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Judge Dredd and the Failed Politics of Mega-City One
By Bert Ehrmann
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Fort Wayne Reader
The Judge Dredd comic book inside the pages of 2000 AD has been in publication the last 38 years and has spawned two films. The first film, Judge Dredd (1995), starred Sylvester Stallone and was, to put it mildly, terrible with Sly spouting lines like, “I am the luh (law)!” The second film Dredd (2012) had Karl Urban (Star Trek) in the title role and was actually pretty great.
The Judge Dredd backstory, as Dredd puts it himself in the latest film is, “America is an irradiated wasteland. Within it lies a city. Outside the boundary walls, a desert. A cursed earth. Inside the walls, a cursed city, stretching from Boston to Washington D.C. An unbroken concrete landscape. 800 million people living in the ruin of the old world and the mega structures of the new one. Mega blocks. Mega highways. Mega City One.”
Mega City One is kind’a like New York City in the 1970s to the extreme — originally, the setting of Mega City One was of a future New York in the 21st century. But with the criminals and corruption of the 1970s amped up to the extreme along with robotic uprisings, mutant invasions and evil demonic Judges like Judge Death from alternate dimensions to name a few of the woes of Mega City One. And Dredd, along with a cadre of other Judges, must keep their city safe from all this extreme violence.
These Judges have total power and act as police, judge, jury and sometimes executioner when the crime calls for it.
Except after watching Dredd for the many-ith time I came to the conclusion that while the Judges might be trying to “keep the peace” they’ve either failed in their duties or are so understaffed that they can’t effectively complete them.
In Dredd, it’s revealed that inside Mega City One there are, “12 serious crimes reported every minute.” Or 17,280 a day. While the crime rate of Mega City would be relatively low, it’s also revealed that the Judges only have enough resources to respond to around 6% of these crimes. Or you can count on a Judge to turn up to around a little over 1,000 of the 17,000+ “serious” crimes each day.
To put that another way, if you’re a criminal in Mega City One you’ve got a 94% chance of never having to deal with the law no matter what you do.
It doesn’t help matters that of all the new Judges who are recruited and trained 20% of them “don’t survive” the first day according to the movie. Looking at policing statistics now and assuming there are around four million Judges to 800 million people and that 10% of that force either retires or is otherwise incapable of fulfilling their duties each year would mean that there would need to be at least 400,000 new Judges annually. But you can’t just create 400,000 new Judges, you have to have MORE since of those 400,000 80,000 wouldn’t be around to see their second day of work!
And who knows what the casualty rate is for a new Judge after a week or even a month!
And Mega City One isn’t a very nice place to live either. The unemployment rate there is astronomical and the living conditions are abysmal. Most of Dredd takes place inside a run-down, colossal 200 story skyscraper that Dredd and his rookie trainee Judge Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) become trapped in when they respond to a call there.
This building houses over 75,000 people and is considered a slum with nearly 400 people crammed into each and every floor.
In Dredd, the Chief Judge says, “The Judges are losing the war for the city.” It seems to me that they’ve already lost. With the rampant crime, terrible living conditions and odds of survival for the Judges it’s a wonder why there aren’t MORE crimes in Mega City One where seems that crime does pay.
Both movies Judge Dredd and Dredd are available on home media and the Judge Dredd comics are still being published in the pages of 2000 AD and Judge Dredd Megazine. Visit me online at DangerousUniverse.com.