Postscript: Utopic Endings

  • Michael Uebel
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


Others have made this remarkable observation: the great Utopian works of the twentieth century have all been anti-utopias or kakotopias, “visions of a world,” as Leszek Kolakowski has put it, “in which all the values the authors identified themselves with have been mercilessly crushed.”1 The authors are now part of a canon of dystopian writing: Huxley, Orwell, Kubrick, Zamyatin, Capek, Saramago, Bradbury, Gibson, Atwood, and so on. And, arguably, more than the timely poignancy of the novels, it was the passionate affectivity of films that dismantled Utopia, denying its practicality and its value as a viable mentality, at the same time that they pointed to perfect satisfactions (somewhere) and ultimate solutions to predicaments (somehow). Among my own movie experiences, this set of anti-utopian films constitutes some of the most memorable: Blade Runner (1982), Brazil (1985), The City of Lost Children (1995), Strange Days (1995), Twelve Monkeys (1995), Dark City (1998), Pi (1998), The Matrix (1999), Bonnie Darko (2001), 28 Days Later (2002) and, anti-utopia as comedy, Shaun of the Dead (2004). What makes these films so powerfully anti-utopian and simultaneously Utopian is their insistence that the hope for some ultimum, whether social or epistemological, inevitably involves pain and forfeiture. With sacrifice and loss at their core, Utopias are always structured according to a contradiction: if the Utopia satisfies all desires, extinguishes all pains, then it grinds to a halt, and stagnation replaces creativity.


Blade Runner Precious Stone Imperial Palace Utopic Thinking High Approval Rating 
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© Michael Uebel 2005

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  • Michael Uebel

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