“Dystopia is like the more woke version of utopia. It’s where we’re working out our biggest anxieties as a culture. For instance, does the human race deserve to continue? Or would it be better if we just went away?”
Alissa Wilkinson fell into film and television criticism after completing a degree in computer science – which she says actually helps her analyse culture well.
“I think my job is to watch a movie as well as I can, and then be able to look at my reaction to it as a good watcher and articulate why that reaction happened, and then also to make space for the reader to have their own experience with the work of art,” Alissa says.
“Sometimes [my job is] to just say ‘this is bad’ or ‘this is a masterpiece’, but if I don’t add the ‘why?’ then I’m not doing my job at all as a critic.”
She’s particularly fascinated by “end of the world” narratives and is the co-author of How to Survive the Apocalypse: Zombies, Cylons, Faith, and Politics at the End of the World.
In this episode, Alissa talks The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, The Hunger Games, Stranger Things and The Handmaid’s Tale – and how the dystopian futures we imagine more often than not tell us more about the society we live in today.
“The bigger question is, what would it take for us, as an enlightened and progressive society, to end up back in that kind of a place? The answer The Handmaid’s Tale gives is really sobering – if we take our eye off the ball, if we get too distracted by our own comfortable lives, little by little our rights and freedoms that we enjoy can be chipped away.”
But it’s not all about death and destruction. Alissa also recognises that in the doomsday narratives, there’s often something more going on.
“We’re brought into the story to recognise ourselves in it, and then this sort of mysterious, transcendent thing pops up, and it adds a new dimension to the story, but it also shows us that it’s something we’re really longing for.”
READ Alissa Wilkinson’s articles for Vox: www.vox.com/authors/alissa-wilkinson
Get a copy of How to Survive the Apocalypse: Zombies, Cylons, Faith, and Politics at the End of the World: www.alissawilkinson.com/book