My Thoughts on the Dystopian Trend

-Note: I’m not a literary expert with four doctorates or anything, I’m just the target audience and somewhat well-read in the genre. For a professional opinion (or at least someone who uses big words, it’s hard to tell the difference), knock yourself out.-

Dystopia. The word has a “chic” connotation these days. Books like The Hunger Games, Matched, and Gone have taken a relatively old genre and made it cool again. But has it gone too far?

I love dystopian novels, I really do. Something about the man vs society conflict pattern thrills me (“gee, wonder why,” says the awkward antisocial teenager), and I love it when the main character’s strong and brave, taking a stand for what they believe in against a conforming world. Seeing characters come to the truth after living in the dark their whole lives, being controlled by the predetermined laws that govern their society and then breaking free….

The problem, though, is the same with many things: too much of a good thing makes it turn sour. The genre’s the hottest thing in teen lit right now, and–at least to me– it seems to be hurting the quality. The Hunger Games was probably one of the first in the new-age dystopian trend, and it spurred countless other authors to write the same plot over and over again.

Protagonist is living a good life in a technologically-advanced future version of Earth. An event triggers their realization that their society isn’t actually perfect, and their world has some serious problem. They have a choice to either forget what they found/heard and live a quiet life, or fight back. Of course they choose the latter. Rebellion ensues, they gather a group of friends (or at least one love interest) to combat society with them. Ends happily, with society overthrown and a new world reborn.

Of course there are minor differences with every plot, but the structures of the books I’ve read in the genre typically follow this, at least loosely.

One book like this is good. Two makes for a fun comparison. But thousands…? Within a few years?

Then there are the classics like Fahrenheit 451, the dystopian novels from 60 or 70 years ago that actually apply more today than they did when they were written. I’ve heard Brave New World, 1984, V for Vendetta, and a slew of the other books are well-written, dystopian, and unique (and I’ve been meaning to go and read them all).

How is it that the classics are able to fit within the genre but still remain unique, while modern-day dystopians all read the same?

Anime’s suffered from it, too, with shows like No. 6, Tiger and Bunny (to some extent), Sands of Destruction, Appleseed, Ergo Proxy, Fullmetal Alchemist (when you think about it), and elements are even found in Avatar: The Last Airbender (can you say “welcome to Ba-Sing-Say”?). Again, this isn’t inherently bad, and many of the shows do it well.

But it’s so darn REPETITIVE.

Anyway, there’s my rant. You can agree or disagree in the comments.

(‘Cause I started to go back and reply to them all today, but there’s over 200 I’ve let slip. So I set aside a few hours tomorrow to do it, and if they’re not done by Monday morning you’re allowed to yell at me.)

Unrelated, this by far is the best scene of live-action television. Ever.

About Aloha

A teen writer and future world ruler. Llamas make me happy.
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7 Responses to My Thoughts on the Dystopian Trend

  1. Kirsten says:

    The funny thing is that The Hunger Games doesn’t fit that formula plot. Everyone knows the world sucks, they jsut can’t do anything about it. The main character acts impulsively, and THAT’S why she spearheads the rebellion. Honestly, I think all of those stories would be 20% cooler if they didn’t ALL feature teenage main characters, because nobody listens to teenagers. They aren’t adults.
    I don’t watch anime (because Avatar: The Last Airbender is a Western animated show, and would only count as “anime” in Japan (their term for ALL animation). But you probably knew that.), so I don’t know, but there are even movies now with a dystopian theme!

  2. Liam Wood says:

    Yeah, bad overused storyline. Now, I wonder how the people got into that kind of society in the first place… Usually that stuff is just background matter. If you started a series with how the country got into its mess, then ended it with how it got out, there’s an interesting story.

  3. annanm says:

    I think the reason the classics dystopian novels held up is because they each explored the fear of the society, not the fear of one person. Everyone had this fear that they mustn’t discuss amongst each other, and one person makes a slow attempt against it. AND THEY FAILED. They died for their actions, whereas now nobody wants to read the book unless they have a happy ending.
    I think we need more books where the hero dies or fails. Think of the Great Gatsby; would you remember the books if Gatsby just ended up with Daisy and lived happily ever after in West Egg? I sure wouldn’t, and as it is it’s one of my favorite novels. We need more tragic endings, not just tragic set ups.

  4. Ouch, this post just made me realize how out of it I really am. Have Dystopian novels really taken over? Last I knew Vampires were taking the stage. Well, I read The Hunger Games and The Pretties series and now I’m done with it. Although I definitely am going to read the classics. All the totally cliche dystopia novels you’re talking about? Well if I see them then I’ll say no 🙂
    P.S. when I say done with it doesn’t mean I like hate it… It means like I love the books and I will love them forever but I won’t go with the trend.

  5. John Hansen says:

    Sorry for the late comment but that video was hilarious!!! 🙂
    Thanks for sharing!

  6. coffeebeans says:

    I tend to stay away from whatever’s the trend of the moment, unless I pick up something really good that’s been VERY highly reviewed by people I know/share common interest with.
    Personally, I like Dystopias. I think that the ways that authors can spin it is numerous— except, a lot of authors take a short cut, and go with whatever the author before them did. That’s the problem with us writerly types. We’re lazy.
    I read two of the Hunger Games, and they didn’t appeal to me nearly as much as books like Uglies did. I like how those two authors took different approaches– but almost everything since then has been just another version of The Hunger Games or Uglies.

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