You may have noticed over the last few years a regular theme in science fiction movies; the Dystopian where a ruling elite is in power. I don’t mean a species, as in Planet of the Apes, or even where a military commander is dominating a local group of communities as in The Postman or more recently the Book of Eli. I mean an oligarchy; the movies In Time, Hunger Games, Divergent, and Elysium all have that same basic theme. Of course in each there is a hero, and that hero finds some way of ending the oligarchy, but it’s society at the beginning that interests me here.
As is well known, science fiction is a means of reflecting society and pointing out inequalities, moral and even ethical questions. Star Trek famously tackled racism by having Kirk and Ahura kiss in one episode. In another members of a species with racism issues were separated by which side of their bodies were black and white. Planet of the Apes was entirely about speciesism, with the apes using some of the more conservative “white supremacy” arguments to support their claim of being superior to humans. The franchise has continued in that responsibility, and newer shows such as Stargate and X-Files have as well.
So how does this social awareness apply to the new trend? There is an elite in the world, one that controls governments and has access to the best new technologies, but they are more subtle in their manipulation of their control than the movies portray. There are the masses, not the poor so much as the people without such power. We aren’t asked to live day by day from twenty-five, or sacrifice our young to a pointless contest, or limit our development to one area, or be treated the parts on a junker car, but we are controlled through the media and entertainment nonetheless. Perhaps the sudden appearance of oligarchic, post-apocalyptic cultures is simply chance, or maybe they are a capitalization on the public’s fears. It is possible that the new type of movies are just meant for entertainment. I think it more likely, though, that they are appearing because more and more people are realizing how much of their lives are being controlled. And the people writing science fiction are trying to tell us something.
I have always wondered why we can know every detail about our political and entertainment figures, but hear nothing about the people funding elections, or directing technology.