So, it has been about one month since my first blog post was published. The central idea and themes have not really changed at all- but my perceptions have along with my faith in humanity. In the first phases of my research when I was first figuring out my plan of attack, I thought that watching the films I listed in my dystopian fiction and going on to dissect them was going to be the easiest part of this assignment. I was very wrong. In my presentation, I used two examples of dystopian fiction (The Handmaid’s Tale and Battle Royale) and after watching them both several times each then going on to analyse and critique them and then try and equate them with modern day society was an arduous task! This is my dissection of both films so far in comparison with our society today:
- Younger generations targeted
Younger generations are targeted because in Japan at the time, the economy was crashing and there were high rates of unemployment. Students were consistently rebelling and boycotting their classes, which is why the government approved the Battle Royale legislation. Although different people have different perspectives and opinions, there is certainly discussion that is occurring today that diminishes younger people as rude, lacking in respect, impatient, lazy etc.
- Students set up to fail also represents worldwide failure
In the film, the students are given a bag with supplies including a weapon, food, water, a map and a compass. Each student has a different weapon. The two main characters have a pair of binoculars and a saucepan lid as weapons, while others have shotguns, automatic rifles and sharp knives. This represents that some individuals are unfairly given better opportunities regardless of value while others are essentially set up for failure. By doing this the film suggests that we are already set up for global failure. For example, we have a semi-fraudulent banking system as people are given loans of money that doesn’t actually exist only to have to work even harder to pay these non-existent loans back with actual cash.
- We are meant to be protected by the state- but the state sometimes only protects itself (selfish government)
There’s no doubt that most laws are put in place for our benefit. They help in making us feel safe in our day-to-day lives. However there have been relatively recent cases of governments creating laws for their own benefits. In Australia, the Border Force Protection Act was signed in 2015 that states it is illegal for detention centre workers to report child abuse, rape and human rights violations. In 2014, the state of Idaho in the US states it is illegal to film and report animal abuse on farms, establishing severe criminal sanctions for those that report the abuse- as opposed to those who caused it in the first place. This use of “law-making” which protects corporations in charge represents the “forbidden zones” in the film which are set up to give the game its three day time limit. The viewers are able to sit comfortably in their homes while the students have to fight for their lives whilst also worrying about where they are and at what times.
The Handmaid’s Tale
- Lack of body autonomy
In the film, women’s lives are only contingent on whether or not they are able to produce children. It is a group of white, religious rich males who decide on the fate of female bodies. Earlier in the year Trump signed an anti-abortion executive order surrounded by 6 rich white males.
- Victim blaming
There is a scene in the film where a young handmaid is “slut-shamed” by other women when she bravely states she is a victim of rape and the rape resulted in an aborted pregnancy. The other handmaid’s say that it was her fault for what happened, that God was punishing her and that she is a whore. This scene really resonates with today’s rape culture, as we are currently living in a society where a US college student was convicted of sexual assault and only served just three months of a jail sentence (Brock Turner). We are a society that holds female victims accountable for male crimes. We say well she shouldn’t have worn that short skirt, she shouldn’t have flirted, she shouldn’t have been walking alone at night and we justify this vile behaviour by saying “boys will be boys”.
- Travel ban
Diverting from gender issues, I did make a comparison between women being forced to work to death in the colonies if they were unable to give birth to Trump’s travel ban. The Handmaid’s were told that with the role they were playing in society, it was the safest and most pleasant life available to them- and that they should be happy about that. If not, they always had the choice to go to these colonies, which were represented in the film as eerily similar to Nazi death camps. Trump’s travel ban is in itself, a manifestation of Islamophobia and fear-mongering. His party seem to believe that a healthy America is only comprised of white Christians, and that immigrants, whatever nationality they may be play only an insignificant role in the “greatness” of his country. So the Christian Fundamentalist leaders in the Handmaid’s Tale suspended the US constitution under the pretext of restoring order and Trumps travel ban violates constitutional guarantees of religious freedom and equal protection of the laws. Although the travel ban has now been frozen, the act of it in the first place crossed several lines.
In my first blog post I outlined two scholarly resources that I believed aligned well with the message I am trying to convey in my digital artefact. Soon after, I came across a paper written by a young woman from the US that analysed the themes of dystopian fiction as part of her master’s degree. She researched novels from 2001-2010. Most of her paper is purely themes that she found to be repetitive within each novel, so what I was most interested in most was part of her conclusion/findings. Toward the end of her paper, the author discussed five lessons that could be learnt from reading dystopian novels. These lessons were: that it is okay to have individuality and be unique, that it’s important to keep hope, that technology has gone too far and something needs to be done, we must protect our environment and lastly that it is important have the quality of altruism. My first two academic sources were very pessimistic and dark in nature, more so Potter’s work, so I think it is important to include something that doesn’t necessarily focus on our physical state in the event of a dystopian age, rather our temperaments and qualities and how we should deal with a dystopia in the best way that we can.
Anatomy of the State by Murray Rothbard discusses the structure and the legitimacy of the government. In a typically dystopian land, it is the government that is the oppressor and the controller of every single event and person in its state, which is why exposing the true immoral nature of the government is so central in discussing dystopian themes and general existence of it. The short book contains several chapters all contributing powerfully to the author’s overall thesis, however I would like to focus on one particular chapter: How the State Transcends its Limits. This chapter begins with discussion of the transformation from monarchical society to the concept of a parliamentary democracy in the United States of America. This evidently resulted in the parliament being the main act of the state and therefore every act completely sovereign. Drawing upon my own political philosophy knowledge- I think it’s interesting to contemplate the state of nature and two philosophers’ views on this phenomenon. In short, John Locke argued that in the state of nature, every man would be equal to one another, and that because we are God’s property we would not harm each other whilst Thomas Hobbes argues that in the state of nature, life would be short, nasty and brutish and essentially states that mankind is too selfish in what they desire to be fair and equal. Returning back to Rothbard, he uses the example of the Bill of Rights and Restrictive parts of the American Constitution to demonstrate an attempt to impose limits of the power of the government. The judicial sector of the US federal government are supposed to interpret laws in alignment with the principles of the constitution, however has only too become an instrument for implementing ideological legitimacies to the actions of the government.
The main change I have made from my first post is that I will only focus on dystopian films, and I will include Brazil in my final piece. I was planning on more, but I believe if I analyse only a few really well, it will make more of an impact than analysing 10 only briefly. I have also made the decision to include an Instagram feed in my blog which will feature a page run by an authoritarian government in a dystopian era which will include propaganda used to coerce and control its citizens. I will ensure to post the link on Twitter when it is up and running.
Newgard, L, University of Northern Iowa UNI Scholar Works, Life of Chaos, Life of Hope: Dystopian Literature for Young Adults, Graduate Research Papers, viewed 20 April 2017, <http://scholarworks.uni.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1015&context=grp>
Rothbard, M 2009, Anatomy of the State, Ludwig Von Mises Institute, Alabama