Culture · Perspectives

Podcast: Young Adult Dystopias

In our third episode, we discuss young adult dystopian novels and their recent rise in popular culture. We look at these novels and their cinematic counterparts in terms of their impact on society, considering their frequent use of a female lead character, particularly in comparison to older, male-led dystopias.

The books discussed in this podcast are The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Divergent by Veronica Roth, Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman, Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill, The Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness, and The Hybrid Chronicles by Kat Zhang.

If you like the podcast, don’t forget to leave us a review on iTunes and/or stitcher. Please leave any thoughts on the podcast as a comment, and we’ll read and discuss them at the start of our next podcast!

 

Links

Whitewashing in The Hunger Games

Dystopian Films Won’t Touch Sexism and Racism

Imagining Race In Hunger Games

Shailene Woodley and Feminism

Ferguson and The Hunger Games

Divergent and Feminism

Tris as Another Thin White Heroine

Are Divergents Feminists in Disguise

Music: Ukelele – bensound

4 thoughts on “Podcast: Young Adult Dystopias

  1. Pingback: Podcast: Periods -
  2. Hey everyone! Hope you’re doing great! I really enjoyed your podcast and the topic of course; it’s one of my absolute favourites, although not a very merry one! My MA dissertation was on dystopia and dictatorship in fact.

    I’m only familiar with The Hunger Games (books & films) and Divergent (films), but I will definitively read the other ones too. I have a couple of comments for The Hunger Games, one of my favourite YA books. First off, I do agree that race isn’t explored as much as it could have been in the books (certainly not in the films), even though the material is there, but that’s a general issue with dystopian literature I think. The class issue is addressed much more clearly, but it still could have been examined more through the lens of race and gender.

    As for the romance part of the books, I had a different approach actually. While it is a significant part of the story and a driving force for the plot in many ways, I saw it as a mock-romance, a satire if you will, of how society frames and markets romance and expects people to reproduce that ideal. Because it’s extremely public in nature (that’s why it was created in the first place) and because neither of them really wanted it (Peeta of course did to an extent but he still had more important things to consider at that point, like his imminent death), it didn’t feel like the typical teenage dystopian romance. Throughout the books they both seemed to have the bigger picture in mind, the struggle and their role in it, their families, not so much the romance, even Gale. To me the romance part was just something in between, not the main focus, something like a comic relief even, part of the show and it did remain like that throughout the revolution as it was used as a propaganda ploy. It felt real only in the end when it finally became a private matter. I understood Katniss’ obsession with getting Peeta back as her attempt to repay the debt she felt she owed him for being so kind to her and helping her; and she does mention how important it is for her to repay any ”moral” debts (see Thresh). So, it seemed to me she was being more of a loyal friend rather than a lover in distress. In the films of course, it’s the other way around, focusing too much on the romance and not on the main socio-political messages.

    I also agree with the things you talked about regarding gender, and I would add that it’s interesting to see a bit of a switch in roles. Peeta is the nice, kind, emotional and caring one (typically represented as female traits), and Katniss is the distant, cold, practical, even emotioanlly unavailable one (typically represented as male traits). The ending of course in both books and films was problematic for me. Throughout the books she specifies that she doesn’t see herself as a wife and mother and yet that’s how she ends up. I think it would have been more consistent with her character if she had died, ended up alone like Haymitch, or just sought some emotional support in a friend, be it male or female. Although I guess I understand why the author would like to have a happy-ish, more positive ending for the story. The double standards for the two genders, especially when it comes to beauty, are dealt with in a much better way (see Katniss and Joanna especially, and the other female contestants as well). The diction used in the books clearly depicts the degrading process of beautification before and after the games, mostly for the female contestants.

    Another interesting point which I don’t think you mentioned that much is how revolution and the image of the rebel are portrayed. I was mostly interested in the fetichization of the rebel, mostly Katniss but others too, by the Capitol who bragged about their mockingjay related products like pins and watches, and by the rebellion itself marketing Katniss mostly as the face of rebellion. The Capitol is coopting what it needs to render the rebellion powerless in the eyes of the Capitol people, while it kills off anyone who is even remotely related to the mockingjay in the rest of the districts. Again this is very clearly examined in the books and the fight between propaganda and facts through the media is very realistic and reminiscent of modern media ploys. It was fascinating for me to see the fine line between government and rebellion, how they are suspiciously similar just with different agendas, which is portrayed in the books brilliantly, and how Snow and Coin are ultimately two sides of the same coin, which is why Katniss decides to kill Coin instead of Snow (I like to think that the pun was intended by the author).

    So, there are a few things this podcats brought to my mind. Sorry for the long commentary, but it was such an interesting talk! Thanks so much! Keep doing a wonderful job!

    Aurelia

    1. Hey, thanks for the really interesting comment! You brought up some really good points. I’d never really thought about the propaganda aspect of The Hunger Games. I think it’s probably the only book that we spoke about that engages with that so thoroughly. And it is incredibly relevant in regards to recent events.

      We’re hopefully going to read out and discuss some of your comments on the upcoming podcast, but I just want to pop in and say thanks for listening!

      1. I’m glad you found it interesting. I’d love to hear your opinions on this as well next time. I’ll definitely be waiting for your next podcast, I’m a big fan! 😉

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