I came across the thought that dystopian fiction was popular among teens these days, because it reflects their reality.
The example used was The Hunger Games. Katniss starts off as a regular subjugated citizen, already testing the borders (that become more strictly enforced before too long). As an entrant in the Hunger Games, she’s a pawn in someone else’s agenda. As champion, she’s coerced into keeping up a front, in service of the President’s agenda. Then as Haymitch and co try to find her allies in the arena in Catching Fire, she pushes back against their agenda. As she becomes the Face Of The Resistance in the last book, we can understand her reluctance to assume the role.
I found some similarities in the Softwire series. JT and the other children of the Renaissance soon find themselves slaves, moving between owners over the course of the books. And their owners aren’t the only ones who are trying to use the kids for their own ends.
I think I can see why kids would identify with this.
At school, they’re pushed through many tests,and if they’re being “taught to the test”, as we so often hear, as opposed to really understanding the material, then they’re there to make the school or the teacher look good.
We see and hear parents say something along the lines of “you must go to a particular college/university, because I did and it was the Best Thing Ever”, or try to push the kid down a particular career path from a young age, without finding out if the child was particularly suited to, or interested in, it or not.
We hear of Scotland appointing state overseers for every child. And everywhere else in the Western world, the state acts like it owns the children before the parents do.
Case in point: while we were in England, we decided to not take Oldest for a developmental check (we knew he was fine, and going anywhere in the day is hard when you work nights). When the State decided it Really Needed To Meddle in our lives, it got used against us and we were made to take him for the development check (spoiler: he turned out to be fine. What do you know). When the State-sent busybody was whining about it, I ran through the list of all the things we’d taken him to, vaccines he’d had, and all that. “Those are optional” she whined, unconvincingly. It was obvious that if we’d declined any of that other stuff, and gone to the development check, that check would have been labelled “optional” and the other stuff not. Anyway, while she was whining about the development check, I pointed out that Oldest was fine. “But we don’t know that.” Yep, the State thinks it owns your kids.
You hear politicians and talking heads going on about the things we “must” do, “The Children!” are always an easy excuse to do it. No matter that it usually won’t help them, just another drudgery added to the burden they’ll have to carry when they’re of age.
School already felt like a prison to many, back when I went, these days we see, in some places, that they have to go through metal detectors and the like, just to get into school, each day.
Kids are told what they can and can’t eat, all with the best intentions, I’m sure. You hear stories of kids not allowed to bring packed lunches to school, or having the contents of such scrutinised, or being chastised when they share it with a hungry friend.
The list goes on and on, and I’m sure I don’t know most of it. But thinking about it, it’s not a surprise that they identify with stories set in dystopic societies.
They live in one.
“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be “cured” against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.” – C.S. Lewis – I’ve seen it variously as from “The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment” and “God In The Dock” – I haven’t checked.
I believe that where I heard about The Hunger Games reflecting the experience of kids today, was in the talk “Systemic Abandonment, “The World Beneath,” and Postmodern Adolescence”.
“We must dissent.” – M. Godwinson.