Boring dystopia is the way the world ends not with a bang or a wimple | Elle Hunt


Its not the drama or horror of The Handmaids Tale we have to look out for, but a no change message on a broken cashpoint or a childrens self-checkout toy


Work gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it. It might have chilling echoes of the iron-wrought words on the gates of Auschwitz, but this phrase is written in cheery cursive on a wall of Scunthorpe library. Tory-run North Lincolnshire council think this is art, grumbled blogger Danni Phillips, who shared a photo of the mural on Twitter. Orwell is turning in his grave.

Actually, the quote is from Stephen Hawking, from a 2010 interview but writ large without context and passed off as art, its another unsettling reminder of the boring dystopia in which we find ourselves. The term was coined by the late academic and cultural theorist Mark Fisher in 2015, to refer to the bland, mildly coercive signs that abound in late-stage capitalist society, which foster a vague sense of isolation or unease.

It is more intuitive than a formal concept, but once youve got your eye in, you see it everywhere from the no change message on a broken cashpoint; to a childrens My very own self-checkout toy; to the mental health condition body dysmorphia, reportedly brought on by people who want to make their faces look they way they do filtered on Snapchat; to Tommy Hilfigers plans to kit out clothes with tracking technology to monitor wearers habits and create a new micro-community of brand ambassadors.

For a time in 2015, Fisher maintained a popular Facebook group bringing together examples of Silicon Valley ideology, PR and advertising … [distracting] us from our own aesthetic poverty, and the reality of what we have which is just all these crap robots; he shut it down when it started to become like any other Facebook group in reinforcing the condition it was intended to displace. Fisher died in January last year. Yet boring dystopia continues to be a useful term for the mundane but quietly nightmarish ways in which our world is changing. As a meme, it is a blackly humorous way of drawing attention to the water that were all swimming in.

Visakan Veerasamy, a content strategist, brought together some doozys on Twitter in April: a poster reads: Need books? No worries. Donate plasma for a blood donor incentive scheme; a Timberland ad saying: Youre never going to be able to retire. Why should your boots?; an ad for a recruitment company showing a woman holding her CV over her face above the words: Dont see me, see what I can do.

It goes beyond saying technology is bad to show how society working against you has become so normalised,you can barely summon the energy to be outraged by it.

Often when we imagine a coming dystopia, we picture end-times scenes: hand-to-hand arena combat, probably a killer soundtrack. Right now the lens for this is The Handmaids Tale, with its unsettling parallels with contemporary crackdowns on individual freedoms and blinkering bonnets.

But the boring dystopia meme reminds us the end could arrive quietly but corrosively, with a total erosion of work-life balance, crowdfunding for necessary healthcare, infantilisation by technology and the equation of time with capital. But banality doesnt make for compelling television.

The closest weve come is Charlie Brookers Black Mirror, yet that was more easily dismissed as scaremongering over technology. Maybe because the world of The Handmaids Tale requires an imaginative leap, the similarities with current events prompt you to vow not to let it come to the situation it depicts. But if you want to see where society is headed, the signs are already there on the out-of-order ATM and the wall of Scunthorpe library.

Thanks, Robyn, for letting us anticipate Ur comeback

Robyn gave fans five days notice for Missing Us debut. Photograph: Mark Peckmezian

Robyn, Swedens queen of pop, is back with Missing U, her first single since 2013. Im filled with nostalgia: not only for my university years when there were many living-room impressions of her interpretive dance in the Call Your Girlfriend video, but also for a time when music was released, not dropped by surprise, like a hot plate.

Fans were given five days notice for Missing Us debut on BBC Radio 1 last Wednesday, the minimum thats polite for any kind of appointment. The track itself proved a slow burn but the countdown reminded me of the pleasure of anticipating new music.

When I started buying CDs 15 years ago, release dates were key for budgeting purposes, and for structuring fandom. Buying a new album the day it came out was a badge of distinction. And Q4, the four months pre-Christmas loaded with the most important releases, was the happiest time of year.

More recently, the album cycle has been run off the rails with leaks, streaming-service exclusives and tracklists being tinkered with post-release, but its the surprise drop thats caught me out most.

When Beyoncs self-titled visual album materialised out of the ether in 2013, it was truly exciting. I HAVE TO GO THERES A NEW BEYONC ALBUM, I said, as I abruptly left work drinks.

In June, when she and Jay-Z announced theyd just popped a new album on Tidal, I thought: a bit of notice would have been nice.

In the lead-up to Missing U, I revisited Robyns many hits and was reminded of parties that peaked with Dancing On My Own, of flying to another city just to see her live.

Its said that 30% of the happiness you derive from an experience comes from anticipating it. Cheers to Robyn for allowing us that.

Wiggle marriage has bought the farm

A lengthy joint statement on Instagram: Lachlan Gillespie and Emma Watkins. Photograph: Matrix/GC Images

Emma Watkins and Lachlan Gillespie, the yellow Wiggle and the purple Wiggle, are splitting after two years of marriage. The Australian childrens entertainers made the announcement with a lengthy joint statement on Instagram that may set a new standard for conscious uncoupling codswallop. In 200 words, they reassure fans that they continue to share the most beautiful life together; that the split is a positive change in their relationship; that their incredible friendship is stronger than ever; and that this is the only comment theyll be making. As euphemisms go, this is impressive. The Wiggless love hasnt died its just gone to live with a nice family in the country.

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