DYSTOPIAN SCI-FI depicts a near future world in which humanity suffers from Deprivation or Oppression or Terror. Its purpose? To serve as a WARNING: how things could go wrong if we don’t change current events … that threaten to take away freedom of choice and human individuality. Consider a few Hollywood examples:
Fahrenheit 451 — (1966)
In the near future, the job of firemen isn’t to put out fires, but to burn books. Literature of any kind is seen as a danger in a society that values mindless conformism and shallow happiness. When Fireman Guy Montag (Oskar Werner) falls in love with book smuggler Clarisse (Julie Christie), he begins to doubt the morality of his job.
To an avid reader like American SCI-FI author Ray Bradbury (based on his 1953 novel), there was no more dystopian society from one that would consider books so dangerous and useless that it would actively try to destroy them. (Fahrenheit 451 is the temperature at which paper will burn.)
In modern history, book burning has been employed by authoritarian regimes to suppress freedom of thought. (Nazi Germany burned thousands of books in massive bonfires.) More recently, book banning has been aggressively employed — to accomplish the same end.
V — (1983)
Inspired by It Can’t Happen Here (a 1935 dystopian novel by Sinclair Lewis about a fictional politician who quickly rises to power, becoming America’s first dictator) director–producer Kenneth Johnson in 1982 scripted a miniseries entitled Storm Warnings. NBC executives rejected the original idea, which they considered too cerebral for the average viewer. To make the story more marketable, it was revised into an “Alien invasion” story. It premiered as V on American TV May 3, 1983.
Aliens arrive on Earth in huge, saucer-shaped motherships and reveal themselves, appearing human (in red, Nazi-like uniforms) but requiring special glasses to protect their eyes. They initially pose as humanity’s friends, promising to share advanced technology. When strange events begin to occur, a TV journalist (Marc Singer) discovers that beneath their human-like façade, the Visitors are carnivorous reptilian humanoids. They interrupt his broadcast, taking control of the media.
Key humans are subjected to mind-control which turns them into Alien pawns, while others are subjected to horrifying biological experiments. A Resistance movement (symbolized by a blood-red letter V for Victory) means to expose the Visitors’ true purpose: to conquer planet Earth, steal its water and harvest the human race as food. Humans strike their first blow against the Aliens, obtaining weapons from National Guard armories to carry on the fight … but the war is not over.
The original miniseries ends with Visitors virtually controlling the Earth. Humans send a transmission into space to ask other Alien races for help. (Followed by V: The Final Battle and V: The Series.)
Nineteen Eighty-Four — (1984)
Based on the classic novel by British author George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four follows Winston Smith (John Hurt), an ordinary citizen living a squalid life in a totalitarian super-state Oceania. Ruled over by the Big Brother — who may or may not exist — the people of Oceania are mercilessly controlled by the ever-present surveillance of the Thought Police.
Depressed and dissatisfied with his life, Smith begins a love affair with spirited young Julia (Suzanna Hamilton), who shares his dangerous yearnings for free thought. For a few months they secretly meet and enjoy an idyllic life of freedom and contentment. But it is only a matter of time before they are arrested and tortured — as part of their “rehabilitation”.
In the end, Winston, seemingly purged of any rebellious thoughts, impulses, or personal attachments, is restored to physical health and released. He and Julia meet one last time, share a bottle of Victory Gin and impassively exchange a few words about how they have betrayed each other. In spite of everything, they still feel a bond.
After she departs, Winston watches a broadcast of himself on the large telescreen remorsefully confessing his “crimes” against the state, imploring forgiveness. He quickly turns away from an image of Big Brother and looks after Julia with tears in his eyes, whispering “I love you”.
Minority Report — (2002)
Can you be accused now of a crime you might commit in the future? John Anderton (Tom Cruise) is the chief of Precrime — a police department that uses people with pre-cognitive abilities to catch criminals before they commit crimes. But Anderton starts to doubt this system after the latest prediction accuses him of planning a murder. As his boss Lamar Burgess (Max von Sydow) orders a man hunt, led by agent Danny Witwer (Colin Farrell), Anderton tries to find the real killer before the murder takes place.
The world of Minority Report is one of constant surveillance: targeted ads imprint themselves directly on one’s consciousness while government probes regularly scan citizens inside their own homes. Precrime goes a step beyond that, scanning the possible future to accuse people for crimes they haven’t even committed yet. Based on a short story by SCI-FI author Philip K. Dick.
The Handmaid’s Tale — (2017)
The Handmaid’s Tale is an American dystopian TV series based on the 1985 novel of the same name by Canadian author Margaret Atwood. The story features a dystopia following a Second American Civil War wherein a totalitarian society — controlled by religious fanatics — subjects fertile women, called “Handmaids”, to child-bearing slavery.
Along with Handmaids, all the women of society are now grouped into classes that dictate their freedoms and duties. June Osborne (Elisabeth Moss) separated from her husband Luke (who finds sanctuary in Canada) and daughter Hannah by authorities in Gilead, is renamed Offred as the Handmaid assigned to the home of Commander Fred Waterford and his wife Serena.
June’s inner strength evolves as she endures many painful setbacks, fiercely biding her time while trying to find a way to be reunited with her husband and daughter. Over time, she becomes determined to lead a revolt to bring the entire oppressive society of Gilead crashing down … and free all the Handmaids.
Her remarkable journey is heart-wrenching and inspirational, every step of the way.
DYSTOPIAN SCI-FI depicts a near future world gone wrong: where Deprivation, Oppression or Terror take away freedom of choice and human individuality. The great hope of storytellers is that Devoted Fans everywhere — like you and me — will heed the WARNINGS offered and strive to CHANGE current events … before they destroy our Future.