah sure, society is completely outta whack, but that's not really a dystopia, in a dystopia there's still order under one entire body of government. Fallout doesn't do that, unless you mean life in the Vault.

Yes, Hunger Games is a dystopian book, but it's not a very good one. The Running Man by Stephen King is very much like Hunger Games but that came out back in the 80's and is probably a lot better. Or you can go read Brave New World too, for a legit non-Orwellian dystopia that was an awesome book. But another book that really comes close to Hunger Games and dystopia is Lord of the Flies, which is a book that gets a lot of crap from high school students.

Whatevs.

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#9 Wang Fire

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Posted 20 August 2012 - 06:34 AM

Eh, I haven't read Hunger Games but I did see the movie and I have to say it was surprisingly good in pretty much all respects. I hesitate to call it a purely dystopian work because even though that's what the setting is the focus seems less on the politics and social engineering involved in this undetermined future, though those are still present. Another very good (and very much R-rated) example of that would be Battle Royale, which is similar in many respects but with more focus on the psychology of the characters and this sort of police-state society. Oh, and lots more blood and gore, let's just say that Uzi-guy will haunt your nightmares. Overall I rate it a bit higher than Hunger Games.

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#10 Risk

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Posted 20 August 2012 - 07:20 PM

What you're talking about is just post-apocalyptia. You're right though, it doesn't fit the dystopian future because the post-apocalypse doesn't equate to a dystopia at all. Yeah sure, society is completely outta whack, but that's not really a dystopia, in a dystopia there's still order under one entire body of government. Fallout doesn't do that, unless you mean life in the Vault.

A better example of dystopia in Fallout would be this: http://fallout.wikia...wiki/Vault_City

Anyways, I think I prefer dystopia to utopia. It is kind of cliche, but more fun to read; a few rich people controlling the masses, and those masses coming back to bite the big shots in the... asses.

But it also is more of a realistic scenario, I mean, look at how corporations and CEOs run things today.

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#11 God-Emperor Thrawnie

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Posted 21 August 2012 - 01:49 AM

I've always liked the dystopia shown in Fahrenheit 451, because it's a dystopia that's being created and supported by the people living in it as opposed to "Evil government/corporations oppressing enlightened freedom-loving populace", which makes it scarier and gives it a bit more applicability.

#12 Michaelangelo

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Posted 21 August 2012 - 04:07 AM

A better example of dystopia in Fallout would be this: http://fallout.wikia...wiki/Vault_City

Anyways, I think I prefer dystopia to utopia. It is kind of cliche, but more fun to read; a few rich people controlling the masses, and those masses coming back to bite the big shots in the... asses.

But it also is more of a realistic scenario, I mean, look at how corporations and CEOs run things today.


Well, if you really sit down and think about it there is no such thing as a utopia. Your vision of the perfect society won't be reflected as such by another person. My vision of the perfect society might considered a bit facist if I can be truly honest. :P

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#13 Wang Fire

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Posted 22 August 2012 - 02:00 AM

Indeed, the main reason I think Star Trek got away with the Federation basically being a utopia is that they never really explain how it got to that point or even how it works beyond eliminating scarcity and money.

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#14 TellTaleSign

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Posted 05 August 2014 - 02:42 AM

"The Giver" was a fantastic book (although I seem to be the only one in my school who liked it..) as well as "F 451".

In any book about utopian societies, I always expect the character to be... How should I put it? Robotic? Psychopathic?

There is always sacrifices you have to make to have a "perfect" world and emotion is on the top of the list in most, if not all cases.

I notice that in both of these novels, people fight against perfection, but in our society, in real life, it's what most people strive towards.

No one is perfect, but maybe that's a good thing.

I'm a fan of stories about utopian societies, but I think that they would be much more exciting to write about a dystopian society.

Edited by TellTaleSign, 05 August 2014 - 02:43 AM.

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#15 Cutlass-Crocodile

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Posted 05 August 2014 - 03:33 AM

I'm in the dystopian fan-boat. I'm fascinated by stories in a dystopian setting, to the point actually that I will read a book solely because it's set in a dystopia. Seriously - dystopias are a physical selling point for books and movies to me. That's not always a good thing... but it's true.

 

Definitely a vote towards dystopias from me.


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#16 Dagoth

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Posted 09 August 2014 - 03:48 PM

I like reading dystopian novels, especially when they take place with a backdrop of broken utopian ideals. The two go hand in hand for me. I can't have one without a pinch of the other.

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#17 Rickard the Bearded

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Posted 09 August 2014 - 11:39 PM

Honestly, just play SM Alpha Centuri for the best examples of both worlds. Yang's Hive faction is one of the best examples of a dystopia I can think of, contrast the Gaian Mindworm Utopian ideals.

Oh and Yang is master race.

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#18 HalfBaked139

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Posted 13 August 2014 - 05:48 AM

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Really long rant here, so here's the long and short of it (I posted the whole thing because my fingers have been going for over an hour and if I delete it now I just wasted my time). Utopia is best as an idea, because implementing one in a work either uses dystopian values or uses an unrealistic view of humanity (which is still kinda dystopian if you think about it). Human nature is naturally full of conflict, because we want it our way, but sacrificing that for something else dehumanizes us if it's something actually worth standing up for.

 

Oh, and here's one of my favorite things I've ever said. I'm an arrogant jerk too, so I must really like it. Anyway, it's pretty darn applicable to this topic.

 

“The unfortunate thing about humans is that it sounds like we won’t stop killing each other because we’ve decided there aren’t things worth wiping ourselves out for. It’ll probably happen once we’ve lost all the things worth fighting for. Big difference."

 

Just my thoughts. Have at 'em, folks.


Edited by HalfBaked139, 13 August 2014 - 05:54 AM.


#19 Neyo Wargear

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Posted 03 September 2014 - 05:38 PM

Hmm, utopian books are nice and all. Though I'd like to read a book about a lead up to a utopia. How they solve issues and stop others to create a perfect world. Utopias seem impossible to obtain, though we want one. Humans are a warring race and divided. I can't see a utopia coming to fruition. I read about how people have tried to create one and all ultimately failed. A dystopia is far more feasible. All in all, I'd love to read a book about how a utopia was created and how it fixed problems.


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#20 Patriot 96

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Posted 10 October 2014 - 08:56 PM

Many good dystopias look like utopias. They act perfect but conceal secret issues
from their citizens. I recommend the book The Giver for one such dystopia.




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