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Art and Propaganda in Dystopian Fiction

Forums Fiction Research and Worldbuilding Art and Propaganda in Dystopian Fiction

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  • #61408
    Chelsea R.H.
    @seekjustice

    So, I’ve been working on editing my dystopian trilogy and I’ve been considering two different methods of dealing with the dystopian government’s approach to art.

    Obviously, since its a dystopian, there’s a huge focus on resistance, but there are several different ways the characters resist the big bad government. One is through physical violence (revolution), another is through education, and finally, there’s art. For example, some of the main characters are involved in a theatrical troupe who illegally perform plays and musicals as a form of non-violent protest (and for  plain old entertainment as well).

    Now, here’s the bit I’m asking for opinions on. The government, in my mind, has two ways to deal with art: either, they can completely forbid it. Or they can twist it into their own form of propaganda and heavily censor it.

    Through history, I’ve seen real governments that do both (though it isn’t really as clear cut as that, being real life and all). personally, which do you think would be most effective? Banning or censoring? I have my personal ideas, but I’d love to hear your takes on it!

    Just tagging a few people who might be able to help (feel free to answer even if you aren’t tagged. Or not to answer, even if you are) @rochellaine @selah-chelyah @wordsmith @sarah-inkdragon @hope-ann @karthmin @ashira

    Mahalo keia huiʻana

    #61441
    Martin Detwiler
    @karthmin

    In my opinion, it really depends on the theme which you are getting at through this whole dynamic concerning art. From what you said, it seems that a major theme of these stories is resistance, but I think there’s an additional sub-theme that needs to be developed. And honestly, you could go either way with it, and be equally powerful if you do it well.

    Complete censorship would be a good move if your theme was about the value of art for a full and healthy human experience.

    On the other hand, propaganda would be a better choice if your theme was about the nature/effect of art. So then you’d be contrasting two different ‘strains’ of art: false art (propaganda, which is artificial, and has an effect of making people believe lies), and true art (the plays your troupe is performing, which are more spontaneous and real, and have the effect of making people hope and see/appreciate beauty(and/or truth).

    So yeah, either option is a really good, valid choice. It really just depends on what your theme is.

    myths don't die

    #61446
    Hope Ann
    @hope-ann

    @seekjustice I think both could be really cool angles and a lot depends on your theme like @karthmin said. It also depends on the goals of your government.

    If you are going for effective though, I’d say censoring would work best. If you ban something, people are going to want it and try to get it. It’s going to take a much higher place in their mind because of the danger in getting it. If it’s censored, esp. if it’s done in a subtle way so most people don’t realize it’s censored, then they’ll read what they see and not dig deeper because they don’t realize there is more to be had.

    Basically, no matter what your government does, there’s probably going to be art of some kind. So it would be a better move on their part to try to control what’s being put out than stop all output altogether.

    Victory in the march. Hope in the destination.

    #61512
    Selah CJW
    @selah-chelyah

    @seekjustice

    Wow, what a great question! It is a great thought, and in the futuristic book I am co-authoring, it is banned. But then this book addresses a lot of other unusual and related things as well. Honestly, I do not think I could add to what @karthmin  and  @hope-ann said. I totally agree with them. You could go either way… if you want the government to seem more weird, maybe go with some warped form of art that they put great restrictions on. Or if people are planning to rebel for other reasons, then ban it completely. I do not know who you have revolting, as well, and if it is young people then they need a plausible reason for risking their lives for art! So, either the ban is recent, the younger generation would have been taught other than the government told them, or some other deeply rooted reason that they risk themselves for that. Does that make sense?

    Just some thoughts…..!  🙂

    Assistant Guildmaster of the Phantom Awesome Meraki
    ~ Created to create ~

    #61514
    Chelsea R.H.
    @seekjustice

    @selah-chelyah

    They are not rebelling for art, necessarily, they are using art to rebel. basically, I have a whole bunch of revolutionaries, but they’re methods of attempting to change the world are all different, and one lot of them use art of various kinds which is banned/censored, as their form of revolt. Does that make sense?

    Currently, I think I’m leaning more toward censorship, because as @hope-ann said, people tend to want things that are forbidden, simply because it’s forbidden, but censorship tends to be more subtle and also probably more terrifying, in my opinion.


    @karthmin
    I honestly hadn’t thought much about the theme, so thanks for bringing that up! I think the idea of “true” vs “false” art is probably more what I’m going for, since it’s only really a subplot and not the main theme. I feel like the importance of art for humanity is much too big to fit into that, but I would love to try a story with that as the main theme one day.

    Thanks all of you for your thoughts!

    Mahalo keia huiʻana

    #61518
    Selah CJW
    @selah-chelyah

    @seekjustice  Cool! That sounds really neat. Glad to help!

    Assistant Guildmaster of the Phantom Awesome Meraki
    ~ Created to create ~

    #61531
    Princess Foo
    @princess-foo

    @seekjustice I have been reading some dystopia for my English class, and one thing that has hit me is that if you provide people with entertainment, they are less likely to rebel. The thinking for the average citizen goes I have this [government entertainment] that I have watched my whole life. Why risk going to [rebels entertainment] when I have a perfectly good thing to do already?

    The Romans did this with it’s bread and circuses policy of feeding the poor and staging battles in the Colosseum so they wouldn’t rebel.

    In addition to the “forbidden things are attractive”, there is also the point of, if art is forbidden, people will feel it’s absence. If they have time to think about their lives, they are going to realize how horrible it is and want to rebel. So, the government will want to keep them busy, and just forcing people to work more will not stop their thoughts. They want to keep their minds busy, and off their lives, and the best way to do that is through propaganda and government controlled entertainment.

