T Nation

Distopian Novels and Movies

This certainly isn’t a hard and fast rule as I can think of a few exceptions, but I have been noticing something of a pattern.

Why is it that Americans tend to be much more upbeat in the outcomes in their distopian novels and movies, where Brits tend to have a much more negative outlook?

Consider the following British works (SPOILERS):

1984 - Ends with Winston taking a bullet in the back of the head after having his spirit broken.
Brave New World - Ends with the main character hanging himself.
Brazil - Sam gets caught and undergoes torture, ending with him going nuts and fantasizing about escaping.

Then their American counterparts:

Farenheit 451 - All the guys that remember books survive and get together.
Demolition Man - The good guys win.
Firefly - The good guys lost the war, but there is still hope left among individuals.

The second idea in this is how do Aldous Huxley and George Orwell both pen such incredible books with their distopic themes given in socialism’s name while both being acknowledged as socialists?

mike

Hmmm. I always thought that the “bullet entering his brain” at then end of 1984 was metaphorical, an illustration of Winston’s total acceptance of Big Brother and all of the Party’s declarations.

In fact, I think the work would be diminished if Big Brother had to have Winston killed.

[quote]Mikeyali wrote:
The second idea in this is how do Aldous Huxley and George Orwell both pen such incredible books with their distopic themes given in socialism’s name while both being acknowledged as socialists?[/quote]

As for this part, it is possible to support some form of limited social safety net without wanting the government to run our entire lives.

It’s not an all-or-nothing proposition.

Can’t speak for the brits, but in general Americans prefer upbeat outcomes. Are brits more cynical?

Americans can’stand the idea of not having a happy ending, even in dystopia. Or at least they’ve been force fed that way.

intended brazil vs initial american cut

intended blade runner vs various american cuts

etc.

everything that hits the big screen gets mutilated with a happy face
take Aeon Flux; the very special thing was that original Aeon died in every episode, most often from some small mistake. The movie adaption is a turd smelling of parfume with a happy end.

It’s rarely the other way round (for eample kubricks idea of a clockwork orange vs the original)

[quote]pookie wrote:
Mikeyali wrote:
The second idea in this is how do Aldous Huxley and George Orwell both pen such incredible books with their distopic themes given in socialism’s name while both being acknowledged as socialists?

As for this part, it is possible to support some form of limited social safety net without wanting the government to run our entire lives.

It’s not an all-or-nothing proposition.
[/quote]

It might be possible to want that, whether it is possible to achieve that is quite another matter.

Once private property is no longer sacrosanct, where is the limit?

Why should there be any limit?

Orion, you may disagree with it, but why do you respond to pookie’s answer with the exact question?

There is certainly a limit, but it cannot be defined easily or ideologically.

[quote]Mikeyali wrote:
This certainly isn’t a hard and fast rule as I can think of a few exceptions, but I have been noticing something of a pattern.

Why is it that Americans tend to be much more upbeat in the outcomes in their distopian novels and movies, where Brits tend to have a much more negative outlook?

Consider the following British works (SPOILERS):

1984 - Ends with Winston taking a bullet in the back of the head after having his spirit broken.
Brave New World - Ends with the main character hanging himself.
Brazil - Sam gets caught and undergoes torture, ending with him going nuts and fantasizing about escaping.

Then their American counterparts:

Farenheit 451 - All the guys that remember books survive and get together.
Demolition Man - The good guys win.
Firefly - The good guys lost the war, but there is still hope left among individuals.

The second idea in this is how do Aldous Huxley and George Orwell both pen such incredible books with their distopic themes given in socialism’s name while both being acknowledged as socialists?

mike
[/quote]

Interesting observation, I’d probably second the idea that Americans like happy endings, for whatever reason.

And if you like dystopian/post-apocalyptic books, read A Canticle for Leibowitz and The Road.

My version of ‘1984’ has an upbeat ending: Winston is destroyed but an apparent historian is describing the dictionary. He may have somehow also gotten hold of Winston’s diary and is writing the novel as an historical work of fiction, something like ‘I, Claudius’ by Graves.

