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Negative Utopias (Part I)
It's Never Too Late for the
End of the World as we Know It

When I was a kid I always assumed the world would end in my lifetime. I was too young to be raised with the "Duck and Cover" civil defense drills, but old enough to grow up with NPR liberal antiwar fiends claiming that nuclear war was a statistical inevitability, since NORAD was misidentifying space junk as possible Russian first strikes on an almost daily basis. As a result, I discovered Sartre, black clothes, and Punk Rock. This was 1970's Punk Rock, not the trendy urban rich kid punk so common these days. We didn't really know we were punks until people that looked like us started showing up in the media, pretty much around the same time as the Sex Pistols were breaking. Cool. After all our nihilism, self-abuse, and calculated anti-social behavior, we were suddenly an in-crowd. The evil MBA-birthing 80's and the Reagan administration pretty much supported our belief that the end was near. Then it happened...Reagan taunted Gorbachev with his famous challenge, and the Berlin Wall came down. How could you be a Punk if there was no Berlin Wall, and no sense of impending nuclear holocaust? My life became pretty positive around that time. I stopped wearing black so much, my hair color stabilized, and I slowed my drug & alcohol intake to socially acceptable levels. The end of the world seemed a distant spectre, as the internet dissolved international barriers and our randy, upbeat Democratic leadership shone a positive (if naiively so) light on the future. Life was so laid back that former KGB and CIA agents formed tourist services.

Then after eight ecstatic years of deficit reduction, crazy mad venture capital, and internet bubbleness, Al Gore did the unimaginable. He jammed the stick up his ass, and a smirking Bush snatched away what should've been a shoo-in Democratic victory. Enter the Evil Warlords assembled from three greedy, militaristic, and corrupt Republican administrations. September 11. Al-Quaeda. Anthrax. Afghanistan & the Taliban. Iraq. The Beltway Sniper. North Korea. The "Axis of Evil". Enron & Andersen. In just two years, the world had become a cesspool of terror, danger lurking around every corner. The Patriot Act. WHAT THE HELL? WHO FLIPPED THE CALENDAR BACK TO 1984?

And that sort of brings us to the point. 1984. While perusing the local video store recently, we noticed the film 1984 was finally out on DVD. Having been too whacked on drugs to remember much about it from its original release, we rented it. Most disturbing. That Goldstein guy sure bore a striking resemblance to Osama bin Laden (or any other evil enemy du jour), at least in principle.

Orwell's 1948 classic remains an uncannily accurate view of a dark future controlled by an oppressive double-speaking government. We watched with shock & awe as our civil liberties continued to erode in the hands of the current administration, and that dark despondent feeling descended over us once again. Maybe the world will end in my lifetime. Whether it does or not, there are plenty of movies and books to fan the flames of our sense of futility. They all fall into a genre occasionally referred to as "Negative Utopias". For awhile, Charlton Heston seemed to have cornered the market on stuff like this with such gems as "Omega Man", "Soylent Green", and the entire "Planet of the Apes" series, but in fact the genre transcends cheesy sci-fi, and includes twentieth century classics like Huxley's "Brave New World", Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451" and Orwell's "1984".

We'll add links below as we add reviews in the genre of negative utopias and dystopia:

1984 (Nineteen Eighty-Four)
2001
Alphaville
Artificial Intelligence
Blade Runner
A Boy & His Dog
Brave New World
Brazil
City of Lost Children
A Clockwork Orange
Closet Land
Delicatessen
Fahrenheit 451
Gattaca
A Handmaid's Tale
Mad Max
Metropolis
Modern Times
The Omega Man
Planet of the Apes
Soylent Green
Strange Days
The Truman Show

Provided we don't all contract small pox...

Ian Gray
December 2004

 

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