Edition 1: Is This Dystopia?

There is something strange, perhaps even familiar, about learning to sit in the discomfort of a dystopian environment. Some may take this time to be still and reflective, while others might feel driven to capitalise on the opportunity and keep moving forward. Whatever it is you’re feeling, we’ve compiled a list of film, art, media and entertainment, born out of an apocalyptic inspiration, to help accompany you on your dystopian awakening.

By Coco Garner Davis

Blade Runner 2049: You know the original, you love the original, now make way for Dennis Villeneuve’s 2017 addition to the Blade Runner lineup. With cinematography by Roger Deakins, if you haven’t seen this one – watch it on as big a screen as possible, with as big a speaker as possible, as the beauty really is in the audiovisuals. The film follows K (Ryan Gosling, need I go on?) as an LAPD officer in the familiar dystopian future. After unearthing a secret with the potential to wreak enormous havoc, he goes in search of a former blade runner who has been missing for decades. No points for guessing who that blade runner is. 

Image Credit: Poster for Blade Runner 2049 from IMDB

MAD MAX 2 THE ROAD WARRIOR (1981): George Miller’s 1981 sci-fi classic, the imminent demise of Humanity never looked so good. One of the most successful Aussie films ever made, a uni lecturer once called it “a wild ride, chock full of gun-totin’ rev-heads hellbent on hijinks.” The brilliant phrase stuck. Starring a youthful Mel Gibson, before we decided we didn’t want him as our own – have fun with it. Then watch Fury Road right after.

Image Credit: Poster for Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981) from IMDB

BATTLE ROYALE (2000): Kinji Fukasaku’s turn-of-the-millennium flick sends 42 grade 9’s to a deserted island. They’re given a map, food, and weapons – and an explosive collar fitted around their neck. Break a rule? Bomb goes off. Their goal? Be the last one standing, and you’ll be allowed to leave the island. If there’s more than one survivor, the collars kill them all… In terms of tension-builder films, this is one of the best. It is, quite genuinely, fucked.

Image Credit: Poster for Battle Royale (2000) from Rotten Tomatoes

ISLE OF DOGS (2018): A much lighter example! Wes Anderson takes his gorgeously crafted stop motion scenes to dystopian near-future Japan, where all the canine pets of Megasaki City are exiled to a vast garbage-dump called Trash Island. This includes 12 year-old Atari’s dog Spots – and so, with the assistance of a pack of mongrel friends, he begins an epic journey to find his pooch. The film is super fun (and relatable, I’d do that for my dog), with a scene of animated sushi making – it’s ASMR levels of satisfaction.

Image Credit: Poster for Isle of Dogs from IMDB

AKIRA (1988): Look, I don’t even know where to start with this film. It’s one of my all time faves, and is completely awesome. Based off a manga of the same name, this anime follows the story of a biker, Kaneda, just trying to help his friend Tetsuo who has found himself involved in a secret government project. Tetsuo, however, is not as human as he appears… The art is incredible, the action is incredible. 

Image Credit: Poster for Akira from IMDB

THE HANDMAID’S TALE: If you’ve seen the show, watch the movie; if you’ve seen the movie, watch the show. Or read the book! Dystopian films provide a genre for wom*n to express a world not too far from the power imbalance ever present, providing an often brutal commentary. Even for young adults – think Hunger Games, Divergent – it’s a realm for authors to empower, yet alert, through allegory. 

Image Credit: Poster for Handmaids Tale from ScriptSlug

By Reetika Khanna

Andreas Gursky: Gursky (born 1955) is a German photographer who first attained enormous critical and commercial success in the 1990s. Famous for enormous photographs of landscapes and architecture, his works are usually taken from a high vantage point, utilising cranes or even helicopters, to digitally splice together multiple views of the same scene. Despite representing scenes from our real world, I find that there is often an eerie quality to Gursky’s images, devoid of human presence. His work perfectly captures the current mood: sometimes even reality can feel a little dystopian. Check out his full portfolio here.

Photo Credit: Andreas Gursky

Top Left: Shanghai (2000), Top Right: Salerno I (1999), Middle Right: Rhine II (1999), Bottom Left: May Day V (2006), Bottom Right: 99 Cent II, Diptych (2001)

By Peter Turner

Photo Credit: Fiona Shaw in the 2007 Revival at the National Theatre. Taken by Donald Cooper.

HAPPY DAYS – SAMUEL BECKETT: An un-traditional exploration of dystopia, Samuel Beckett’s play ‘Happy Days’ presents the character of Winnie who is buried from the waist down from the beginning of the play. The only way to describe this play is strange. It does not seek to explain itself. Winnie attempts to go about her daily life from the mound in which she is to only get distracted constantly. Sound familiar? If there is anyone we can all relate to during this time at home, it is Winnie.

This play is clever, weird and leads us to reflect on the everyday. Plus Fiona Shaw played this character once and who doesn’t love Fiona Shaw. I mean… Fiona Shaw! If you want to read this play you can find it on Book Depository here OR support your local bookshop who deliver and ask if they have a copy.

Photo Credit: Denise Gough in the 2017 Revival at the National Theatre.
Taken by Helen Maybanks

ANGELS IN AMERICA: A GAY FANTASIA ON NATIONAL THEMES – TONY KUSHNER: Let’s be real, we all have a lot more time at the moment.  With that in mind I can’t think of a better plot to place yourself in. This representation of dystopia looks at the AIDS crisis in America during the 1980s. This play interweaves this idea with supernatural beings and the initial world it shows slowly breaks down to a mixture of fantasy and reality.

If you can’t get a copy of the play during this time,  The National Theatre have released an audiobook version of its 2017 production starring Andrew Garfield and Nathan Lane on iTunes. Also, the HBO miniseries adaptation starring Meryl Streep is not only an honest portrayal of the themes of the original but also just a great binge.

By Art Pitchford

King Krule – Man Alive! (2020): King Krule is the one man project of 26 year old Briton Archy Marshall. Marshall’s most recent entry is a strong follow up to his already highly regarded discography thus far. Man Alive! falls under the umbrella of post-rock / post-punk, with moody instrumentals and agony filled lyrics this album is perfect to soundtrack your entry into dystopia.

Image Credit: Album Cover for Man Alive! by Matador Records True Panther Sounds from Pitchfork

The National – Trouble Will Find Me (2013): A recent indie-rock classic, the Trouble Will Find Me is an album filled with despair from The National. Songs like ‘Don’t Swallow The Cap’ and ‘I Need My Girl’ provide a strong sense of catharsis. If you haven’t come across The National before, there isn’t a better time than now to listen.

Image CreditL Album Cover for Trouble Will Find Me by 4AD from Pitchfork

By Delinna Ding

In a time where our new found dystopian society can be scary, The Disruptors brings to attention the fascinating, exhilarating and impressive feats of dystopian inventions, science and technology. The format of the podcast is like a very loud? conversational TED Talk (think Sam Harris x Joe Rogan), which is great in providing you with a false sense of security that you’ve spoken to someone other than your housemate, family or partner in the past 2 weeks. Guests from scientific research, policy and political backgrounds explore topics straight out of the (un)usual science fiction handbook – biotechnology, space travel and artificial intelligence, nothing is off limits. If you need something to ground yourself this dystopian season, this podcast is a great reminder that although a dystopian reality may present challenges, it can also allow us to reap the rewards of amazing technological breakthroughs.

Start from the latest episode on Spotify or Apple podcasts, or, jump straight to my personal favourite episode: “Click Here to Kill Everybody: Security, Privacy, Social Media and Politics (above) with security technologist quote unquote “security guru” Bruce Schneier.

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