The Cruel Irony of Dystopian YA

Note: This post is more political than my past work, so read at your own peril. I welcome readers of all ideological types to read my blog and comment, as long as you write in a civil, intellectually honest manner. Please let me know if you’d like to see more of this kind of essay.

The book series The Maze Runner has a new installment in its movie adaptation, set for release in September. I’ve never read the books, but I understood the basic premise from the trailer; it is essentially a repackaged Hunger Games. It is another franchise that seeks to cash in on the Hunger Games‘ success. Clearly these are popular novels, if they have blockbuster movies behind them. I have only read the first Hunger Games, so I must profess ignorance on other two series. My intention is not a deconstruction of these books. I found Collins to be a competent writer when I read The Hunger Games. It kept me entertained and the actual game scenes were very engaging. I did find the premise and world building somewhat contrived, but my intention is not a review of these particular books.

With respect to the stories, I will point out how lightly these books treat the idea of revolution or social change. It takes decades, and sometimes even centuries for the cultural order to change. The European Wars of Religion and Protestant Reformation started in 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the Wittenberg church doors. The crisis did not resolve until the conclusion of the 30 Years’ War in 1648. after over a century of wars of religious persecutions on both Protestant and Catholic sides.

Lewis lived from 1887 to 1957

I find it interesting that this genre is so popular among teens and actual adults (to which I say, read adult books). The plots of these novels often follow a group of teenagers fighting against some totalitarian force and starting a revolution. Yet, in my own personal experience and reading, my generation is very much on board with the prevailing egalitarian, liberal-democratic system. So much so that a loud minority of those in favor of this system (I cannot stress this enough, as most people are ambivalent when it comes to an ideology) will go [1] to great lengths to crush any dissent. There was a minor incident at my college’s newspaper where one of our editorial writers–in one line of an opinion piece–suggested women take responsibility for themselves if they dress in revealing clothing and go out to parties. This was not an endorsement of any kind of sexual assault or criminal activity. The writer merely said to take responsibility for yourself. The paper had to issue a redaction and an apology because of it. To these ideological Puritans, they are the rebels in the novels I mentioned, fighting against an evil, vast right wing conspiracy that controls the culture. The premise that these radical egalitarians are the insurgents, not the establishment, is absurd.  I point to Modern Family, which has a mixed race couple and a homosexual couple with an adopted Asian daughter. If there was a vast right (particularly American religious ‘right’) wing  conspiracy in control of the culture, television would look much more like Hays Code-era Hollywood. If anything, the culture industry cannot tolerate any deviation from absolute acceptance of so-called diversity [2], alternative sexuality, and the claim that gender is merely socially constructed.

To return to my initial point, these books reinforce, I think, the underlying notions of this loud minority. They believe they’re Katniss, struggling against the evil Panem government, when in reality their positions are wholly accepted and endorsed by the those with the most wealth and power. Anyone who deviates from this ideology, even superficially (see mainstream Republicans), they are the ones to be attacked by the media and culture industry. Tom Wolfe’s essay Radical Chic is a perfectly displays this phenomenon. Rebellion has been turned into a virtue, even though the kind of rebellion and ‘revolution’ promoted by TV and movies only plays into the hand of the ruling class.

The popularization of the rebel narrative in YA fiction with the promotion of identity politics diverts energy away from legitimate critique of the system we live under. Rather than understand the problems of international capitalism, Western interventionist foreign policy, and mass immigration, Millennials would rather make a man lose his job over his position to an issue I believe is designed by media to draw attention away from the issues I brought up. Similarly, the Tea Party and Occupy movements drew attention to significant problems with our current socioeconomic order, and both were co-opted by establishment politics.

I can only hope this loud minority diminishes in power. Maybe some of them will realize they are the tools of the President Snows of the world, not the freedom fighters.

End notes:

  1. While I find the pickup artist/manosphere milieu largely repugnant (with some exceptions), the incident with blogger Roosh V.  was a brazen attempt to suppress a perceived dissident.
  2. The obsession with diversity and promotion of it by corporations who in turn control governments is a ploy for the corporations to make more money. They want everyone to have the latest piece of technology and become a part of McWorld. The end goal of oligarchic capitalism is to make everything-race, gender, ethnicity-merely a choice and turn humans into cogs for their machine, as Dr. Chomsky succinctly argues.

One thought on “The Cruel Irony of Dystopian YA

  1. Pingback: Part of the Problem | Samuel Stevens

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