Currently reading Lois Lowry’s The Giver and, maybe it’s ’cause I’ve just been stuck reading dystopian novels, but I was wondering why the dystopian teen trope has been perpetuating a lot lately. And this has very little to do with the fame of Harry Potter and Twilight. On the contrary, I’d put The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Maze Runner and The Giver in another separate category of its own.
The trope I’m talking about (and have probably already spoken of in a previous post, specifically this one) is that of a contained world, a world governed by very specific rules and one teenager who is brave (or foolish) enough to question the status quo.
Understood, The Giver was written way back in 1993 – when I probably should have read it when I was a kid but didn’t. But there must be some reason why Hollywood is so adamant in making these particular books movies now.
And, understood, Hollywood’s choice in movies may not be of particular concern to us – but it should be. I believe it’s been made aware many times that there has been a close relationship between Hollywood movies and politics and even the CIA. If you’re unsure of this situation, read this article by The Guardian here, or this article by Salon of “When the CIA infiltrated Hollywood”.
The question is: what is with this fascination with this particular (aforementioned) trope?
In all these movies there is a central figure to the dystopian world which you can point the blame to – in the upcoming, Mockingjay Part One, it is clearly President Snow: white, pure, sterile. His symbolism and propaganda is blatant. He stands for all colours united as one (white incorporating all colours), and at the same time he is the white out, the eraser of every thing that leaves a blemish on society, the correction pen to your mistakes. In Divergent it is Jeanine Matthews who attempts to create a serum that literally controls everyone’s movements.
There is a clear evil in all of these stories: the desire to subjugate a society into abnormally restrictive behaviour.
Is this how we’re supposed to see the world as teenagers? Is this the impression we seek to present our children? That any form of control should be rebelled against? And if we do not allow them this extreme of freedom – do they assume any action we have upon them is the exact opposite?
Back to The Giver, as I’m reading this novel I have also the tendency to read reviews at the same time, just the first few comments of them, the good and the bad. Reading these reviews I see extremes: those who praise the novel for its insightfulness and those who condemn it for its propaganda – I have yet to see what the eventual message of the novel is, but I can only assume that the debate stands thus: how much control over a nation is too much control? And are authors, and then, Hollywood, currently sending the right message to teenagers today in their interpretation of novels.
Novel interpretation is a slippery slope – a bias movie crew (screenwriter, producer, director and actors alike) can easily skew the opinions of easily impressionable masses, especially if your target audience is children and young adults.
Personally for The Hunger Games Trilogy, I felt that a weaker reader could easily misinterpret the final novel of the trilogy. Katniss could easily be a symbol of retribution, revenge and rebellion – instead of hope for negotiation and change for the better. Reading The Maze Runner, readers who are unable to discern a unreliable narrator could easily see Thomas as a role model instead of an incredibly flawed yet justifiable hero.
These books rarely make it clear to readers that the protagonist is not the hero, the dystopian society is not essentially hell, President Snow is not essentially the villain – and movies less so.
At the end of the day, I’m not condemning this genre, or the people who perpetuate this trend. But I’m just wondering what impact this trend may have on children – will they be more rebellious to controlling governments because of these movies (is this an intended influence by political figures on Hollywood? Just a thought?) or will this bring about positive change as children question more of what is good and bad in our society as a whole.
The only thing I hope for is that these movies open fruitful discussions that enable youths today to see the idea of control and propaganda and dystopia in all its nuances – and to never fall in either extreme, to never ’cause violence for peace or peacefully resign to violence.
– cumuloq ❤