This afternoon I watched a movie from 1989 called “The Blood of Heroes.” It’s a sort of sports movie set in a dystopian future. The game that’s played (which is only referred to as “The Game”) is bloody and brutal and involves setting a dog’s skull on a spike at the end of the playing field. I bought it from the video store I worked at years ago. It looked pretty cheesy but turned out to be quite enjoyable. I think they tried getting a little too poetic with the dialogue but nothing really felt out of place. All in all it was a pleasant surprise.
It got me thinking about dystopian futures. I’m not necessarily a fan of them but I have come across it from time to time when watching movies like this. Usually they suck. I think “Mystery Science Theater 3000” has its fair share of dystopian b-movies that are only enjoyable once they’re on that show. What does impress me, however, is the amount of imagination invested into these visions of a post-apocalyptic future. Several of them, such as “The Blood of Heroes” and the last two Mad Max films, take place after war has devastated the planet so much that people forget what life used to be like beforehand. As a result people form new, more primitive societies that have nothing to do with life as we know it now. Usually objects that exist in our time will show up, such as a house made out of deteriorating tires and so forth. It’s up to the makers of the movies in question to imagine humans forming new ways to live and entertain themselves without any connection to the past.
As a side note, it makes me think about how much we truly know about our own history. How do we know that there isn’t a big chunk of human society that we have no recollection or even evidence of? I don’t mean to question historians or archeologists. But there’s always the possibility that, to quote “Weird Al” Yankovic, “Everything you know is wrong.”
It makes me want to come up with my own sort of dystopian story. I did have the idea of writing a short film based around the idea that with all of our fears about war, the environment, and the moral decline of society, in the future none of these things happen. As a result future generations live in a dystopia because they’re so bored. It would be an art film that would be intentionally boring to watch. Right now I’m thinking of a new story that’s more of the “traditional” sort of dystopian future setting. The only problem is that the wars would have to also be able to eradicate all of the knowledge that is available to everybody in this information age in which we are currently living. I could set the cataclysmic event back in the eighties or something but that feels like cheating. I also hesitate to put too devastating a war in the story that would get rid of all of that information. It wouldn’t leave much else.
What I could do is have a means in which the information is stored somehow. The story could involve the search for the information. I could instead have the discovery of the information as an inciting incident. The evil tyrant or warlord or whatever finds out about the discovery and suppresses the information from getting to the people. Nobody has computers so I would have to come up with a way that when the hero of the story recovers the information the rest of the world will be able to see it. Perhaps they’re still able to watch television, or there could be a big screen in a stadium somewhere. Maybe they could have a way to feed the recovered information directly into the human population’s brains. They would still feel a disconnect with people from our time but they will at least be able to understand us more.
Naturally, the data would start with a stream of Ragged Good Looks.
The main reason why I would probably not be a good candidate for writing a story like this is that I would have more fun coming up with the look and feel of the setting more than I would focus on the meaning of the story. Simply suggesting that knowledge is power is a bit of a weak statement. At least it feels that way to me these days. But I could set the dystopian future setting aside for when I do have a legitimate story idea. They usually tend to be dark enough, anyway….