‘But when he’s dumb and no more here,
nineteen hundred years or near,
Clau…Clau…Claudius
shall speak clear.’

Zamyatin is also a good distopic read, btw.

[quote]orion wrote:
It might be possible to want that, whether it is possible to achieve that is quite another matter.[/quote]

Why not? It’s already what every democratic country does. Various parties propose solutions to various problems and people vote for what they, as a society, prefer.

We ensconce our basic unalienable rights and principles in various founding documents and ask judges to strike down laws - even popular ones - that conflict with those rights and principles.

It certainly isn’t perfect, far from it, but pragmatically, it works pretty well.

There exists no society, and has never existed any civilization where some form of participation to the social fabric wasn’t mandatory. Any “society” of nomadic loners who only cooperate through entirely voluntary participation - if such a thing ever existed - have long since been wiped out by more organized groups.

Because most people hold some basic rights to be unalienable. Your Constitution is probably the best known example. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights would by another similar document. Those documents establish clear limits on what any government should be allowed to do to individuals.

As to why they’re needed: Governments have power and power not only corrupts, it also tends to grow as much as it is allowed to do so. The idea is to contain power so that it remains in the service of the constituents and doesn’t become it’s own end.

[quote]Schwarzfahrer wrote:
Orion, you may disagree with it, but why do you respond to pookie’s answer with the exact question?

There is certainly a limit, but it cannot be defined easily or ideologically.[/quote]

It can easily be defined ideologically and it was defined that way by Locke.

The whole idea was that the state was there to protect property not to take it away.

The limit was exactly zero.

[quote]orion wrote:
Schwarzfahrer wrote:
Orion, you may disagree with it, but why do you respond to pookie’s answer with the exact question?

There is certainly a limit, but it cannot be defined easily or ideologically.

It can easily be defined ideologically and it was defined that way by Locke.

The whole idea was that the state was there to protect property not to take it away.

The limit was exactly zero.

[/quote]

Who funds the state?

[quote]Headhunter wrote:
My version of ‘1984’ has an upbeat ending: Winston is destroyed but an apparent historian is describing the dictionary. He may have somehow also gotten hold of Winston’s diary and is writing the novel as an historical work of fiction, something like ‘I, Claudius’ by Graves.

‘But when he’s dumb and no more here,
nineteen hundred years or near,
Clau…Clau…Claudius
shall speak clear.’

Zamyatin is also a good distopic read, btw.[/quote]

Zamyatin’s “�?�?i”(“We”) was major influence for both “Brave New World” and “1984”. He’s great writer, and one of the first dystopian fiction authors.

[quote]pookie wrote:
orion wrote:
It might be possible to want that, whether it is possible to achieve that is quite another matter.

Why not? It’s already what every democratic country does. Various parties propose solutions to various problems and people vote for what they, as a society, prefer.

We ensconce our basic unalienable rights and principles in various founding documents and ask judges to strike down laws - even popular ones - that conflict with those rights and principles.

It certainly isn’t perfect, far from it, but pragmatically, it works pretty well.

Once private property is no longer sacrosanct, where is the limit?

There exists no society, and has never existed any civilization where some form of participation to the social fabric wasn’t mandatory. Any “society” of nomadic loners who only cooperate through entirely voluntary participation - if such a thing ever existed - have long since been wiped out by more organized groups.

Why should there be any limit?

Because most people hold some basic rights to be unalienable. Your Constitution is probably the best known example. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights would by another similar document. Those documents establish clear limits on what any government should be allowed to do to individuals.

As to why they’re needed: Governments have power and power not only corrupts, it also tends to grow as much as it is allowed to do so. The idea is to contain power so that it remains in the service of the constituents and doesn’t become it’s own end.
[/quote]

One of the inalienable rights was the right to private property, in fact all classical inalienable rights were property rights or at least can be interpreted as such even though Locke might have issues with that interpretation.

The clear limit was that government could not touch these rights because the sole purpose of government was to protect them.

