Workshop 5 – Simon Williams, Waitaki Boys’ High School –
The ‘Ope in Dystopia
Aptly, this workshop is taking place in Room 101 here at our venue…
Simon read 1984 at high school and it really spoke to him. At the time (1989) people were saying that Orwell had ‘got it wrong’ and Huxley had ‘got it right’.
First use of the word ‘dystopia’ was by JS Mill in a speech in the British Parliament about Ireland. He also used the word ‘cacotopia’.
So where is the hope in dystopia?
Simons sees it firstly in the texts themselves. Some he was talking about:
· Brave New World
· Fahrenheit 451
· Nineteen Eight-Four
· The Hunger Games
· The Iron Heel – Jack London
· The Handmaid’s Tale
· Ender’s Game
· Uglies – Scott Westerfield
· Lord of the Flies
1984 is his all time favourite. A few interesting facts – in Britain during WW2 some clocks were adjusted to 24 hours to assist in shift work. Also, vegetables were not rationed so the smell of cabbage would have been very familiar to Orwell’s readers.
Some other texts:
· V for Vendetta
· Dark city
· The Matrix
· Notes from the Underground
· A Clockwork Roange
· Soylent Green
· Starship Troopers (the novel by Heinlein)
· The Man in the High Castle
· The Running Man
· Battle Royale
· Blind Faith
· Logan’s Run
There is hope in the quality of the texts.
Another hope that Simon sees is that dystopian texts are replacing the vampire texts as the teenage craze.
He asked what other texts workshop participants had used:
· Children of Men – as film at Y12
· Feed, M T Anderson – didn’t go well with Y11 although they did well in their external. They said it was ‘too weird’
· Oryx and Crake
· See article by Margaret Atwood in the Guardian on Ustopia
Quotes James Tiberius Kirk: “The three most beautiful words in the English language are, ‘I need help.’”
For Simon, that’s what many of these dystopian texts are about – they are a way of saying something is wrong with society – help!
Simon has real problems with A Clockwork Orange – he sees the ending as gutless – ‘Oh, I’ve grown out of it.’ Apparently the American edition cuts the ending!!!! (This is why the film stops where it does.)
Orwell said 1984 was a warning, Huxley said Brave New World was a ‘reasonable prediction of the future’.
What did they get right?
· Atwood: nuclear ‘accidents’; infertility
· Huxley: genetic manipulation/engineering
· Minority Report: so much information about us.
· The Iron Heel: people coming into factories to shoot the unionists – apparently happened in Columbia
· Orwell: telescreens (CCTV), thoughtcrime, double think (let’s invade Iraq because there are weapons of mass destruction there…), newspeak.
Belching out the Devil, Mark Thomas – about Coca Cola. Also As Used on Nelson Mandela.
[And if you don’t believe that Big Brother is watching you, check out this news story about electronic surveillance in the US!]
Sorry I didn’t write many notes, folks, too interested in listening and discussing. Thanks, Simon!