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  • K.B. Bonslater

Which One: Real Event or Dystopian Media?

Think you know your history? Think our world is more good than bad? Test out your knowledge by reading the following descriptions and determining whether they are from a real life event or some dystopian media. 

1. The government uses an isolated black community as the testing grounds for a new sociological theory for lowering crime. When the results are not what they had hoped for, they send in soldiers to skew and change the data while murdering hundreds of black people in their efforts. 

2. Wealthy residents beg their local government to build a park for the city. When it is revealed that the city planners want to build the park in the neighborhood that wealthy residents live in they are appalled. After much protest from the wealthy residents, the local government instead builds the park over a working class black neighborhood, using their power to force residents out of their homes.

3. In the name of beautification and the preservation of residents’ quality of life, local governments create laws that make it illegal for anyone with “unsightly or disfiguring” disabilities or diseases to be seen in public. Anyone caught breaking these laws are either fined or thrown in jail and eventually shipped off to a work camp. 

4. The government develops a way to quantify mental soundness and apply it to likeliness of criminality. Using this system, people are assigned jobs or locked away before they can become a “danger to society.” Police officers are equipped with guns and the authority to execute any person determined to have a “dangerous” or “criminal-like” mentality. 

5. In order to build a dam, the government floods and submerges a black community underwater, creating a lake. Locals refuse to swim at or even go near the lake due to feeling it is cursed.

6. After a tyrannical dictator takes control, a wave of anti-intellectualism spreads across the country. To show solidarity to the new dictator and contempt towards those who opposed said dictator, college students across the country burn books written by anyone the new dictator would not approve of. 

7. After the government makes it illegal for families to have more than one child, a set of septuplets attempt to stay hidden by pretending to be the same person. However they struggle to keep their existence a secret after one of them goes missing. 

Answer 1. Dystopian Media! “The First Purge” is a prequel to “The Purge” that finally answers the question: how did the Purge start? The New Found Fathers of America, the main antagonist of the franchise, attempted to use an impoverished black community in Staten Island to prove the theory that humans were naturally violent and needed a chance to vent that aggression in order to reduce crime during the rest of the year. But when the only crimes the black residents committed were petty theft and illegal block parties, they… well you know the rest. 

Answer 2. Real Event! In 1857, the city of New York created what we now know as Central Park by destroying the black community formerly known as Seneca Village. Seneca Village was not the first idea or choice for where the city would put the park, but after the wealthier Upper East Side residents complained and disagreed with the notion of their relocation, the city turned on the black working class community. The residents of Seneca Village protested their dislocation, but the local government employed eminent domain and forced the residents out of their homes.

Answer 3. Real Event! From the 1860s to the 1970s many cities in the U.S. like San Francisco and Chicago enforced "Ugly Laws" which made it illegal for physically disabled people to appear in public. This meant disabled people needn’t do little more than exist outside to be considered breaking the law. These laws were only enforced as a way of keeping disabled people from mingling with the general public, however they did not restrict the exploitation of disabled folks in “freak shows.” 

Answer 4. Dystopian Media! In the animated show “Psycho-Pass”, the Japanese government develops a way to evaluate people’s temperaments and mental soundness in order to categorize people into roles in society, like teacher or potential criminal. The police officers in this world have guns that can read a person’s brain waves. They use these to determine how much of a threat they are and depending on the reading the gun will allow for a complete execution or nonlethal subduing of said person.

Answer 5. Real Event! Lake Lanier was created in the 1950s after Georgia's government flooded the predominantly black town of Oscarville, Georgia. Locals still do not swim, fish or even approach Lake Lanier due to the belief that the lake is cursed. Since 1994 approximately six people have drowned each year; twice as many people as Lake Allatoona 40 acres away despite having similar rates of tourism.

Answer 6. Real Event! On May 10, 1933, university students across Germany burned the books of Jewish and blacklisted American authors that were sympathetic towards Jewish people during the Holocaust. On that same day in Berlin, the German Minister of Propaganda gave a speech where he declared “the era of extreme Jewish intellectualism is now at an end. ... The future German man will not just be a man of books, but a man of character.”

Answer 7. Dystopian Media! “What Happened to Monday” is a dystopian thriller novel (and later movie) where seven identical sisters attempt to live in a world where it is illegal to have more than one child. Each sister is named after a day of the week, coordinating with the day she is allowed to be outside. One day Monday, leaves the house but never comes back, leaving the other sisters to investigate her disappearance. 

So how many did you get right? What level of violence did you find too unbelievable to be real? What level of violence did you find to be completely believable? Can you tell what separates real life from a dystopia? Do you see a problem with that? 


Art by Ashely Yu


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