Author Topic: Utopia & Dystopia  (Read 4727 times)

mgriffin

  • Hypnos Founder
  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 6993
  • Life is a memory, and then it is nothing.
    • View Profile
    • www.hypnos.com
Utopia & Dystopia
« on: February 07, 2008, 05:35:26 PM »
Not sure exactly what it is -- maybe I should think about it some more -- but I find literature and film based around stories of utopian or dystopian situations incredibly compelling.  I'm thinking of this at the moment because Lena and I re-watched The Handmaid's Tale last night, and it's a fairly good example of a dystopian tale (though it seems the book is very very different from the movie).  We talked a bit about 1984 and a few other examples, and I got started thinking about Things to Come, Gattaca, Anthem, and a few others.

I guess, as I type this, that what's compelling about these stories is what it reveals about where we might potentially hope to go, and also about where we should be careful not to go.  For example, The Handmaid's Tale immediately made me think about the problem of rising religious fundamentalism in our government.  That's not to say that I think religious people can't have a political voice, but I think you start to have a problem when the government is too driven by any religious text.

Anyway, this isn't a topic about the rise of religious fundamentalism, which is debatable anyway.

I'm more interested in hearing from others who find compelling stories or films depicting utopian or dystopian futures or alternate realities.  Further, I'd love to hear of some favorite examples.  I  listed a few of mine above, but there are others I'll come back and discuss further.
[ Mike Griffin, Hypnos Recordings ] email mg (at) hypnos.com | http://hypnos.com | http://twitter.com/mgsoundvisions

SunDummy

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 493
  • "Calm seas do not create good mariners."
    • View Profile
    • SunDummy.com
Re: Utopia & Dystopia
« Reply #1 on: February 07, 2008, 06:04:36 PM »
Cool topic!

It's interesting that in all the utopian/dystopian stories (or "anti-utopian", as my high-school lit teacher would say), the utopians always live large on the backs of the labor class.  I've never read a convincing description of a utopia that works, not even close; they always succeed by creating stratified classes.  And even Walden 2 is just a fantasy; it's never succeeded in the real world.

Well, duh...  obvious, yes; but why is that?  I've read (like many of you) a TON of science fiction; with all the brains thinking on this, there should be at least a few examples of workable systems...  Since there are not, should we assume it's impossible?  And if so, what does that say about the constant quest for better societies vs. personal freedoms to guide our own destinies?  (I used to work for a guy who lived in a commune back in the seventies.  He said it was a blast for a few months, then the sex and drugs got boring, so he left.  It soon imploded as everyone's personal agendas and goals got in the way.)

Anthem and 1984 come immediately to mind; so much sci-fi is along this theme, in varying degrees.  "Stranger in a Strange Land" has a protagonist from a 'perfect' world; "Brave New World" is perfect, as long as you take your Soma...

And of course, Zardoz is a classic: Connery and Rampling, what a team! ;)

Hell, even music:  Rush's "2112" and maybe "Red Barchetta".
I wish I was a Glowworm; a Glowworm's never glum. 'Cause how can you be grumpy, when the sun shines out your bum?

www.sundummy.com

mgriffin

  • Hypnos Founder
  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 6993
  • Life is a memory, and then it is nothing.
    • View Profile
    • www.hypnos.com
Re: Utopia & Dystopia
« Reply #2 on: February 07, 2008, 07:04:12 PM »
Neal Peart (drummer & lyricist for Rush, for those who don't know) was a huge, huge, huge Ayn Rand fan, and has admitted that Anthem was a big influence on 2112.

The closest thing to a working utopian society I can think of, is the Federation system in Star Trek.  I know this has come up before and others have argued that they find the society in Star Trek to be really unbearable,but I suspect those people just don't like the show(s).
[ Mike Griffin, Hypnos Recordings ] email mg (at) hypnos.com | http://hypnos.com | http://twitter.com/mgsoundvisions

LNerell

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 688
    • View Profile
    • Personal website
Re: Utopia & Dystopia
« Reply #3 on: February 07, 2008, 07:58:26 PM »
I've never read a convincing description of a utopia that works, not even close; they always succeed by creating stratified classes.  And even Walden 2 is just a fantasy; it's never succeeded in the real world.

For Walden 2 to work you have to buy into Skinners notion that behaviorism is a complete system for behavior modification, not something that a lot of people do anymore. And if I remember correctly he even added some seeds of doubt that it will work in the book. Although I could be wrong as I read that book 25 years ago.

Have you read Aldous Huxley's book "Island" (no, that cheesy movie with the same name from a couple years ago is not based upon this book)? Probably the best of the utopia models although in the end Aldous made sure that it fails. Another good one is "Ecotopia" by Ernest Callenbach. Seems rather relevant today.

