Dystopian literature highlights social flaws perceived by the composer and questions the basis for contemporary social practice. Unlike utopian fiction, which is rarely more than speculation regarding a self-perceived ideal, dystopian works call upon their audience to consider inadequacies present in their own society. Works such as Ursula LeGuin’s short story The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas, Eoin Colfer’s children’s novel The Supernaturalist and the 2006 film V for Vendetta directed by James McTeigue address such issues as human rights abuse, totalitarianism and mass consumerism through the medium of the dystopian genre, and in doing so embody the principal components of dystopian literature: The enforced acceptance of an imperfection as an ideal, the questioning of social practice, and the revelation of the imperfection and the consequences thereof.
The first distinguishing characteristic of dystopian literature is the enforced acceptance of an imperfect or flawed state as an ideal by the population of the state in question. James McTeigue’s 2006 film V for Vendetta (based upon a series of graphic novels by the same title) is the prime example of this trait. Set in Britain in the year 2020, the film portrays a totalitarian regime reminiscent of Nazi Germany. The extremist policies of “The Party”, such as the vilification of Muslims, homosexuals and “foreigners” (anyone not of English heritage) are accepted by a population force-fed propaganda by the state-owned television network BTN, and any dissidence is quickly and ruthlessly suppressed by the secret police force known as “the fingermen”.
The use of propaganda to gain support for the flawed state is common throughout many dystopian works, and directly parallels its use by regimes (both totalitarian and otherwise) in the real world. Indeed, many film critics commented on BTN’s similarity to News Corp owned channels Fox News and SkyNews.
V for Vendetta emphasises the influence of this propaganda upon the population of Britain, with numerous scenes throughout the film focussing upon a range of people; from families to the residents of a retirement home, mindlessly absorbing “whatever happens to be on the telly”, be it a cover-up of “dissident activity”, such as the bombing of the “Old Bailey” courthouse, a reminder by Chancellor Adam Sutler as to “Why They Need Us” or the puritanical, rage-fueled rants of a senior party member, known colloquially as the “Voice of London” whose catchphrase “England Prevails” highlights the blind acceptance of the regime as benevolent, even divinely imposed. The acceptance of these transmissions by all but the most rebellious figures in the society is indicative of the level of control that such propaganda has over the perception of the status quo by the population.
A similar approach is depicted in Eoin Colfer’s The Supernaturalist, albeit through the medium of commercial advertising as opposed to the mass media, and as such is fairly unremarkable in...