September 12, 2011

September 12, 2011

Mutiple Choice

As you know, I’m a great fan of dystopian fiction. Give me a book, a film, or a tv show set in a not-too-distant future where technology/government/evil science has taken control, and I’m not coming up for air until I’ve devoured it. Of late, I’ve been on a run of YA-oriented books on this theme. (In case you are keeping score, none of them overthrows my love of The Giver. The Hunger Games came pretty close.)

I’ve noticed that each book/series involves a future where some omnipresent piece of The World As We Know It is missing. Something—whether it’s our loves, our careers, our bodies—is decided for us. This, more so than control via aliens or robots, seems to be the common thread of dystopia. Examples from my recent reads:

In Matched (Ally Condie) and Delirium (Lauren Oliver), people’s mates are chosen for them. No need to worry over matters of the heart!

In Divergent (Veronica Roth), each person selects* a personality-based sector of society to join. Once there, careers and behaviors follow suit. No need to stress about your line of work!

In the Uglies series (Scott Westerfeld), each person receives extensive cosmetic surgery at age 16, resulting in a world of beautiful people. No need to be judged on your looks!

In The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins) and The Maze Runner (James Dashner) series, certain children are put through rigorous physical tests for the greater good. No need to wonder what you’ll do on summer vacation!

The obvious message in all of these is that freedom of choice is good. The ability to choose (and even to make the wrong choice) is what makes us human. When that freedom and those choices are taken away, we as a society lose our way.

(I am obviously an anomaly, because I am all for rigidity and order. Seriously, I was that one person cheering the machines during The Matrix. Why? Because people are messy and stupid. Machines are clean, always on time, and will brew me “Earl Grey, hot,” if I ask for it. But don’t let my personal opinions dissuade you from reading any of these fine books. I sure didn't.)

* I’ll admit this one is a bit tricky. I argue that while INITIALLY there is a choice involved, once that choice is made, it’s all over. In addition, those who do not/cannot choose become known as “factionless,” a fate worse than death. One could argue that since not choosing isn’t a viable option, this whole process isn’t really a choice at all. *mind blown*

0 Fish in a Sea of Diet Coke: