Dystopian narratives are similar to post-apocalyptic ones, but they aren’t identical. Think of dystopian themes as “opposite of utopia.” If utopias are places of perfection, dystopian themes reveal places that are wrought with problems. Sure, post-apocalyptic landscapes are also not places of perfection, so there will often be overlap, but I want you to understand the boundaries of the two definitions.
“Coming Attraction” (1950)
Written in the “post War Era,” meaning after World War II, this story conveys the anxieties of the time period as the Anthology editors mention (p. 222). The United States and the Soviets were racing to create more destructive weapons and assert dominance. During the time period, many Americans thought we were always just on the brink of war, and the artists of the time period were no different. By the way, that anxiety of nuclear holocaust continued into the 1980s. Below are some places in the text to consider:
- On the moon, “America and Russia are racing to develop their primary bases into fortresses capable of mutual assault and the launching of alphabet bombs toward Earth” (p. 226)
- “…two great nations of the world. Mutilated by each other…with their respective dreams of an impossible equality and an impossible success” (p. 226)
Treatment of Women
- Fetish: holding something as a sexual object
- Rippers stealing women’s skirts (p. 223)
- Cop: “Couple of years more and I’m going to make my wife wear hers [mask] around the house” (p. 224)
- Need to separate men from women with fashion–maintain the binary.
- Advertising: “Since the female face and form have been banned on American signs, the very letters of the advertiser’s alphabet have begun to crawl with sex” (p. 225)
- Masks create mystery (p. 225)
- Ageism and appropriate fashion (p. 229)
What’s the game that’s played between men and women “dating”? There are the male wrestlers who need women to beat up on, there are the rippers who steal skirts, and then there’s that strange interaction among Wysten Turner, Theda, and Little Zirk. Wysten called this a date, but Theda clearly is dating Little Zirk…is it ever a good idea to bring your significant other on a date with someone else?
Post-WWII acceptance of women working outside of the home. This story takes place after Women’s Suffrage but before the heyday of Second-Wave Feminism in the 1960s and 1970s. What could that mean?
Keep up with the syllabus readings. Next week we’ll get into more far out worlds and gender discussions. Don’t forget that Test 2 is next Friday, September 27th!