It’s Time For Movie Critics To Expand Use Of The Word Dystopia

June 29, 2010 § Leave a comment

By Lars Trodson

Why is the word “dystopian” always used to describe the future? It isn’t really in the definition of the word, but movie critics have adopted it as a kind of shorthand to describe a future that is a mess.

Every movie and every book depicting our supposed future is now described as “dystopian.” How many times have you seen this yourself?

Google the phrase “dystopian movies” and you’ll get reams of responses — entire sites dedicated to the “Top 50 Dystopian Movies” and on and on and on. But every movie they mention takes place in the future.

A writer on the blog Popcrunch got it right when he wrote: “Pretty much every film in which the future is shitty is considered dystopian, so that means everything from post-apocalyptic to corporate control to biological viruses. It’s a huge field…”

It also seems to be used when a critic wants to describe a future world without beauty.


That covers “Metropolis” (1927) and “A Clockwork Orange” (1971) and “I, Robot” (2004) and just about everything in between.

But if the definition of the word has morphed into something to describe “futuristic shittiness”, then I argue that it now evolve further still so that it can be used to describe just plain old shittiness.

That way we could use it to describe “Jonah Hex.”

That movie supposedly depicts America just after the Civil War, but I sure would call it “dystopian.” “Jonah Hex” portrays a pretty bleak time, made all the worse by the presence of John Malkovich.

While we’re at it, how about John Malkovich’s career? Couldn’t we, at this point, call that whole thing “dystopian”? Megan Fox was in that movie, too. She’s very beautiful, no doubt, but I would describe her attempts to emote as “dystopian”, as in, like, really, really bad. Really bad.

Perhaps the most terrifying vision of society today — truly one of the most dystopian visions to come along in some time — can be found in Adam Sandler’s “Grown Ups.”

I think that the impact of that movie is so devastating that it actually has the power to destroy the comedy in the other movies that are playing at the same theater.

I would call that dystopian, for sure, and its happening right in our own time.

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