For many of us, books are a way to escape reality. We consume stories that make us feel as though we’ve been transported into another world. And once we are done reading, we’re left with a bittersweet feeling, as if a small chapter of our own lives has just ended. Through stories, we escape the monotonous routine of real-life and experience something entirely different, something which is out of the ordinary which makes us want to find that beauty in real life as well.
Recently, fiction set in dystopian settings has gained a lot of traction. Stories like The Hunger Games, Divergent, and The Maze Runner became quite famous in the last decade, and ever since, many other stories, much like these, became common. This gave way to an evolution of the genre, after which dystopian love stories turned into a genre of its own, and for many teens and tweens, this genre was the only one that mattered.
A common perception of dystopian love stories is that these stories predict a dark future in which there’s no place for love, let alone general human decency. Thus, the idea of love in a dystopian world starts to seem revolutionary. But I don’t feel like the authors are predicting a future, because much of these issues discussed in these stories are preexisting and part of our reality, like The Hunger Games’ fascist government, and the censorship discussed in Fahrenheit 451. These are themes that aren’t far from reality because, after all, we don’t live in a utopian world. But dystopian stories are alarmist in nature, and I feel that there are a lot of reasons why these mainstream dystopian novels and their adaptations aren’t the way to go.
Firstly, in this genre, it feels as though love stories are the only hope left in a world full of ugliness and misery. It’s like the characters have nothing left to live for but their lovers. I don’t think that’s the message we want to send to the youth.
Yes, this genre is quite famous for its rebellions. But simply making up a world full of terrors and then bringing in a rebellion made out of love stories feels like one’s overlooking all the actual revolutions that took place in real life. One thing that I can’t help but point out is how the dystopian world is always set in the US, and so are the rebellions. Isn’t that ironic?
Although reading is said to be an escape most of the time, which I believe in as well. But coming back to the real world after reading a dystopian novel feels like the real escape. And that’s a bit unsettling because those miserable stories feel like the new normal; as though we’re used to the problems that are actually rampant around the world. It feels like our real problems are a lot less miserable than the ones mentioned in these stories. We’re almost grateful to be living here rather than in District 13, or in a post-apocalyptic zombie land called America.
Though that might not be the case for everyone. Some might draw inspiration from such stories, it might even serve as an inspiration to believe that we can fight against our capitalist overlords. After all, art is subjective, and it’s all up to a person’s interpretation of a certain theme. But criticism is necessary as well. Story-tellers should be cognizant of people’s actual realities and realize what they’re putting out into the world and what they’ve actually commodified.