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The Cultural Impact of 1984

English seminar presentation on the cultural impact of the book 1984 by George Orwell.

Joanne W.

on 20 April 2015

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Transcript of The Cultural Impact of 1984

The Cultural
Impact of 1984

Video Games
TV Shows
Art & Advertising
In the movie, Brazil, the government has complete control of the state and has installed extreme measures to track down terrorists. Sam Lowry, the protagonist, is a low-level government employee who is assigned to investigate an error caused by a “bug” in the system that mixes up the names of an innocent man and a terrorist, causing the innocent man to face the consequences of the terrorist’s actions. Sam becomes a victim of the state while trying to correct the mistake.
1984’s totalitarian and bureaucratic government inspired the government in Brazil. Brazil’s citizens are ruled by the Ministry of Information, a group of people obsessed with possessing information on everyone and everything. The Ministry doesn’t promote any specific ideology except for unquestioning obedience to itself.
1984’s Winston Smith inspired Brazil’s Sam Lowry. They share similar lifestyles, thoughts, and actions except that Sam never wanted to go against the government. He only does so after meeting Jill. He doesn’t love Jill because he can break the law with her, she just happens to be the girl of his dreams and his love for her causes him to break the law. Sam and Jill are eventually captured by the government and Sam is tortured by an old friend, Jack, who resembles 1984’s O’Brien. Sam never betrays Jill and is able to live with a clear conscience after being tortured.
V for Vendetta
In the movie, Equilibrium, a futuristic totalitarian state emerges whose ideology is that human emotion is the root cause of conflict. Art, books, and movies are strictly forbidden and feeling emotion is a crime punishable by death. To eliminate emotion everyone is required to take daily injections of an emotion-suppressing drug. John Preston, top ranking government agent and cleric, misses a dose and begins to feel emotions. He was trained to enforce the laws of the regime but now becomes the only person capable of overthrowing it.
1984’s government inspired the Tetragrammaton Council that governs the totalitarian state of Libria in Equilibrium. The Council is led by a figure known as the “Father”. Much like Big Brother, he doesn’t interact with anyone and is seen on video screens throughout the city. He is seen as a symbol for care and punishment when needed. The Council uses police to maintain obedience to the strict laws of Libria. Also part of the law enforcement is a group called the Grammaton Clerics who destroy emotionally stimulating materials (art, books, and music) and execute people hiding them.
Equilibrium Movie Trailer
In the movie, V for Vendetta, the United Kingdom is the only stable country during a pandemic of the “St. Mary’s Virus” and is being ruled by the fascist Norsefire party. Evey, a young woman, is saved from an attempted rape by a masked man named “V” who is driven by a personal vendetta and wants to free the people of England from the corruption of the government. He plans to carry out the “Gunpowder Plot” that Guy Fawkes and the other saboteurs couldn’t do in 1605 and blow up Parliament. Evey becomes an ally to V and helps his plan start a revolution.
The Norsefire party, also referred to as “the party”, governs a lot like the Party in 1984 in the way that both parties oppress the citizens. The Norsefire party imprisoned “undesirables” in concentration camps, like Adolf Hitler did during his reign in Nazi Germany, and now rules as a police state. The Norsefire party uses a surveillance system called “Fate” that oversees the nation and eliminates freedom and privacy. The leader of the Norsefire party, Adam Sutler, appears on large video screens and in people’s homes, similarly to Big Brother. The party displays the motto “Strength through Unity, Unity through Faith” across London like the slogans of the Party in 1984.
Evey can be compared to Winston as both worked for the party; however, were rebellious. They wished to change the way they lived under the rule of the government like how Winston pursues a love affair and Evey helps V escape from the police. V and Winston share the belief that it is possible to revolt against the government with the help of the other people in the society (the proletarians).
V for Vendetta Movie Trailer
In the novel, 1985, Bev Jones is greatly opposed towards the union system that now holds great power over Britain. His dislike of unions causes his membership from his work’s union to be revoked, making him unemployable. He engages in theft to survive but is arrested and forced to be re-educated to convert him into a useful member of society. He joins a group called “The Free Britons” that aims to provide order during the increasing strike-related chaos in Britain; however, is truly trying to establish Britain as a Muslim state. Bev is arrested afterwards and is sentenced to life in a secure institution as the Muslim conversion continues to advance.
The trade unions are so powerful that they have full control over society like the Party in 1984. Every occupation has a union and when a union strike starts it usually turns into a general strike.
The Free Britons in 1985 are similar to The Brotherhood in 1984. They’re both secretive groups that are working to bring down the government.
Similarly to Winston, Bev is arrested and re-educated. He is forced to watch propaganda films and lectures to become a useful member of society.
Inventing Elliot
In the novel, Inventing Elliot, Elliot Sutton’s family moves and he attends a new school. He wants to start a new life at this school after being bullied at his previous school by changing his appearance and actions to avoid the attention of bullies. He’s successful in his disguise but almost too well because he is invited to join a group called “The Guardians”, a secret society of older boys who orchestrate a reign of terror at the school. Elliot must decide what he truly wants: to fit in and be a bully or to be himself.
The high school in Inventing Elliot is ruled by a single organization, The Guardians, like the Party rules Airstrip One. The Guardians use a network of secret informants to keep the school under a reign of terror. They single out victims for punishment and the victim is punished by boys who are obedient to the Guardians. This is similar to how the Party in 1984 keeps people acting the way they want by showing them the punishment they will experience from the Thought Police and it makes people afraid to rebel.
Elliot is like Winston because they both struggle to hide what they really think and feel. They don’t want their true feelings to come out because they risk getting victimized by the group in power. Even though they work for the Guardians or the Party, they both want to be free of them.
Big Brother
Room 101
The TV show, Room 101, is a British comedy show which celebrities are invited to talk about things they hate and try to persuade the host to consign them to a fate worse than death in Room 101. If the host agrees with the things the guest hates it enters Room 101.
The name of the show is named after the torture room in 1984 where people must face their worst fear.
The TV show, Big Brother, is a reality show where contestants are put into a house and are isolated from society until they are evicted from the house or win the game. The houseguests play weekly strength, endurance, and thinking competitions to try and stay longer in the house in hopes of being the last player and winning a cash prize.
The name of the show was inspired by 1984’s Big Brother. The houseguests are monitored by cameras throughout their stay and have microphones on them so they can be watched and heard anywhere in the house. This is similar to how the Party is always watching society.
The comic
‘The Mighty World of Marvel’
Volume 2 #13 (published by Marvel UK) features a character called Captain Airstrip One, an alternative reality version of Marvel’s Captain Britain.
The character’s real name is George Smith, a combination of George Orwell and Winston Smith.
He lives in Airstrip One, an alternativ version of Britain.
He is a member of a group called the Thought Police.
The dialogue of his reality is mostly Newspeak.
O’Brien, an ally to Captain Airstrip One and a member of the Thought Police, paraphrases the speech O’Brien in
gives to Winston in the Ministry of Love.
He tells Captain AO:
“The purpose of power is power! How could it be otherwise? Imagine a boot stamping into a human forever!”

