How do political practices influence mass culture? Conversely, how does mass culture influence political practice? This project addresses these questions by turning to the concepts of utopia and dystopia. Imagined utopic and dystopic visions express both the hopes and anxieties of the societies producing them. Dystopias also highlight the mechanisms of power that function within particular social orders. Through readings of Lois Lowry’s The Giver and Phillip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, I demonstrate how utopia and dystopia function and how we can respond to dystopic realities by theorizing solutions that are more conducive to the preservation of democracy. Additionally, I read Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy as a dystopia that exaggerates the fears of terrorism and crime in order to cause the viewers to see the ceding of civil liberties as a reasonable avenue for pursuing safety. In this way, the films reflect and support post-9/11 domestic and foreign policy, especially with respect to issues of surveillance. If this is the case, and if we are currently allowing our view of policy to be shaped by the imaginary mechanism that is dystopia, then is there another way that we can conceive of or imagine the world that is more conducive to democratic practices? The question of what a more-democratic response to dystopic imaginaries might be is tied to our real-world policy attempts to create utopic regimes in the here and now.


Weaver, Mark

Second Advisor

Barnard, John


English; Political Science


Children's and Young Adult Literature | Continental Philosophy | Ethics and Political Philosophy | Literature in English, North America | Other English Language and Literature | Other Film and Media Studies | Political Theory


Democracy, Terrorism, Dystopia, Utopia, Superheroes, Biopolitics, Popular Culture

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis Exemplar



© Copyright 2016 Benjamin B. Taylor