The relatively new attempt to re-distribute wealth is a clear violation of that rights, it attacks the very core, private property and it was only made possible by the doctrine of a positive law.

However, these attempts are still cloaked in the language of natural rights as in the case of human rights, because the welfare state cannot come up with an explanation for blatant theft.

Since these new rights, or rather entitlements can only be realized by a government by violating the rights of its citizens there suddenly must be trade offs where before there was no need for them.

Suddenly, rights that were absolute, the very reason the state existed, can be voted on. The idea of the inalienability of rights is gone, all that is left is to bow to the masses.

[quote]Zap Branigan wrote:
orion wrote:
Schwarzfahrer wrote:
Orion, you may disagree with it, but why do you respond to pookie’s answer with the exact question?

There is certainly a limit, but it cannot be defined easily or ideologically.

It can easily be defined ideologically and it was defined that way by Locke.

The whole idea was that the state was there to protect property not to take it away.

The limit was exactly zero.

Who funds the state?[/quote]

The citizens, to the extent that the state needs the money to protect them against aggression.

That however was done by tariffs which imposed a natural limit on how much a government could demand because if the tariff was to high people would stop buying the stuff.

That in now way infringed upon the property rights of citizens though.

THE Ultimate Disutopia!!! Written by Warren Buffett and friend, no less!!

“If the U.S. doesn’t do something, and fast, to tame the federal government’s debts - now more than $50 trillion - the two Nebraska natives warn we will saddle coming generations with economic problems that will make this year’s financial turbulence look like a trip to the debt counselor’s office.”

http://money.cnn.com/2008/08/21/news/economy/buffett_town_hall.ap/index.htm?postversion=2008082105

“We’ve got a super-subprime crisis brewing - namely, the federal government’s finances,” Walker said. “The factors that caused the mortgage-based subprime (crisis) to explode exist for the government’s finances. The difference is it’s 25 times - at least - bigger.”

Now we’re talking!! Massive depression and default, repudiation of debt, replacement of the currency, suspension of the Constitution…should be quite a party!

[quote]orion wrote:
Zap Branigan wrote:
orion wrote:
Schwarzfahrer wrote:
Orion, you may disagree with it, but why do you respond to pookie’s answer with the exact question?

There is certainly a limit, but it cannot be defined easily or ideologically.

It can easily be defined ideologically and it was defined that way by Locke.

The whole idea was that the state was there to protect property not to take it away.

The limit was exactly zero.

Who funds the state?

The citizens, to the extent that the state needs the money to protect them against aggression.

That however was done by tariffs which imposed a natural limit on how much a government could demand because if the tariff was to high people would stop buying the stuff.

That in now way infringed upon the property rights of citizens though.[/quote]

Tariffs have many problems of their own, trade wars, lack of local resources etc. Not very free trade friendly.

[quote]Zap Branigan wrote:
orion wrote:
Zap Branigan wrote:
orion wrote:
Schwarzfahrer wrote:
Orion, you may disagree with it, but why do you respond to pookie’s answer with the exact question?

There is certainly a limit, but it cannot be defined easily or ideologically.

It can easily be defined ideologically and it was defined that way by Locke.

The whole idea was that the state was there to protect property not to take it away.

The limit was exactly zero.

Who funds the state?

The citizens, to the extent that the state needs the money to protect them against aggression.

That however was done by tariffs which imposed a natural limit on how much a government could demand because if the tariff was to high people would stop buying the stuff.

That in now way infringed upon the property rights of citizens though.

Tariffs have many problems of their own, trade wars, lack of local resources etc. Not very free trade friendly.
[/quote]

I said it was done by tariffs, not that it should be done that way.

I have no problem with indirect taxes.

We could exempt gas, food and lodging.

“Mockingbird” by Walter Tevis pretty much predicted the apathetic mood of the late twentieth century, a generation of couch potatoes and massive surge in the use of prescription drugs.

Not very well known, but I highly recommend it. And pretty much anything Philip K. Dick ever wrote.