KUMBAYAH MY ASS: Utopia’s Producers Know Utopia Is Impossible, That’s the Point

Published on September 17, 2014

The whole point of the Utopia concept is that it doesn’t exist. So did the producers of the new ‘reality’ show know this? Of course they did. Check it out…

Utopia, like utopias, was never meant to work. The “social experiment” that premiered on Fox last week has a fascinating premise—15 vastly different contestants are dropped into an oasis, deprived of almost all possessions, and tasked with creating their own sustainable paradise—but the show’s grand gimmick quickly become a portrait of disastrous irony.

Five hours of Utopia have aired thus far, and already the differences and inequalities that cause many “real world” problems—the ones supposedly wiped clean upon contestants’ entry—are becoming sources of violent conflict. Drunken bros, angry hillbillies, and homeless ex-cons are butting heads with ex-military chefs, body-positive feminist hunters, and free-spirited survivalists. It’s what you might call a devolution; and it’s making it abundantly clear why dystopian literature, rather than its utopian counterpart, has flourished: true utopia is inherently impossible. Attempting utopia is the surest route to dystopia—and even if you could make utopia happen, it would be unspeakably boring.

The thing is, the producers knew all of this from the get-go. How could they not? Even those who have never picked up a book in their lives have to understand perfect communities are impossible. So why make a series that is doomed to fail?

But here is the big paradox: In order for utopia to be achieved and the show to actually be successful in its ends, the contestants have to create full cooperative harmony in the compound—but as anyone who has seen an episode of Real Housewives can tell you, peace makes for decidedly unsuccessful television. Those arguments are exactly what are necessary for the show to be interesting enough to get ratings and stay on the air.

“It’s very important for us as producers to look to add special sauce constantly when people do leave, and make sure that we keep things fluid and dynamic, that new ideas and new points of view come in,” Kroll says. “Obviously, this show is like a shark: if it stops moving, it dies.”

Read more: Wired

Get Doug Giles’ new book, Rise, Kill and Eat: A Theology of Hunting from Genesis to Revelation today!