Dystopia and Deprivation

You're An Idiot, Starscream

Week number four of my social media hiatus begins, and I’m very happy with how this month has been shaping up. Perhaps the biggest benefit I’ve seen, once again, is that deprivation does help clear out my headspace, and helps me focus. I had a friend mention recently that I seemed more relaxed–and this is true, after a fashion. The less attention-grabbing headlines pop into my brainpan, the stronger my focus is on my own work. Mind you, I don’t feel this is an issue of time, necessarily, but emotion. A lot of what’s happening online these days is very upsetting, because fights are now public and sides/factions/what-have-you form around issues. Politics is a fantastic example of this, for example, as individuals jockey for votes slashing and burning public health programs–like Planned Parenthood(1)–along the way, touting cries of someone else‘s immorality, to make themselves appear as virtuous beacons of light(2) to gain power.

To me, these hot button issues have an impact on our creativity, but they always have to varying degrees. I feel the trick is knowing when to throw your hands up and walk away. I thrive on positivity when working, not negativity, which means I have different pressure points than you might have. Sometimes the issues-of-the-day have been couched in allegorical or symbolic terms to represent meaning without being direct about it, but that requires Deep ThoughtsTM. It is always safer, it seems, to introduce a new idea in an old way–through a story. For example, The Blob (1958) is about the spread of Communism, and was probably terrifying to audiences at the time. Now? Communism doesn’t hold the same meaning in today’s society, so the allegory is lost on us, and we think it’s a movie about a pink blob that consumes everything in its path. Thus, that story has since evolved into something safer, more digestible(3), and more palatable for audiences who hold diverse viewpoints, because we are different. The message is still there for those who want to see it, however, and thank the stars. People are infinitely more complex than a simplified perspective or -ist/-ism, and allegories like these facilitate critical thinking, of which I’m a huge fan.

The movie Advantageous (2015) is an example of a movie where the message is more overt than subtle, and it is a very cynical look at our future. It is also a great example of a dystopian film, for the story is small enough to give us a sense of what it’s like to live in this world, as opposed to tearing down the dystopia. I feel the reason why this film has gotten mixed reviews, is because people might be uncomfortable with the idea that some of these issues already exist in our own reality, and they weren’t expecting its slower pace a la Melancholia (2011). The pressure for women to be young is amped up to 11, here, but it absolutely exists in our reality. Hollywood, for all its glitz and glamour, often pairs older men/younger women together, and there is a thought that once you turn 30 your career is over. While, of course, much of that is conventional wisdom based on perceptions about that magical land of California, it’s become part of our zeitgeist, that women over a certain age/weight are unwanted (4). And, we’re only desirable for our ability to have children. Once that happens, who cares?(5)

Add overpopulation, social and religious morays, megacorporations, and a high cost of living to the mix. This is what Advantageous explores, and I thought the film was extraordinarily realistic. There is one bit in the movie I wanted to comment on. I’m not giving anything away by mentioning that there’s a line about how people thought it’d be less risky to have homeless young women than homeless young men. Now, there’s a thought that women either cannot be violent or aren’t so(6), thus it is safer for society to put women out on the streets than men. The causality of wars aside, what I noticed in this film was that the director, Jennifer Phang, did not film certain age groups of women in a state of homelessness. I felt that this was a nice touch, because it put the emphasis on the value of a young girl–e.g. as opposed to showing gangs of teenage girls. Which, to me, is probably what would happen. Desperation makes people do funny/crazy things, and that’s part of what this movie is all about.

(1) Forgive me for saying this, but since when does anyone else but me have a right to tell me what I do with my vagina?
(2) Yes, this is my cynical side showing.
(3) *rim crash*
(4) Kyle Buchanan has written a bunch on this topic for Vulture.com. Here’s one such article–with graphs!
(5) Oh, I could say a lot of things about that in particular, which pretty much ends and begins with a flipped middle finger.
(6) Here’s a link for you regarding Women and the Crusades. Since social norms suggested that women remain at home, their time in battle wasn’t covered by the historians on the invading side of the equation. So yes, telling women to stay in the kitchen is positively medieval. And, you can see how well that worked out for the status quo, even back then.

    Mood: Hungry. I am consumed by the thought of making a mole sauce.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Let there be coffee.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Brisk walk, and celebratory booty dance for making headway on my office.
    In My Ears: Nameless dubstep beats.
    Game Last Played: Ugh. This jewel-addicting monstrosity.
    Book Last Read: The Silmarillion by Tolkien
    Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: Hunger Games
    Latest Artistic Project: Thinking about it.
    Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Gods, Memes, and Monsters
    Latest Game Release: Dread Names, Red List for Vampire: the Masquerade and Ghosts in the Black for the Firefly RPG.
    Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update and My Departure from the Conan RPG.

Monica Valentinelli is an author, artist, and narrative designer who writes about magic, mystery, and mayhem. Her portfolio includes stories, games, comics, essays, and pop culture books.

In addition to her own worlds, she has worked on a number of different properties including Vampire: the Masquerade, Shadowrun, Hunter: the Vigil, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, and Robert E. Howard’s Conan.

Looking for Monica’s books and games that are still in print? Visit Monica Valentinelli on Amazon’s Author Central or a bookstore near you.

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