Dystopian Film

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coverThis is the second blog by our esteemed colleague, Gerard, on the subject of dystopia. We’ve already looked at the topic of the almighty corporation that effectively usurps the role of the nation state as it has appeared in fiction, and here will look at the same subject in feature films.

As might be expected the treatment of the theme can be more sensational and more superficial on the screen, the tone ranging from the humorous to the fantastical…the idea even features in Red Dwarf, Futurama (Mom-Corp) and WALL-E

The company so powerful that it can determine the fate of worlds, not to speak of nations has been an old staple of Science Fiction films. James Cameron’s Avatar features a company whose brutal colonising ventures are enabled by a private military that outmatches anything similar in many states. Two well-known companies of the fictive universe are ‘Weyland-Yutani’ from the Alien series (until they were bought out by Walmart) and the Tyrell Corporation (“’ More human than human’ is our motto”) from Blade Runner. The Omni Consumer Products company in Robocop aspired to copyright Detroit as their very own “Delta City” city-state and the virtual currency of the OASIS game in Ready, Player One has become more widely used than the Dollar.


coverTwo other films depict widely different dystopian scenarios: one horrible, the other farcical. Rollerball (1975), set in 2018, shows a world run by huge corporations that have eradicated disease, hunger and war…..at a price. People have had to surrender all agency over their lives, all decisions are made by the inscrutable, unaccountable, invisible corporate elites that have divided the world between them (the corporate entity featured in the film is ‘Energy’, headquartered in Houston) after the infamous Corporate Wars alluded to in the film. To distract the populace and provide a harmless outlet for their violent impulses, the world has the titular game, a bloodthirsty mixture of Roller Derby and American football where casualties are common and death in the arena far from unknown.


In Idiocracy we have a more harmless world, but one just as incredible, in its own way. The hero, after a spell in suspended animation finds himself in a future USA where IQs have declined to such an extent that he- a man of only average intelligence-is now one of the smartest people in the country which is hilariously dumbed-down and pop-culture obsessed; public executions take place at monster truck rallies; the country is full of piles of uncollected rubbish; the president is an ex-Pro-wrestler and-relevant to our topic- a sports drink company called ‘Brawndo’ , in an astonishing version of ‘State Capture’ has literally bought the United States Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture with the result that , instead of water, crops are irrigated with Brawndo….with the predictable results on productivity-a dust bowl. A chilling vision of things to come!

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