A bleak future: It always anticipates a dystopian universe. “The most common sense refers to a society worse than ours”, confirms Mehdi Achouche, lecturer in English-language film studies at the Sorbonne Paris Nord University. Indeed, these stories take place in a more or less near future, but are always scary.
, Dystopia can also be an “anti-utopia”, a criticism of the reformation of society through science or technology.experts say. Because we know that some conspiracy is hidden behind this desire for reform, or some big failure is being prepared, which will be the exact opposite reason. ,
Dystopia, or the anticipation of the excesses of a failed society
Misinformation, manipulation of behavior, state surveillance … these are the excesses first observed in literature by the classics of the genre (we other D’Evgeny Zamiatine, world’s best D Aldous Huxley, 1984 George Orwell’s…), then in the cinema (Capital de fritz lang, green sun D Richard Fleischer, Brazil Terry Gilliam…)
Unexpectedly, the serial format also took over the genre from the 1970s, such as post-apocalyptic programs. survivors (broadcast on BBC in 1975), planet of the apes (appears on CBS since 1974), until Zombies the walking dead (released on AMC since 2010) and last of us (currently on HBO).
But focusing more and more on mechanisms leading to a dictatorship, totalitarian regime, or loss of fundamental freedoms through productions. “It’s not systematic, but often dystopian stories are political and tell us about the danger of government becoming authoritarian”Mehdi develops Achouche.
Since the start of the series’ second golden age, in the 2000s, battlestar galactica (aired between 2004 and 2009) talks to us, for example, about the danger of a human society that is becoming stricter. Then things speed up. “For the past ten years, the genre has made a comeback in popularity”.Mehdi Achouche says.
No wonder: dystopia is a reflection of current events and the society that spawned it. On the small screen, the previously mentioned trials of the 1970s coincided with the oil crisis and Watergate. at the beginning of the XXII century, battlestar galactica 9/11, the War on Terror and as a defense of Western values against religious fanatics. And today, like a series black Mirror (produced by Netflix between 2011 and 2019) echoes our relationship to technology and its impact on our free will.
at his side, The Handmaid’s Tale (series airing since 2017 on Hulu and adapted from the 1985 novel by Margaret Atwood), refers to the return of the conservative right in the United States as well as efforts to ban abortion, and more generally in a Trumpian context In . “In the first season, we see Congress under attack by conservatives: it’s hard when you watch this episode not to think about what happened in Washington DC not so long ago.”Soligne Mehdi Achouche.
From satire of authoritarian regimes to criticism of neoliberalism
Fiction and reality are so intertwined that the symbols of dystopian universes projected on the screen sometimes become real means of resistance. Feminist activists thus did not hesitate to wear the famous red robes of the maids of honor imagined by Margaret Atwood to denounce the decline of abortion rights in the land of Uncle Sam. “Dystopias Gone Totally Believable”Mehdi is shocked.
This fidelity to reality is also present due to developments in the genre’s representation of “big bad guys”. If, since XXI The dystopias of the century are satires of the utopian ideologies of the time, including fascism and communism, with today’s narratives little changed.
“Today, it is neoliberalism that instead becomes the target of satire and criticism. We are shown that if the neoliberal project that has been around since the 1980s is carried forward, that is the kind of world we will find ourselves inconverted carbon For example, where large multinational companies have power”Mehdi Achouche explains.
The bad guys become officers or CEOs of the company. ” In done by [série diffusée entre 2016 et 2022 sur HBO, adaptation du film Mondwest de 1973, ndlr]We still find a “mad scientist” of sorts, but he’s at the service of Delos’ shareholders », supports prof. Same phenomenon in one of the latest nuggets of Apple TV+, Separation, started last year. There, the dystopia is established by The Firm, making the world of work a dictatorial regime under constant surveillance.
between entertainment and awareness
But being too close to the real world can also be detrimental to productions. years years, a series broadcast on the BBC in 2019, begins in the same year and follows its protagonist’s life for 15 years through a deteriorating economic, political and technological context. According to Mehdi Achouche, “The series is difficult to watch because it really is the history of a terrible world. The connection with reality is completely assumed, maybe a little too much, moreover… It becomes a little too realistic for entertainment. »
Return the public to its reality… but not too much. The series should continue to be a source of enjoyment, above all else. “It has become a genre exploited by Hollywood, so much so that its edgy nature has dulled a bit over time: dystopia has become entertainment like any other”., Mehdi Achuche has regrets. Dystopian series therefore multiply, and are easily dismissed, as any other genre.
In 2020, New Worldan attempt to adapt New World by Aldous Huxley, fell after one season. is last year moonhavenA series centered around setting up an artificial intelligence on the Moon, in the hopes of saving a doomed Earth, has also been cancelled.
However, the genre continues to stage and, more often than not, to convince. black Mirror, The Handmaid’s Tale Or done by are successful and attract millions of viewers. “We like dystopias because we are more and more convinced that we are going there directly for environmental, social or economic reasons”, assured Mehdi Achouche. Popularity driven by format.
, The series doesn’t really add much to the genre, he believes, Except for the fact that it’s more accessible. anthology format, as proven black MirrorWorks even better: we avoid melodrama, emotional intrigue to focus on the essential, which makes it possible to achieve a more impactful discourse”. The format evolves, but the desire of the creators of dystopia remains the same: to raise awareness.
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