Dystopian fiction keeps growing in popularity. According to Goodreads.com, the share of dystopian books in 2012 was the highest for more than 50 years.
The boom seems to have begun after the terrorist attacks on the US on 22 September 2001. After the Hunger Games novels (2008-10) about a totalitarian society, the share of dystopian stories skyrocketed.
MORE IDEAS FROM How dystopian narratives can incite real-world radicalism
Research shows that people are more willing to draw 'political life lessons' from a narrative about an imaginary political world than from fact-based reporting about the real world.
These narratives may have a positive effect on nourishing society's 'watchdog' role in a variety of contexts, ranging from climate change and artificial intelligence to authoritarian resurgences worldwide. However, the narratives may also encourage radical perspectives that oversimplify complex sources of political disagreement.
It seems unlikely that fiction can be capable of influencing people's real-world outlooks. However, a growing body of research shows people subconsciously incorporate lessons from fictional stories into their beliefs, attitudes, and value judgments.
Dystopian fiction is likely to be very powerful because it is inherently political.
The totalitarian-dystopian genre portrays a disturbing alternative world where powerful entities act to oppress and control citizens, violating fundamental values as part of the rule.
The dystopian narratives affect those who watch it in a profound way by changing their moral values. Studies show that those who watch dystopian stories are more likely to say that radical acts such as violent protests and armed rebellion could be justifiable. They agree that violence is sometimes necessary to achieve justice.
Science fiction emerged about 300 years ago when science made great strides. Authors tried to understand their world by imagining a possible future.
Gulliver's Travels is the earliest science fiction. This satirical 1726 travel narrative is considered to be a precursor of the modern science fiction novel. Lemuel Gulliver encounters utopian and dystopian societies during his voyages. The novel describes scientists on islands whose experiments are pointless.
Joker is a psychological movie, showing the dangers of group action and the power of group narratives.
It is a very interesting commentary on society as it mirrors the phenomenon of deindividuation - where crowds assume a collective identity, dispense of individual responsibility and become willing to commit even the most heinous acts.
Over the history of Western literature about pandemics, much has been said in the way of catharsis, ways of dealing with intense emotion, and political commentary on how people respond to public health crises.
It is worth to peruse these texts to understand our reactions to the spread of this virus.
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