What it means: imagined future society characterized by misery, oppression, or squalor; opposite of utopia
The word is modified form of the neologism utopia, coined by Sir Thomas Moore in his book of that title completed in 1516. Dystopia was first seen in 1868, in the writings of J.S. Mill.
From Gk. dys– “bad, abnormal, difficult” + utopia lit. “nowhere.”
Why I chose it: In a conversation about movies (what else?) with a friend and colleague, I was rattling off some of the films of Terry Gilliam, and I described Brazil (1985) as dystopian. Like the main character on her beloved show Bones, she uttered, “I don’t know what that means,” prompting a discussion of the term … and inspiring me to include it in this blog.
A dystopia often includes an authoritarian or totalitarian form of government and may feature repressive social control systems. Examples of dystopian literature / film include Brave New World, Nineteen Eighty-Four, A Clockwork Orange, Fahrenheit 451, Logan’s Run, and V for Vendetta, all featuring futures in which we would not want to find ourselves and offering insights into the paths that led humanity to these dire circumstances.