In dystopian novels, it’s very common that society is rather corrupted, restricted, and unfree. Citizens are expected to follow orders without a second thought and behave like everyone else. Nonetheless, these dystopias are treated as if they are perfect and ideal. Why do these troubled societies are appear to be perfect? Is it because they appear to be the best option as other countries are even more corrupted? Are citizens brainwashed into believing that their homeland is as idealistic? Or is it the denial telling these residents that there is nothing fundamentally wrong in paradise? Maybe the reasons are all of the questions previously asked. One thing is for sure – ideal utopias are never what they appear to be on the outside.
In the novel The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson and the film Children of Men directed by Alfonso Cuarón, the societies that the protagonists live appear to be an ideal utopia in comparison to the rest of the world which is in ruins. These societies are more oppressive than they initially appear due to the use of violence to control citizens and the lack of democracy and freedom. These societies are similar to Cuba. In Cuba, the ideology of communism appear to be quintessential but instead are rather oppressive. In both plots, Palmares Três and the United Kingdom appeared to one of the few places that haven’t been destroyed. In an earlier scene of the movie, they show a newscast montage of the cities that have been ruined.
This includes cities like Paris, Washington, Tokyo, Brussels, Hong Kong, Berlin, New York, Stockholm, Rome, Shanghai, Mexico City, Amsterdam, Atlanta, Lisbon, Seoul, Singapore, San Diego, and Boston, (Cuarón). It’s implied that unknown catastrophes all the world. It’s also noted that there was a flu pandemic that killed many children including Theo’s son. It’s very possible that there were more plagues. In The Summer Prince, Toronto and Glasgow were referred as the lost cities (Johnson 83). This implies that an event occurred which destroyed the majority of the present world. It is mentioned that atomic bomb did hit San Francisco. Lots of wars and natural disasters occurred in North America (Johnson 83-84).
In both stories, the characters live in a more functioning society where there is a form of government and the main characters are able to live normally before realizing how problematic their societies are. In The Summer Prince violence is used, occasionally for controlling citizens. The most obvious example is when Enki, June and Gil are at the protest. In an attempt to control the technophiles, the crowd was surrounded by security bots and an army of 400 women with stun rifles. Those who aren’t protesting were scattered as they might get shot in the process. In that protest, 2 teenagers ended up dying from a nanocloud (Johnson 176-178). A nanocloud is basically a weapon made of pieces of technology that looks like a silver cloud (Johnson 187).
Both Wanadi and Regina, the victims, were at the wrong place at the wrong time. They were pushed to the front of the crowd and both got shot despite not being witnesses to the protest nor protestors. No one knew why the nanocloud shot into the crowd to begin with (Johnson 179-180). The audience doesn’t know who is behind this stunt but June later asks Lucia in prison. Lucia reveal that she was the programmer of the nanocloud but an Auntie coordinated the stunt (Johnson 190).This shows that technology is used as weapons to control citizens instead for more positive usage.
In the film Children of Men, violence was regularly used. One of first scenes was when the coffee shop that Theo was a few minutes prior was blown up (Cuarón). Throughout the movie, many characters do die violently; directly or indirectly by the government’s hands. One example is Theo’s good friend Jasper. Theo, Kee and Miriam stayed at Jasper’s place as they tried to figure out a plan but they had to leave as the government found out their whereabouts and they were treated as dangerous criminals. Theo asked Jasper to come with them but Jasper politely declined.
The audience watches as Jasper is questioned by Luke and was shot to death as he wouldn’t give up his friend. Another example is when Miriam yelled at a guard. She was consequently yanked off the bus, where she was taken to a cage. It is presumed that she dies as the viewers witness people getting shot while Miriam was dragged out of the bus. In order to control her, the guard slaps her. The audience watches many illegal immigrants get tortured in the background of many scenes (Cuarón). In all of these cases, the perpetrators were trying to show dominance over the characters who didn’t follow their orders. Despite having a functioning government, there is a lack of democracy and more corruption in Palmares Três.