    The cake is a lie. acaylor.com

    #61534
    Princess Foo
    @princess-foo

    @seekjustice Update: I talked with my dad (who is very wise), and he said you can in fact have an effective diastopian world where their is no art, by completely wiping it out and having the current generation have no concept of art or entertainment. They can’t long for something they never knew existed. However, if you did that, you couldn’t have the rebels rebel with art because, as I said, foreign concept they have no experience with. So that probably isn’t useful, but I wanted to correct my statement that propaganda was basically the only way to go.

    The cake is a lie. acaylor.com

    #61596
    Chelsea R.H.
    @seekjustice

    @princessfoo

    Some really good thoughts there! You prompted me to think of Fahrenheit 451, where the majority of the population is so wrapped up in their TVs that they never think of books (which here stand for “true art”) anymore.

    Your second point sounds quite true, but I don’t actually think it would be as easy as all that. After all the younger generation (say, under 25) may have no concept of art, but what about the people in their 80s? In real life, people of different ages remember much different things, so to be effective the government would have had to wipe it out years and years ago. But even then, the doddering old lady next door probably would have heard her mother talk about the days when they did this or that…

    My point being, I think it would be very difficult to completely wipe all memory of art, and it would take several generations to do effectively. 😛

    We writers have such weird conversations. Thanks for your thoughts!

    Mahalo keia huiʻana

    #61625
    Princess Foo
    @princess-foo

    @seekjustice We do have very weird conversations. 😉

    The cake is a lie. acaylor.com

    #61921
    Rochellaine
    @rochellaine

    @seekjustice I couldn’t think of anything to add to what’s already been said, so I followed @princess-foo’s example and talked to my dad about it. 😉

    A couple things I gathered from my conversation with him:

    1. An important thing to note is that putting on rebellious plays is not nearly as easy or cool as it sounds, and the logistics of that would have to be thought through.  Where would the plays be put on?  Would they happen in basements, where the only way to find them would be by word of mouth, and all attendees are searched as they enter?  Or would they be held openly in the streets, with the actors hoping to blend in with the crowd if they are interrupted by the police?

    2. If the plays were satirical in nature rather than blatantly against the government, it would be harder for the government to censor them, and harder to prove a case against the actors/writers if they were arrested. (I know you have “kangaroo courts” in your Infinity series, but it’s still an argument to make. 😉 )  The plays could also be used as a sort of code, where information/news could be given out using predetermined lines or words added to the script.

    These comments don’t directly address your original question, but you seem to be leaning mostly on the side of censorship, so that’s what I went with. 😀

    Nonsense makes the heart grow fonder ~ Carolyn Wells

    #63329
    valtmy
    @valtmy

    @seekjustice

    I love this topic! 😀

    On whether banning or censoring is more effective: Censoring. No doubt. In the short run, banning is obviously more effective but as the others have pointed out, it is human nature to go after the forbidden. People would always have a need for entertainment. A cunning, clever government would realise that trying to stop that would be futile so what they should do is to ensure that people will satisfy that need on the government’s terms (by providing their own propagandist media).

    Case in point: the mass media in the modern, commercialised world today. I mean, think about all the disinformation and false truths that have become widely accepted in the last few decades (e.g. ‘casual’ sex, the triviality of marriage) thanks to positive portrayals in the media. The most brilliant thing about it all (for much of the western world at least) is the ‘free market’ illusion it has. Due to the lack of explicit banning and how people may not be very well-informed about media regulations (if there are any), a lot of people don’t realise just how much control large media corporations and governments (both of which are run by the elites in society) have on the content that they see. People may think that they are discerning audiences and that what they are seeing is the output of a free, fair art market when there are really a lot of hidden agendas going on behind the scenes in the industry.

    Giving funding and resources to the content that supports their agenda while subtly starving the opposing voices is, in my view, a strategy more frightening than any book burning or mass execution of artists.

    #63413
    Chelsea R.H.
    @seekjustice

    @rochellaine

    Whoops, I never replied to you 😛 Thanks for the tips and I’ll consider those points.


    @valtmy

    True. I hadn’t really thought about your media points, though I realised something like that was happening a long time ago. I’ve found people tend tonsay “it’s just fiction!”a lot, but I honestly believe fiction  (or movies, songs, whatever) have a lot more power over us than we realise and that if someone could get a hold of that power and use it against us, it could be very bad indeed, made all the worse by the fact that we don’t even realise its happening.

    In my mind, its kind of the Nazis against the Communists. The Nazis made no secret of the fact they hated books and destroyed them publicly, but ultimately their rule did not last for long. Whereas the Communists, particularly the European Communists (from what I’ve read) were much more subtle about it, doing less forbidding and more suggesting (particularly in reference to Bibles and religion) and I honestly think they were scarier.

    Mahalo keia huiʻana

    #63415
    Selah CJW
    @selah-chelyah

    @seekjustice

    You are absolutely right about the Nazis vs the Communists, both regimes often affecting the exact same countries in Europe before, during, and after WWII, and having similiar but different effects.

    Both were evil and beyond scary, I think it is just a matter of what you want to portray most in your WIP.

    Assistant Guildmaster of the Phantom Awesome Meraki
    ~ Created to create ~

    #63416
    Chelsea R.H.
    @seekjustice

    @selah-chelyah

    Yep 🙂 And I feel that the Nazis were effective in breaking people, but the Communists were effective in changing people’s minds (when speaking of people, I just mean society, because the Communists did torture individuals–Richard Wurmbrand, for example).

    Mahalo keia huiʻana

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