International Writers Magazine: Dystopic
Coupland v P.D. James
Girlfriend in a Coma by Douglas Coupland
Children of Men written by P.D. James and directed by Alfonso
all been allowed to see what your lives would be like in the absence
of the world (Coupland, p.253) and this is what successful
dystopia should do for us all. Successful dystopia makes us step
away from ourselves and reveals to us our innermost destructive
capabilities, our desire to control and manipulate. We never learn
that control is followed by chaos, dystopia should remind us.
We are forever in need of learning exactly what equilibrium is.
a view of extremes, in Girlfriend in a Coma we are presented
with our greatest innate fear, our own death. Coupland culls us all
in a cruel and abrupt permanent sleep, frequently symbolising spiritual
stagnation through his use of comatose states within the novel. Children
of Men plays upon the idea of sterility possibly caused by our chemical
modern world. There is less of a deeper level to this story than that
of Girlfriend in a Coma although it does make interesting parallels
with the nativity story. There is also a poignant Tate Gallery scene
in which we are shown salvaged artwork. This creates a terrible irony
because of course there will be no-one left to admire these pieces.
Human expression and therefore life itself has been rendered futile.
Both forms of self destruction are particularly haunting to a species
genetically programmed with a desire to survive.
Dystopia should have an element of reality since it is our own fears
manifested in their extremes. For instance Children of Men projects
immigration and chemical issues straight into the not so far off future.
In one of the war scenes we are subjected to a shocking splatter of
blood on the camera lens. This serves to transform the filming itself
into a reality, hinting at a live news report. Thus Cuaron takes us
even further into the film and yet paradoxically reminds us we are on
the outside looking in. Similarly Coupland uses a very accessible narration
studded with references to our time He sets up a very clever interaction
with reality in using the title Girlfriend in a Coma which is
taken from a Morrissey song. If you have any clue about Morrissey youll
be very well informed as to what this book is about before you even
open the cover. In both novel and film we are led by sensitive characters
into a world that is essentially still our own. Love proves to be an
invaluable technique in drawing us in and with Julians (Julianne
Moore) untimely death and Karens abrupt coma we are eased into
the tragedy of it all.
Dystopia should not just plunge you into a world of despair and abandon
you. There must be some glimmer of hope and as a reader or viewer you
didactically fulfil this role. Coupland points out that the Future
does not exist yet. Fate is for losers (Coupland, p.5) and there
is hope in this alone. Couplands future world is somewhat of a
Caliban dystopia, both extremely ugly and profoundly poetic. Cuarons
cold future world is a world of war and painful destruction. Although
there is hope in rebirth there is also a shocking wild beauty in the
silent slow motion imagery of the deer running around the corridors
of a deserted school. Ironically solace seems to lie with our destruction.
© Claire Murray November 2006
Claire is studying
Creative Writing at the University of Portsmouth
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