How Dystopias Act as Cautionary Tales

How to recognize a dystopia - Alex Gendler. (Image: TedED YouTube/Screenshot)

In this excellent Ted-Ed video that’s just under 6 minutes, Alex Gendler goes into how the genre of Dystopias emerged. He looks at how dystopian novels — such as Gulliver’s TravelsAnimal Farm, and Brave New World — don’t just come with warnings about governments and technology, the take-away message is that humanity cannot be molded into an exact shape.

Dystopias act as cautionary tales.
What does it take to create a perfect world? (Image: TedED YouTube / Screenshot)

Many people have imagined an ideal world without war, poverty, or crime. Writer Thomas Moore in 1516 gave this concept a name in his book called Utopia, which means in Greek: no place.

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The name suggests Utopia is impossible, but with technological advancements, governments, time after time, have tried to make real this dream that becomes a nightmare ending in war, famine, and oppression.

Utopian thinking was questioned by artists and from this, the genre “Dystopia” was born.

Dystopia is Greek for “The not good place.”

Here is a list of Dystopian books that the video explores:

After the Second World War, we began to see Dystopian science fiction in films, comics, and games.

animation - drawing of details of films V for Vendetta and The Handmaid's Tale
V for Vendetta and The Handmaid’s Tale show how easily our rights could disappear in a crisis. (Image: via TedED YouTube /Screenshot)

The video ends by getting us to think back to the perfect world we imagined, and think about what it would take to achieve — how would you make people cooperate? How would you make sure it lasted?

Alex Gendler leaves us with the final thought:

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