Yesterday I ran across a film called Snowpiercer, which I must admit was quite the spectacle. Looking further into it, I was shocked to see there wasn’t a wide theatrical release, as it definitely would have been a bigger hit if there was one. However, my purpose here is not to do a movie review or spoil the movie’s plot for you, so just to give you a feel for how unique this film is, here’s a bit of Chris Nashawaty’s take from his review in Entertainment Weekly:
Snowpiercer sucks you into its strange, brave new world so completely, it leaves you with the all too rare sensation that you’ve just witnessed something you’ve never seen before…and need to see again and again.
I’ll spare you the discussion of just how dystopian this film is versus science fiction, but as there were definite elements of dystopia, I’ll discuss it as such. The point is, Snowpiercer got me thinking about this genre of literature and film and why precisely I like it so much. Is it the chance I get to see how another person visualizes a future world gone wrong? Is it the political side? Is it getting in the head of the antagonist and trying to understand their vision of a utopian system (assuming it is a utopia for the antagonist and a dystopia for the viewer)? Conversely, is it the underdog, against-all-odds struggle of the protagonist (who is often struggling with learning more about the unjust world while also dealing with personal issues)?
All of that does indeed come into play, but what really makes the genre attractive and gets me thinking is when I compare the plot details of the film or book to the political and economic systems of the real world. With the uncertainties inherent today in the world, both domestically and internationally, one wonders where we are all headed. Just look at the inequality, the privilege, the poverty, the corruption, and the conflicts around the world with all the displaced people that they bring. Or look at the way the polar ice caps are melting while carbon emissions are ever-increasing. Then take a look at how governments have such a hard time agreeing on how to work together to fix any of these problems, if they even have the desire to do so at all.
It is not a rosy picture in the real world of course, but dystopia can serve as a warning about the future, and how the consequences could be great if most people keep going on with their daily lives as they are now. Or maybe this is just my opinion, as people may only see dystopian movies and books as entertainment, and I am just too serious about life? In any case, I know for sure that the average person in the West is not likely to be warned, and even if he or she does, action and/or increased political awareness are not likely.
You might say it is just a film, and you’d be right to a certain extent. I am probably reading too much into this film but at the very least it affirms my belief that the world is heading into places unknown and the signs are not good. People therefore need to try and do something about it. The internet is a powerful medium that can and should be used for such action. We know there are things going on in the world that need to be changed, and yes all of it can be overwhelming, but that is no excuse. Yes, there are practical limits to what a single person can do in terms of international causes, but there are less excuses to be made as it pertains to making a difference in one’s local community, and even major pushes for international reforms can start at the grassroots level.
So the next time a film or a book or even an op-ed gets you thinking about the problems humanity faces, why don’t you try going further and finding a way to do something about it? Otherwise, you just might one day start thinking that we’re all living in a dystopia of sorts, but perhaps it is best for me to leave that discussion of whether we’re already in a dystopian world for another post.