At least, that’s what it feels like.
But does anyone else feel a little, well, disenchanted with the current young adult dystopian, or YA, fiction craze?
Whereas we can hold “Twilight” accountable for the zillions of supernatural forbidden loves that hit the shelves a few years ago, this time the success of “The Hunger Games” has served as the catalyst for the current popularity of governments attempting to kill a bunch of rebellious (no, literally rebellious, as in trying to start a revolution) teens.
To clarify: I’m not a fan of telling other people what they’re allowed to read, watch and enjoy. Other people have done that, and I think it’s pointless, not to mention bigheaded as hell.
In the case of dystopian YA, these stories obviously speak to a lot of people, and that’s fine! Plus, given today’s general pessimistic mood, it makes sense that dystopias are popular: they’re presenting a nightmare situation, but also a bunch of people working to change it.
The dystopian genre hardly presents any real commentary anymore – heck, it’s not even scary for the hell of it, deeper meaning be damned.
Let’s dream up some contrived situation where people are divided into arbitrary categories for no plausible reason, instead. SNL recently produced a short spoof highlighting these same clichés.
“Smooth move, kid, showing up on a category day? Now you’re gonna get put in a category,” one generic rebel – who’s living in a society of fellow rebels who have all narrowly escaped the Totalitarian Government™, of course – ominously tells the newest recruit – “No. Matter. What.”
Meanwhile, in the audience, I’m going – What’s the point here? Why should I care about your depressing life in your depressing world with your depressing, oppressive government?
Look, to some extent dystopia’s just the new go-to blockbuster movie (and YA book series), and that’s okay.
It’s not like every piece of media needs to reveal the secrets of the universe. I get it: you like futuristic teenagers narrowly escaping death via corrupt governments; I watch dark comedies about high school girls psychologically tormenting their classmates.
We all have our weird, inexplicably appealing genres.
Entertainment value aside, though, dystopian fiction’s power lies in its ability to freak us out by drawing parallels to our own lives. Structuring a whole society around people’s deep-seated, insidious fears? That’s creepy.
In Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” the evolution of the contemporary U.S. into the Republic of Gilead is clear enough that it makes you want to join a picket line today. Even in the grandmother of dystopian YA, “The Giver” by Lois Lowry, the fact that most violence takes place offscreen makes it more chilling.
Millions of people don’t have to die via CGI explosions to make a point.
But nowadays – excuse me while I go tell some youngsters to get off my lawn – whenever a dystopian novel gets close to saying something interesting, it inevitably devolves into a three-part soap opera. It’s like a genre-wide game of Mad Libs: just choose a name, verb, and adjective, and you’ve got yourself a brand-new dystopian series!
Honestly, we’re so oversaturated with dystopian fiction that, save to the diehard fans among us, no dystopia will likely seem very original.
But when this trend eventually dies out only to resurface in 20 years, next time, can someone please write something a little different? Let’s see a government run by 10 year olds as a reflection of our national obsession with youth. Or, I dunno, a “The Birds” redux where animals subjugate us for screwing them all over. Basically, can we have some smarter stories?
I guess I’ll have to hunker down and wait to see what the dystopia machine cranks out next. In the meantime, though, R.L. Stine and I will just be sitting here in a corner, bewilderedly watching people buy tickets for the next doom and gloom blockbuster.
Vita Pierzchala is a junior English major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.