"Brave New World" is perfect, as long as you take your Soma...

Aldous Huxley also wrote the distopia "Ape and Essence" a post W.W. 3 world. As you could expect its pretty dark.
Take care.

- Loren Nerell

SunDummy

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 493
  • "Calm seas do not create good mariners."
    • View Profile
    • SunDummy.com
Re: Utopia & Dystopia
« Reply #4 on: February 07, 2008, 08:03:50 PM »
Quote
The closest thing to a working utopian society I can think of, is the Federation system in Star Trek.

Maybe, but we never see anyone other than the crew, who are mostly officers, a traditionally "upper class" group of folks.  The few 'lower rungs' of the crew who show up always die.  And if I had to live with that insufferable Will Wheaton character, well, that's not Utopia...   ;D



I wish I was a Glowworm; a Glowworm's never glum. 'Cause how can you be grumpy, when the sun shines out your bum?

www.sundummy.com

jblock

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 138
    • View Profile
    • synthblock
Re: Utopia & Dystopia
« Reply #5 on: February 08, 2008, 06:32:28 AM »
Speaking of utopian music, Todd Rundgren has explored this theme extensively both in his solo albums (A Wizard, A True Star: "wait another year, Utopia is here") and with the band Utopia (both his led version in 74-75 and the more democratic band with Roger Powell etc.).
Jonathan Block
www.synthblock.com

judd stephens

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 506
    • View Profile
Re: Utopia & Dystopia
« Reply #6 on: February 08, 2008, 09:19:49 PM »
I'm more interested in hearing from others who find compelling stories or films depicting utopian or dystopian futures or alternate realities.  Further, I'd love to hear of some favorite examples.  I  listed a few of mine above, but there are others I'll come back and discuss further.

The movie examples I can recall have pretty far-fetched themes, but certainly there's an underlying message to these: The Matrix (created from the over-reliance on artificial intelligence), Logan's Run (resulted from nuclear war, Dystopia of ignorance, disguised as Utopia), V is for Vendetta, Equilibrium (underrated cool movie, government controls population through drugs that eliminate emotions), Soylent Green (what you don't know about your food may kill you), Brazil (don't remember the whole plot other than it was some form of dystopia)..... I'm not sure if these qualify but I think so.

Utopian examples?  I'm sure there's a few documentaries out there about the Grateful Dead tours  ;D
« Last Edit: February 08, 2008, 09:28:21 PM by judd stephens »

judd stephens

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 506
    • View Profile
Re: Utopia & Dystopia
« Reply #7 on: February 08, 2008, 09:32:50 PM »
 And if I had to live with that insufferable Will Wheaton character, well, that's not Utopia...   ;D



Hey relax, it's a big universe out there. :P  I'm sure you could get a transfer or somethin'.

Bebbo

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 51
    • View Profile
Re: Utopia & Dystopia
« Reply #8 on: February 12, 2008, 10:59:37 AM »
Not sure exactly what it is -- maybe I should think about it some more -- but I find literature and film based around stories of utopian or dystopian situations incredibly compelling.  I'm thinking of this at the moment because Lena and I re-watched The Handmaid's Tale last night, and it's a fairly good example of a dystopian tale (though it seems the book is very very different from the movie).  We talked a bit about 1984 and a few other examples, and I got started thinking about Things to Come, Gattaca, Anthem, and a few others.

I guess, as I type this, that what's compelling about these stories is what it reveals about where we might potentially hope to go, and also about where we should be careful not to go.  For example, The Handmaid's Tale immediately made me think about the problem of rising religious fundamentalism in our government.  That's not to say that I think religious people can't have a political voice, but I think you start to have a problem when the government is too driven by any religious text.

Anyway, this isn't a topic about the rise of religious fundamentalism, which is debatable anyway.

I'm more interested in hearing from others who find compelling stories or films depicting utopian or dystopian futures or alternate realities.  Further, I'd love to hear of some favorite examples.  I  listed a few of mine above, but there are others I'll come back and discuss further.

Long time since I've read it, or seen the film, but Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury is a classic. In this story firemen don't put out fires, they burn books.

jblock

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 138
    • View Profile
    • synthblock
Re: Utopia & Dystopia
« Reply #9 on: February 12, 2008, 12:37:47 PM »
Long time since I've read it, or seen the film, but Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury is a classic. In this story firemen don't put out fires, they burn books.

A great DVD, and very inexpensive. "Do you read the books you burn?"
Jonathan Block
www.synthblock.com