Inside The Mysterious Disappearance Of The Young Adult Dystopian Genre

Every day the world seems to be turning the page, moving deeper and deeper into the early stages of an Orwellian nightmare. Real-life scenes eerily echo the dystopian books I read in middle school back in the early 2010s. Just consider some recent real events that sound like they could be the first chapters of a dystopia.

Bathed in blood-red floodlights and with a pair of faceless soldiers standing at attention in the background, feckless overlord Joe Biden proclaimed that those who oppose the leftist regime are a “threat” to “the very soul” of the nation. These dangerous “extremists” are not a fanatical minority, but “mainstream” conservative Americans, the regime tells us. 

Today, equal justice under the law is unreliable. The blindfold is off, and Lady Liberty’s eyes are set on the adversaries of the left. The FBI raided the Mar-a-Lago home of former President Donald Trump, and President Biden appears to be directly involved in launching the investigation into his former opponent. 

But if that sounds at all fishy, don’t say so out loud. Attorney General Merrick Garland declared that any criticism of the raid on Trump will be viewed as a “threat to democracy.” 

This regime doesn’t need to throw journalists in the gulag. The media are in full compliance, supporting and echoing the regime’s every decree. If the Biden administration decides we aren’t in a recession, then the media gleefully change the definition of a recession. 

Could the regime risk losing power and credibility if the people knew Biden was compromised by his son’s business dealings in Ukraine and China? No worries, the tech giants willingly take orders from the FBI to expunge the Hunter Biden laptop story. If you can’t find it on social media, it never happened, right?

Are you an extremist who attended the Jan. 6 protest because you had sincere concerns about the integrity of the 2020 election? Then you could be put on a no-fly list, your Venmo could be frozen, you could lose your job, and perhaps you’ll even be locked up in solitary confinement. There’s no evading the FBI. If the banks don’t catch an insurrectionist, his son or daughter will gladly turn him in to the authorities. 

Continuing in the background is a Covid mass formation psychosis, in which a scary percentage of the American people believe masks work, lockdowns were necessary, the vaccine is effective at preventing infection and transmission, and it’s racist to consider the evidence suggesting Covid-19 originated in a U.S.-funded lab in Wuhan, China. 

Brave doctors who dared to speak out lost their jobs and credibility. Pastors and priests who opened their churches were arrested, and business owners who refused to close up shop were fined into financial ruin. All the while our untouchable elites who came up with the Covid restrictions broke every rule in their own book. 

The 2010s’ Dystopian Craze 

From about 2008 to 2015, the dystopian genre exploded in popularity in the United States. And unlike today, the genre existed here only in books and films.

In contrast to older dystopian stories, such as “Fahrenheit 451” or “1984,” movies and books like “The Hunger Games,” “Maze Runner,” and “Divergent” were geared toward younger audiences and featured teen and young adult protagonists. 

Since movies and books often reflect the cultural anxieties of the time, it’s worth asking why older zoomers and younger millennials were so enthralled with the dystopian genre, and where that craze has gone so quickly.

The biggest of the dystopian books, “The Hunger Games,” was able to strike a chord with both young conservatives and leftists. Conservatives saw the dictator “President” Snow and the elites in the capital reflect their fear of growing centralized government and the encroachment of personal freedoms in post-9/11 America. Young leftists, animated by the Occupy Wall Street movement and the bailouts of big banks and insurance companies during the 2008 recession, saw America’s inequality of wealth and power reflected in the greedy elites living in the capital of Panem while the peasants fought to the death to survive. These books’ broad appeal hinted at a deep distrust of American institutions. 

With the integrity of our government officials, agencies, major corporations, and media crumbling in their service to the left’s agenda, why hasn’t the dystopian genre experienced a resurgence? Why did it die out in the first place? 

Often, the last installment of a movie franchise is the highest-grossing. But the last of “The Hunger Games” movies, released in 2015, was the lowest grossing of all four films. The “Divergent” franchise was never even completed because its 2016 installment of “Allegiant” did so poorly at the box office. As quickly as the dystopian genre rose in popularity, it fell, lingering now only on the dusty bookshelf of childhood rooms and in the internet wasteland of bad fan fiction. 

Katniss Is Too Cis, Straight, and White

Many have tried theorizing why the dystopian genre died out circa 2015. Some say the films dropped in quality or the books stopped creatively worldbuilding. Others speculate that reality itself became too dystopian amid global lockdowns, erasing the escapism of the genre.

“Sarah Z,” a young, leftist YouTuber specializing in fandom culture, argues that most dystopian literature and films had trouble showcasing “actual oppression.”

“These stories often take place in race-blind and gender-blind worlds,” she says. “Where society is sh-tty and horrible to people, but things like racism or sexism or homophobia or transphobia just aren’t a thing.” 

“This isn’t helped by the fact that a lot of these stories and especially their film adaptations tend to feature predominantly white lead characters who are also almost always canonically cis and straight,” Sarah adds.

Indeed, it was not social justice but fierce protectiveness over her little sister that drove “The Hunger Games” protagonist Katniss Everdeen and gave her strength in her epic fight against President Snow and the capital.

As brave and selfless as that sounds, Sarah is right. The regime isn’t going to allow Katniss to be a zoomer hero. She’s too cis, straight, and white, and the centralized government she fights can sometimes feel a little too similar to the one we live under now. Highly ideological young adult publishers would never put a hero like Katniss at the forefront anymore.

Sarah points out that one of the only dystopian franchises to survive the genre’s downfall is “The Handmaid’s Tale,” a feminist book-turned-popular Hulu series. “[The Handmaid’s Tale] world where a conservative government strips rights away from women resonated well in [the Trump presidency], with the handmaid’s uniform becoming a common sight at women’s rights protests during this time,” Sarah explains. 

You may be thoroughly disturbed by the weaponization of the federal government against political adversaries of the left. You may be shocked by a global social credit system unveiling itself before our eyes, or angered by the brazen collusion between the feds and the tech oligarchs. But are your kids and grandkids? It’s hard to say because the major youth publishers and librarian professionals are just as ideological and censorship-happy as Big Tech. 

America’s youth are going through intense reeducation for eight hours a day in schools, and their smartphones finish the job for the rest of their waking hours. Like good subjects, young people fixate only on the issues the regime instructs them to care about. That’s why “The Hunger Games” is out and “The Handmaid’s Tale” is still in. 

Government, Big Tech, and corporations are zeroing in. They know your every search, text, and purchase. They know your thoughts. They know you. Young people have been conditioned to believe this is normal. School libraries and phone screens aren’t going to show them anything different. And with the regime deciding the dystopian genre is out of ideological fashion, perhaps that means we’re living out one of the novels right now. 


Evita Duffy is a staff writer to The Federalist and the co-founder of the Chicago Thinker. She loves the Midwest, lumberjack sports, writing, & her family. Follow her on Twitter at @evitaduffy_1 or contact her at evita@thefederalist.com

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