When the world is scary, nothing will push you over the edge like a few dystopian TV shows
The concept of a dystopia is defined as “a futuristic, imagined universe in which oppressive societal control and the illusion of a perfect society are maintained through corporate, bureaucratic, technological, moral or totalitarian control.” Dystopian fiction tends to fascinate yet terrify us because it really isn’t that farfetched; its trademark grimness often uncomfortably resembles aspects of our own reality. For all of human history, for example, despotic governments throughout the world have continually persecuted citizens, perpetuating global injustice and suffering. The latter closely resembling the oppressive regimes that typically govern a dystopian world.
Meanwhile, there are other facets to humanity that can be considered dystopian: a global, three year-long pandemic; constant brutal wars being waged; a reality show personality turned American president; social media now having the power to dictate the trajectory of humankind in the form of 15 second reels and fake news videos. Hell, drive around Metro Manila and it sometimes looks like the set of Mad Max or Blade Runner. The world we live in is positively dystopian, perhaps not as exaggerated as onscreen productions but also not so far off. While dystopian movies have been well-represented in Hollywood, we feel dystopian TV shows are slightly underrated. The critically-acclaimed The Last of Us being just the latest instalment of a recent string of high-quality, dystopian shows for the small screen, here are some of our favorites:
The Last of Us
Based on a video game of the same name, Joel and Ellie, an unlikely duo connected through an unprecedented fungi outbreak, are thrust into a ruthless trek across post-apocalyptic America. Only a couple of episodes in, this adaptation is already garnering some high praise.
Black Mirror is essentially a modern-day version of The Twilight Zone with gritty and dramatic stories that satirize the tech-dominated world we will likely inherit, this dystopian TV show often depicts some pretty grim results.
Based on the best-selling novel by Margaret Atwood, this show is set in Gilead in the near future, a totalitarian society in what used to be part of the United States. Gilead is run by a fundamentalist theocratic dictatorship. The show follows the story of June (Elisabeth Moss), a woman who has been forced to become a “handmaid” and reproduce for the child-loving Gilead elite.
A transparent commentary on societal inequality and class warfare, Snowpiercer tells the story of survivors of the second ice age now residing on a perpetually moving, luxury train that ploughs through the frozen wasteland that is Earth. The train's more destitute population, who live in the slum-like backend of the train, plan to improve their situation through a systematic rebellion.
3% is a Netflix thriller-drama, set in the near future where a group of poverty-stricken young people are chosen to join the elite “offshore” society as opposed to the impoverished “inland” group where they reside in the beginning of the series. Here’s the issue: to pass into the 3%, they must complete a test of very challenging, even life threatening, tasks.
The Walking Dead
Available on Disney+
Based on a comic book series by Robert Kirkman, this bleak dystopian TV show details life after a zombie apocalypse. A gang of survivors journey in searching for safety and security, living nomadic lives. At times though conflicts with each other become a bigger threat to their continuing survival than the zombies that roam the land.
Attack on Titan
Available on Netflix
In this Japanese manga epic, man-eating Titans showed up a century ago, and people learned to find safety behind gigantic walls that stopped the giants in their tracks. Unfortunately, this refuge is under siege as a massive Titan smashes through the seemingly impregnable structures, causing a flock of the giants to enter the humans' safe zone. During the destruction that ensues, soldier Eren Jaeger sees one of the beasts eat his mother, which radicalizes him into wanting to kill all Titans.
When the world gets scary—as it often does—it’s time to watch something scarier. What're your top picks of dystopian TV shows?
Words Art Vandelay
Art Matthew Ian Fetalver