If you asked anyone to recommend a book to you in the 2010s, odds are they would have told you to read one of the endless supply of dystopian novels that was produced during the craze that swept the nation. Many group conversations revolved around these books. Fights were had over whether or not someone was team Gale or Peeta. Entire fifth grade classrooms read The City of Ember.
But regardless of whether you were reading Delirium or The Giver, everyone was invested in some form of twisted utopia.
Most likely while reading these books you were shocked at how awful the government was, or in awe at their advanced technology. Or maybe you were even slightly skeptical at how circumstances had managed to become so severe.
In any case, these worlds always seemed far away. Society could never reach such a level of depravity, could it?
Well in the year of our Lord 2023, it does appear that we have entered our dystopian era.
Anything that you can imagine happening in a 2010s young adult novel could easily occur now, if it has not happened already.
Take The Hunger Games, for example. One of the most futuristic elements of the trilogy (aside from the actual Hunger Games) is the people of the Capitol. In the series, Katniss Everdeen always remarks on how strange the Capitol citizens seem to her. Their hair is dyed absurd colors, their faces are made up in a very unnatural way and overall they do not appear entirely human because of all the cosmetic work that they have had done.
In the first book, when Katniss is first introduced to the foreign world of wealth, she is astonished by “the oddly dressed people with bizarre hair and painted faces who have never missed a meal.”
When reading these descriptions as a sixth grader, one might think that it is all too far fetched to be real. But just take a look at the Met Gala.
Doja Cat showing up with her face altered to look like a cat is eerily similar to Tigris’ character from Mockingjay, who had her face surgically changed to look tiger-like. Lil Nas X being entirely covered in silver paint and gemstones looks far more futuristic than the District 5 costumes of the first Hunger Games film, which are also silver but are toned down several notches on a scale of questionability. Anything that Effie Trinket wears throughout the series looks right at home with anything that the Kardashians or Jenners have worn to this extravagant event.
But that technology does not just exist in books in this day and age. The robotic rooms in The Uglies were used as a way to show that the story took place in another world. Now, they are essentially the same thing as the Amazon Smart Plug that uses voice control to turn on and off lights, fans, coffeemakers and the like.
Different clothing is just one aspect of these books. Another factor of dystopian novels is their technology. Holograms. Robots that can predict your every need. Any technology that you could imagine takes shape in one of hundreds of young adult dystopian novels.
The drone competitions in the Legend series were a fun way to spice up a post-apocalyptic world, but drone racing is now a sport. Maximum Ride’s gene-splicing may have seemed far off in 2005, but now cloned animals make up roughly 20 percent of the American Kennel Club’s recognized dog breeds.
All of this is not to mention the government.
A trademark of any dystopian universe is the corrupt government. The powers in charge that are just so cruel that it is almost impossible to believe that they could be allowed to exist.
In An Ember in the Ashes, one of the most powerful military characters is a psychopathic mad woman who takes pride in the high amount of people that she has killed, and believes that sending children through a military school is the best way to raise them. Shatter Me’s government is led by a sadistic Supreme Commander who keeps his mentally and physically ill wife locked in a house and chained to a bed. In Divergent, the woman who takes control is arrogant enough to believe that she can run a nation entirely by herself and is fixated on eradicating anyone who does not subscribe to her definition of perfection.
In her paper “The Dangers of Power: Government Control in the Worlds of Condie’s Matched and Lowry’s The Giver”, English scholar Deborah Haley says of dystopian governments, “Through the control of basic human experiences such as birth, death, and family, the government has complete control over its citizens by taking away the chance for individuality and overall enjoyment.”
Clearly, leadership in dystopia has a type.
Right now in the U.S. of A, our former president (who has been impeached twice) is a racist misogynist who was involved in a lawsuit for bribing the porn star that he cheated on his pregnant wife with. That same president is now in the middle of a rape lawsuit against a woman who he has called “a whack job”.
Our current president is 80 years old. He has surpassed the average life expectancy of 77 years, outlasting many grandparents. Most people would not trust someone of such an age to drive a car. He cannot finish a sentence without losing his train of thought.
In comparison to fictional governments, ours does not seem out of place.
These similarities are all quite startling. Even still, they are not the end of a long list of futuristic elements of our modern world. Our economy is controlled by the same five massive corporations. Teenage girls are becoming activists. You can read the words “drone assassination” in the news.
Who could have guessed back in seventh grade book clubs that we would soon be living in a world that bears such a resemblance to the stories that we were analyzing?