601: Dystopian Villian

A Thousand Things to Talk About
601: Dystopian Villian

If you were to write a dystopian story,  who would be the villain?

Full episode script

It’s no secret that dystopian fiction is beyond popular, especially for teens and young adults. Hunger Games, Divergent, The Power, The Road, The Giver, The Maze Runner, and thousands more. It isn’t a new genre – 1984 and Handmaid’s Tale are two of the most well-known examples.


There’s also a trend in many of the newest and most popular dystopian stories — that older women are some of the worst villains out there. As Jessamyn Neuhaus wrote in 2015, quote:

YA dystopian fiction in particular is having its moment right now. Last year saw the release of at least four dystopian films based on young adult fiction containing some pretty dire visions of future societies. All four featured an almost identical female leader character. She’s coldly calculating, middle aged, icily beautiful, and a villainess—or, at the very least, a highly misguided leader whose blind devotion to a rigidly depersonalized or somehow “perfected” world forms the basis of the conflict with the main characters. Unfortunately, I don’t think these four “cold, intelligent women” are illuminating “problematic mechanisms of power” at all. Rather, they are expressions of the persistent distrust of female authority in our current culture. These characters serve as a type of sexist shorthand for a society gone terribly, terribly wrong. Though not necessarily the sole “purveyors of this dysfunctional culture,” their pitiless rule symbolizes just how bad it’s gotten, because when women hold the kind of power and authority that renders them coldblooded killers, there’s something awfully amiss. But it’s essential to note that we’re talking here only about the power and authority of older, non-motherly, women.


Of course, women aren’t the only villains in dystopian fiction. The thing about this particular genre is, no matter how complex the situations, there’s usually always a hero and a villian. More often than not, the villain is someone that has all of the power and is trying to maintain strong control. After all, dystopia is by its nature an underdog story. And we all like to believe that we are the underdog.


As Charley Locke wrote in Wired, quote:

Either way, people are reaching out to dark visions to make sense of an increasingly unrecognizable country. A well-told narrative, truthful or not, can awaken a reader’s imagination and push them to action—and a neat dystopia is often more satisfying than a complicated truth.

This script may vary from the actual episode transcript.