The Plugged In Show, Episode 82: What’s the Draw With Dystopian Drama?

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Today’s entertainment can sometimes have a lot in common with Batman from The Lego Movie: “I only work in black,” he says, “and sometimes, very, very dark gray.”

Much of the entertainment landscape today can feel pretty dark, too. We were reminded of that with Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale, which wrapped up its fourth season last night. The show takes viewers into a bleak, dystopian future where women are treated as property, and a horrific theocracy (built on a twisted version of Scripture) rules the land. And while it’s one of entertainment’s most critically acclaimed dystopian tales, The Handmaid’s Tale hardly stands alone.

To quote yet another movie character—Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind—tomorrow is another day. But these days, we tend to tack on something to the end of the sentence: Tomorrow is another day, and it’ll be much, much worse. We look to the future and see wafers made of people and planets of the apes;  Katniss Everdeen competing in a lethal reality show and Mad Max racing through wastelands in search of gas and water.

Why are we so fascinated by dystopian stories? That’s what we tackle today on The Plugged In Show. We can’t promise that we’ll engage in a battle royale over scarce resources, but we can guarantee a lively conversation—and, hopefully, a few thoughts that might get you thinking, too. And if you care to check out anything  we talked about on the show, here’s the links to follow along.

Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

Recent Comments

2 Responses

  1. -You may as well ask why so many Christian not only anticipate the “End Times” and the “Rapture” and the “Tribulation,” but are praying for it all to happen as soon as possible. Aren’t Kirk Cameron’s “Left Behind” movies as dystopian as it gets?

    Yes, dystopian and postapocalyptic dramas are compelling, but I would rather work towards a better world rather than planning for the end of the world. Getting the nations of the world to cooperate on mitigating climate change would be a good start. I can’t allow myself to give up hope on this.

  2. -The Giver by Lois Lowry and Fahrenheit 451 are great dystopian novels that affected me as a kid. Also 1984, Animal Farm, Brave New World, We…

    Dystopian fiction isn’t primarily about the future — it’s about the present. Whoever raised that point in the podcast was right. Pessimistic, anxious stories are especially popular during times of fear and uncertainty, whether that’s the late industrial/early modernist age (H.G. Wells), the Cold War (Orwell) or the current period, when there’s a lot of fear linked to the environment, inequality, authoritarianism and societal breakdown.

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