Does humanity tend toward pessimism whenever it looks toward the future? When watching and reading dystopian fiction, the answer appears to be yes. These futuristic worlds take place after a disaster of gigantic proportions—an invasion, a plague, a natural disaster. Most of these worlds are atheistic in design and pit their protagonist against overwhelming odds, in a bid for their own survival. Which begs the question, from where do these ideas come? Why does humanity look forward with trepidation? Dystopian is never about an improved world; always, something sinister forces people into survival-mode, where they turn on each other. Prehistoric creatures unleashed from a cave, aliens, robots, etc. Whatever the cause, it becomes a survivalist story.
Fiction is a way to explore human emotions and fears. It brings the same triumphs and tragedies as other genres, but from a basis of “the world has gone to hell, and…”
A Quiet Place is one of the more inventive dystopian horror films of recent years. A race of creatures that cannot see, but hunt by sound, has taken over the world, leaving a family to survive through courage and intelligence. The father, Lee Abbot, has provided for his family for a long time, but the movie tracks the approaching birth of their child, which they know will be a noisy affair.
The family walks on sand to muffle their footprints. Stands still in dangerous situations in the hope nothing will hear them. Has backup plans in place in case the worst happens. And are all grieving the loss of their youngest child, who put batteries into an airplane toy. The noise got him killed. His deaf sister Regan suffers with tremendous guilt, since she gave him the toy.
The movie makes time to develop its relationships and show how central Lee is to the narrative. He’s the tender support his wife needs, the courageous father his children need, the protector of them all, and willing to give up his own life for his kids. It’s a meaningful tale of a man’s bond with his family. Many horror movies have characters who get themselves killed by their own foolishness. I like this film, because these people are smart. They prepare. Learned how to survive on their wits. Do not panic. Keep cool heads in intense situations.
What does it say about society that we love survivalist stories? I think it goes back to our desire to overcome the odds, to find courage when it’s most needed, and to believe in heroes. Each generation has its heroes. The Greeks invented demigods. The Victorians had Sherlock Holmes. Comic books have a slew of heroes, from Superman to Captain America. Modern audiences have Harry Potter or Katniss Everdeen. These stories exhibit the traits society values as “heroic.”
I think in creating a world that has gone to hell, and placing smart, courageous protagonists in it, humanity is expressing its fears about the future of civilization, and its hope that humanity can survive the worst. The trick is to make the protagonist relatable, something A Quiet Place does very well. Everyone has experienced loss, disappointment, guilt, and shock. And everyone values loving another person enough to die for them, a story that has echoed through many tales across the centuries, and came to its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus.
C.S. Lewis would say it’s a shadow of the ultimate truth, that fiction has a way of tapping into the Deep Magic of the universe.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Charity Bishop devotes her free time to eating chocolate, debating theology with her friends, researching the Tudors, writing books, blogging, and searching for spiritual truth in all aspects of life.