From "Starmania" to "Andor", should dystopias be reinvented?


“When the year 2000 comes, we will be 40 years old! If we don't live now, tomorrow will be too late! Inevitably, some replies have aged a little… However, the new staging of Starmania currently on the bill , after two years of postponement due to the pandemic, is horribly topical. Why horribly? Because Starmania is awful.

At the exit of the musical Seine, the spectators of the show are in shock. "I did not remember this violence," explains Nathalie, who came with her 14-year-old daughter. Léa, a fan of Starmania and Balavoine songs in particular, is completely overwhelmed: “Johnny's character is very tough, it's hard to love him. And then it's so sad..."

Tubes and shade

“In 1979, Starmania was a dystopia, a pessimistic projection of our humanity into the future, explains Thomas Jolly, director of the show . Today, reality has caught up with fiction. Plamondon was prophetic. There are plenty of amazing things in his texts: the question of gender, ecology, the rise of nationalism, terrorism... Somewhere, Starmania has foreseen the September 11 attacks since it ends with the destruction of the tallest tower in the West…” More generally, Starmania 2022 will speak to the heart of the disenchanted post-Covid generation, with one in two songs evoking despair, loss of meaning and suicidal thoughts.

Thomas Jolly's staging relies, of course, on the original songs which are, for the most part, hits, but also on sharp lights, agonizing contrasts with characters with faces in shadow. Zéro Janvier's tower and the costumes also take up codes from recent dystopias such as Hunger Games or Squid Game .

“The villains of a dystopia today would be climatosceptics. »

In this, Starmania fits perfectly with the definition of dystopia given to us by Jean-Pierre Andrevon , author of science fiction novels and the Anthologie des dystopias  : "The question that dystopias pose is 'what is -what we choose as a society". The worst dystopias are those that are valiantly accepted by those who live it without realizing it. Today, the danger is climate change, the depletion of resources, pollution… The villains of a dystopia today would be climatosceptics. »

But it is not only on the stage of the musical Seine that the dystopian genre is brought up to date. On Disney+, the Andor series places the Star Wars universe in this niche. Dehumanizing totalitarian regime (with imperial costumes worthy of a III Reich SF), destruction of ecosystems and indigenous cultures, corruption of the elites… and heroically desperate resistance.

On another platform, Hulu, season 5 of The Handmaid's Tales has just ended. The series, and the book by Margaret Atwood from which it is taken, depicts a society plagued by an epidemic that enslaves women to ensure the survival of the human species . A successful dystopia that revived the genre. But which also raises the question of the interest of the genre ...

The pleasure of the worst

“There is currently a debate in the middle of the imagination, notes Betty Piccioli , author and literary director of the festival l’Ouest hurlant . Are we not too permanently pessimistic in our fictions? Wouldn't it be better to write utopias? As authors, don't we have a responsibility to show something else? »

Joachim Thôme, author of the game The Tribes of the Wind , agrees: “It seems to me that there is an unhealthy enjoyment in imagining the worst, the disaster, and in telling it. Why a science fiction story would necessarily be negative, dark and violent. In my game , I wanted to imagine an inspiring story. The idea of ​​reconstruction or construction interests me more than the idea of ​​collapse. »

The good bad story

If in The Tribes of the Wind , the players must, as a tribe and therefore in cooperation, rebuild a better world, more colorful and centered on the preservation of nature, the game is a bit alone in its niche. Many dystopian works depict alienating societies and their collapse . “There is a desire to see the society that makes us suffer disappear, observes Joachim Thôme. But for several generations it will be the horror of this collapse. »

Why, then, not to project oneself on the after, or better, on stories of reparation. “There is a technical aspect that is difficult to circumvent: to write a story, you need conflict, observes Betty Piccioli. It's easier to write a story where everything is going badly than when everything is going well… But you can do it by getting out of the fascination with misfortune. »

Woe to all

Especially since this misfortune always tends to strike the same people… In Starmania , it is the female people who die (Cristal is murdered, Stella commits suicide, Marie-Jeanne is condemned to misfortune…). “In dystopias, and the genre of the imaginary in general, the female characters are often the worst treated, observes Betty Piccioli. It's as if, to become an interesting character, a woman must necessarily suffer and face traumas specific to her gender. It's something I talk about a lot with other authors. If we choose to make our female characters suffer, at least let's do it in a less sexist way. »

The Handmaid's Tales has thus been accused of reveling in the spectacle of women's suffering. But current or older dystopias have other blind spots: the situation of racialized people, the question of disability, homophobia... To stay in the game (according to), dystopias must imagine the worst for everyone .