Since reading The Hunger Games, I have been seeking more of the dystopia genre, and have also been penning some of my own. However, I did not start writing these stories after The Hunger Games per say, as a hint of dystopian interest has been on my radar for years, startling subtly and growing bit by bit until I read those books and realized there was a name of a genre of this particular type of story I have long found interest in. Here’s the history of my growing interest in dystopia…
The Twilight Zone
I don’t remember particularly how or when I discovered The Twilight Zone, though I am almost positive that one of the marathons on the SciFi (or SyFy if you prefer the incorrect spelling) channel is responsible, and my dad was probably the one watching it first when I found it. All I know is that I quickly became hooked. One of the first episodes that really stuck out to me was “Number 12 Looks Just Like You,” where a young girl lives in a society where everyone goes through a “Transformation” process that makes them youthful and beautiful for the rest of their lives. I remember thinking, I can see this actually happening. That was definitely the first taste.
Another episode that really caught my attention and I would consider my favorite on the show is “The Obsolete Man,” where a man is ruled by his government to be obsolete because of his “outdated” career and religious beliefs. Since he is obsolete, he is to be executed. Again, it was another episode that struck the thought within me: This could actually happen.
The Island is a movie that, in my opinion, is highly underrated. *SPOILERS AHEAD* It focuses on a man and a woman, Lincoln and Jordan, who live in a compound where they believe they are being sheltered from the contamination of the outside world, save for one island, where winners of a random lottery can win a chance to go to. Lincoln and Jordan come to find out, however, that they are actually clones of other people, and winners of the lottery are not going to an island, but being harvested for organs by those whose DNA they match. It is a big secret that the creator of the company (who is appropriately played by Sean Bean because he dies) has managed to keep… until the end of the movie of course. At this point, I already had a random interest in the ethics of cloning that arose from who-knows-where, so I was hooked once again.
Then along came…
Another film that does not get as much love as it deserves. In this story, John Preston is essentially a cop for the feelings police, if you will, in a totalitarian society where emotions are suppressed by the required drug Prozium.
Two things shake his world: The first is uncovering a lair of the senses, where a woman is hiding books, music, and art. From this crime scene Preston’s partner Partridge ends up taking a book of poetry. And for his crime *SPOILERohwaitnotreallybecausethischaracterisplayedbySeanBean* he is shot by Preston himself.
This may or may not have rattled Preston initially, but what makes him confront it is when his last dosage of Prozium falls and the glass capsule breaks, causing the liquid inside to spill. With one missed dosage, Preston starts to see, and feel, everything in a whole new light. So he decides to fight against the very system he has been working to protect. Like “The Obsolete Man,” the focus of this movie is the totalitarian government, and about how we should all have the right to express ourselves and make our own choices.
Then my last “gateway” before The Hunger Games was…
Once upon a time my dad told me about this movie where there is a society in which people who aren’t genetically engineered are considered inferior. It sounded interesting to me, and the idea was planted, but I wasn’t quite ready for viewing it yet. But in college, I again got this crazy random interest in genetic engineering and wanted to write a movie script on the idea for my Scriptwriting class, so suddenly I was seeking out this movie my dad told me about. Vincent is considered “in-valid,” since he was born naturally, and at birth his death by heart failure is predicted to happen at an early age. Yet he surpasses his predicted expiration date and pursues his dream of flying to space by taking the identity of a “valid,” Jerome, who became disabled. I think the theme of the movie could be surmised in the Bible verse shown on the first title card of the movie: Consider God’s handiwork; who can straighten what He hath made crooked? – Ecclesiastes 7:13. Flawed human beings are still human beings. Think of all the flawed human beings who have contributed so much to our society.
All the movies have this in common: a setting of the future of our world should we choose certain routes that we have interest in. The concept of a “fountain of youth” is the world in The Twilight Zone episode “Number 12.” Totalitarian governments dictate lives in “The Obsolete Man” and Equilibrium. Human cloning and using those clones to save “real” humans is the subject matter of The Island. And cloning’s not-so-distant cousin eugenics and its potential effect on society is considered in Gattaca. I find these stories impactful. And I want to tell stories like those. I have to admit, in my own story writing I can get caught up in romances and other petty things that often happen in young adult novels, which is why I am really working to rewrite my first dystopia story. I like the romance, but I want the focus of the story to be the warning of what can happen. That’s what these movies do so well, that brought me into my interest int the genre. I hope I can do it justice.
What was your gateway to dystopia, or whatever your genre of choice may be? What stories make you think?