Why You Need to Know About Dystopias (Proto-Hunger Games)

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Let’s talk about one of the most intriguing fictional, not-so-fictional concepts. Let’s talk about the concept of a dystopia, and how we as a society might be on a road to one. Also let’s talk about The Hunger Games, because The Hunger Games is cool.

I’m going to assume most of you are unfamiliar with the concept of a dysopia, so let me tell you about by defining a word you probably do know about: utopia

A utopia is a society that is highly desirable. Basically, it’s a perfect society. Often it eliminates the problems we currently face. Money is a thing of the past, and nobody suffers. Technology is either perfected of eliminated, and everybody exists in perfect harmony. 

There is a ton of examples of utopian societies in literature, and probably the most well-known modern example is Star Trek. The pre-J.J. Abrams destruction of the Star Trek universe, that is. But I prefer an example that isn’t even fictional. Heaven and the Garden of Eden are both real examples of a utopia. Too bad we don’t have access to either of them right now.

So what’s a dystopia? It’s the exact opposite of a utopia. It’s a society that is uniquely undesirable. It’s plays on our worst fears of what government or humanity can create. It’s a good thing that human history is free from examples of dystopias… crap.

No it’s not. And I just have to mention World War II Europe in order to prove that. Ancient Rome, anyone? What about the Dark Ages? And then of course you can throw in the worst dystopia of literally all of time: Hell. 

My point is that there are many more frighteningly dark societies than utopias. But the one most recognized today is thankfully fictional. That is, of course, the world of Panem from The Hunger Games trilogy. In The Hunger Games, children from every geographic region of Panem are killed in order for the government to keep their grasp on society. The entire series is about revolting from that reprobate government. 

What makes The Hunger Games so intriguing right now is not the love triangles or Katniss’ struggle as she unwittingly becomes the figurehead of a revolution or even an exploration of a PTSD tinged exploration of life. Even though all of that makes the series freaking awesome, it’s mostly the world of Panem that intrigues us all. And I think I might know why.

We live in a world, specifically a country, that hangs in the balance between people-controlled power and government regulation. It’s no secret that America has, as it’s grown, allowed the government far more power. The debate is whether or not that’s a bad thing. 

But one thing we desperately don’t want is a government like Panem. We don’t want enough nefarious politicians to slip through the wire and slowly change the country from the inside out. And so we have novels like The Hunger Games to remind us of dystopias of the past and one possible dystopia of the future. 

But you know what. It’s completely up to us what becomes of our country and our lives. And I for one set out to change the world every day for the better. 

[Thanks to Venora Shelane for the suggestion.]

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Matthew Estes

Matthew Estes currently exists in the ether between graudate student and full-time worker. One day he hopes to be a full-time novelist and blogger, but until that day comes he spends his time playing video games, eating pizza, and being with his soon-to-be wife. However, he has yet to do all three at the same time. Bucket list stuff, you know.