Sliding Scale of Social Satisfaction
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Some points on the scale need definitions instead of simply being demarked by their examples, and all points on the scale need more examples.
Although the terms "Dystopia" and "Utopia" are opposites, between the two there are a number of intermediate points. From straight dystopia, in which everyone is so miserably unhappy that it's impossible to believe that anyone could tolerate it for a second, to utopia, which is essentially heaven on earth, a chart might look as follows. Those between the poles are universes which, while oppressive to varying extents, are not much different from any real country:
- Nineteen Eighty-Four or We- hell on earth with nasty punishments for those who fail to toe the line.
- Fahrenheit 451- More than a lesson on how TV is evil, given that the government in question burns the books and houses of those who do read—and isn't that concerned if the inhabitants are inside when this happens—and everyone is pretty much a Stepford Smiler.
- Brazil or V for Vendetta - Look like bad versions of England at first glance, but both have Orwellian cruelty beneath the surface. The latter came to power through a program against homosexuals, non-white Britons, and other "undesirables".
- A Clockwork Orange- the nastiness comes from Heroic Sociopath youth and the brainwashing used as an attempt to stop it seems a fairly reasonable solution given the circumstances.
- The Fire Nation or Ba Sing Se from Avatar: The Last Airbender- both could be a Fantasy Counterpart Culture for Singapore (especially the latter) and function as rather repressive Eastern societies whose inhabitants seem to be on the whole happy with their situation.
- Warhammer 40,000 can be found at both ends to a degree - the Imperium of Man acknowledges that it is a dystopia, but is a far sight better than anything else. Meanwhile, the Tau Empire sees itself as a utopia for all races, but non-Tau have a different view.
- On the libertarian side, the future envisioned by Neal Stephenson might lie at about this point. The world's wealth disparity has sharply worsened, but all sorts of cool new technologies have emerged, and the absolute standard of living doesn't seem to have changed much (a few satirical excesses in Snow Crash aside).
- Some of the examples of Utopia Justifies the Means such as that in The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas, Firefly/Serenity and perhaps that of The Giver as well.
- Brave New World- Feels like utopia for the majority of people. The few malcontents can usually be ignored, as most people are too busy having sex and getting high to be influenced by them; at worst, an occasional troublemaker is exiled to an out-of-the-way island. Nevertheless, despite all the unchecked fun and hedonism (and in many ways because of it), it's clearly established as being a pretty shallow, hollow and fairly pointless existence.
- Crystal Spires and Togas- has the good parts of Brave New World and is also intellectual. The Culture novels are a good example. The entire populace spends all of its time entertaining each other with games, endeavours and such, while benevolent computers run everything. Star Trek is another good example.
A truly ungodly long list, complete with ongoing discussion, can be found here. It rates fictional cultures and races by letters in order of pleasantness to horror for humans to be conquered by them.