First, the Queen isn’t chosen by the population, she is chosen by the last actions and thoughts of the dying Summer King as seen when Serafina kills Fidel (Johnson 8).Those who are close to the Aunties usually have advantages and more rights over those who don’t. June’s step-mother is an Auntie and is usually able to do things that most citizens can’t. One example is when she was to send a message to Enki as she has connections (Johnson 65). The most memorable example is when Yaha, June’s stepmother admits the reason June was nominated was because Yaha managed to pull some strings (Johnson 58). There are teenagers who worked very hard to get nominated like Bebel and Lucia but June once again was able to get what she wants without trying too hard.
Aunties are also notorious for getting away with crimes with no punishment. This point is brought up when June and Enki are discussing the future trial of Auntie Maria. Enki mentions that Auntie Maria was an Auntie for at least 50 years and has dirt on every official in the Royal Tower. Enki also tells June that some Aunties were probably involved in Auntie Maria’s scheme. They can’t indict her without bringing the whole system down (Johnson 208-209).A democracy is where a constitution guarantees basic personal and political rights, fair and free elections and independent courts of law (A short definition).
In Children of Men, rights that are guaranteed in a typical modern society aren’t found The government of England passed laws which restricts the freedom of humans. There is a restriction of movement with illegal immigrants being detained. In the first scene, a news reporter talks about how the British borders would remain closed and deportation would continue (Cuarón). Immigrants are caged and are sent to refugee camps. It’s also illegal for fertility tests to not be reported to the government (Cuarón). Suicide is encouraged among the elderly as seen when Jasper uses the suicide kit on his wife, as he is aware that he is about to be killed (Cuarón).
There are little personal rights in this society, especially for illegal immigrants. The audience watches as these immigrants suffer in pain as these cages are found everywhere even in public areas such as streets. Guards are constantly watching these immigrants’ every move. The only reason the majority of these people arrive is because the rest of the world is destroyed and Britain appears to be the best place in live in 2027. These refugees are often tortured by guards and the general public doesn’t do anything as these immigrants yell for help out of desperation (Cuarón).
A country that appears to function similarly to both Palmares Três and England in 2027 is Cuba. The current government in Cuba is considered to be communist. Communism is an ideology where everyone in a society gets equal shares of all of the benefits. Communism appears to be an ideal society where capitalist countries appear to be ruining the world as the poor receives nothing in a capitalist society. Communism is designed for the poor to have the similar status socially and financially compared to the rich society (Hoyt). Like in the both medias analyzed, some people are rich but the majority are poor.
This is similar to the current situation in Cuba. Cuba is actually more oppressive than its initial appearance. Groups of people in The Summer Prince, Children of Men and in Cuba are at a disadvantage because of the government. Those groups are the ones who live in the verde, illegal immigrants and professionals like doctors and lawyers, respectively. Doctors and lawyers in Cuba make only thirty dollars per month (Somin). There is a restriction of movement in all 3 examples. In The Summer Prince, only the selected may enter the country (Johnson 12). In Children of Men, the borders of England are permanently closed (Cuarón). In Cuba recently, the government required official permission for citizens to leave the country.
Those in professional occupations like athletes, scientists, doctors faced more obstacles (Sweig). Now, citizens can stay out of the country for 11 months before their bank accounts, homes and businesses are taken away (Cuba Events). Violence is used as a punishment in Cuba in addition to control citizens. Prisoners are punished if they don’t meet production quotas (Cuba Events). The main characters from Children of Men directed by Alfonso Cuarón and the novel The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson don’t live in an idealistic utopia. Their societies initially appear to be picture perfect at a first glance but due to use of violence and lack of democracy this is proven otherwise.
This is because the majority of countries in both medias are destroyed or in a current state of destruction. A country that appears to have many similarities with both societies is Cuba. The ideology of Cuba sounds pleasant but the way it was executed was done poorly. There are a combination of reasons why these societies appears to be idealistic despite the obvious truth. Is it because they appear to be the best option as other countries are even more corrupted? Are citizens brainwashed into believing that their homeland are as idealized? Or is it the denial telling these residents that there is nothing fundamentally wrong in paradise? It depends on the society.