Thought Balloon: The Shadow of Utopia, on Stilts

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*To call the future a dystopia implies there is utopia to dis. Some real future utopia, pre-existent though it hasn’t happened yet. The adjective dystopian applied to a movie or a novel labels a fictional future as a heresy from the right-thinking utopian future, which is also fictional.

I’ve read several writers such as David Brin heaping scoffage upon the recent spate of “dystopian” movies. I don’t really have a bone to pick over these movies, since I have not paid money to sit through them at the mongo-plex, nor have I viddied them online or on TV. I blush to say I have on occasion spent time and energy depositing vociferous opinions in comment boxes about movies I have not seen and have no intention of seeing, so that’ll be enough of that. The bone I do have to pick is the word “dystopian” itself, as stated above; to call or make a piece of cinematic or literary fiction dystopian is to claim for the shadow of utopia a pre-existent existence. I’ll borrow Jeremy Bentham’s objection to “Natural Rights”: something that doesn’t exist and never will exist can’t be destroyed, and both utopia and dystopia are, in Bentham’s phrase, “Nonsense on stilts.” Creating a fictional dystopia is a sneaky way of reverse immanentizing the eschaton. It’s painting stigmata on the crucified future of our flying car dreams. Those who mourn the future are doomed to repeat it, but the second time as farce. The second time is now.


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