Big Brother is also seen in the comic.
Me and the Big Guy Short Film
George Orwell’s novel
is indisputably a literary masterpiece. Its story is dark but incredibly compelling. It influenced the world and continues to do so even today. It has inspired everything from other books, movies, TV shows, music, and even an underground arts movement. Here are just some things in popular culture that reference 1984.
Captain Airstrip One
The song
off their 2000 album,
describes a society very similar to that
as well as referencing thoughtcrime.
David Bowie
Despite it being written 65 years ago, the novel is timeless. The society that Orwell depicts is frightening and gives us a warning of what the future could be like if we're not careful. We believe people look to
for inspiration because it promotes individuality and freedom which is something everyone should be entitled to have. It also tries to teach its readers to be conscious of the world around them and to rebel against what they don't agree with. It's so well written and the society it depicts seems so real that people can't help but be inspired by it. Plus, as Pablo Picasso once said, "Good artists copy, great artists steal."
SimCity Societies
The authoritarian society in
SimCity Societies
is based slightly on
and includes a Ministry of Truth and Justice Palace.
As well, there are televison screens that display a bald man, very similar to the image of Big Brother in the movie adapation of the novel.
Half Life 2
the world is similar to the world of
There is a tyrant that controls them and his image is displayed on giant broadcasting screens.
The police force is also similar to the Thought Police and always present.
The apartments are similar to the Victory Mansions and the residents are observed by small hovering cameras.
Like the novel, citizens are forced to wear blue denim overalls.
A torture room called 'Room 101' is also seen.
As well, when the game was annouced to be available for Mac, they remade the 1984 Mac commercial using characters from the game.
Half Life 2
Fallout 3
Batman: Arkham City
Justice Machine
Superman: Red Son
‘Superman: Red Son’
, a 3 issue mini-series by DC, features a Superman that is very Big Brother-like.
The series tells an alternative version of the Superman story; where he lands in the Soviet Union instead of Kansas.
The cover of the third and final issue, ‘
Red Son Setting
’ depicts an image of Superman’s head and the caption
‘He’s Watching You’
, similar to the posters of Big Brother in

Lyrics include
~But the spies hide out in every corner/ You can't touch them no, 'cause they're all spies
~I awake to see that no one is free/We're all fugitives
~Look at the way we live
~And if we all hide here/They're going to find us/If we don't hide now/They're going to catch us where we sleep
Five songs off his 1974 album,
"Diamond Dogs"
are inspired by 1984 in some way.
'We Are The Dead'
'Rock 'n' Roll With Me'
'Sweet Thing'
'Big Brother'
Marilyn Manson
The song
'Disposable Teens'
, off the album
"Holy Wood"
, includes the line where Manson refers to himself as a "rebel from the waist down". Winston describes Julia using the same phrase.
Two songs off the album
"Antichrist Superstar"
'Irresponsible Hate Anthem'
is similar to the novel's
'Hate Song
' and includes the lyrics "We hate love, we love hate" and "history was written by the winner".
'The Minute of Decay'
includes a line from the second film adaptation of the novel; "from a dead man, greetings!".
Our Lady Peace
The song
'R.K. 1949-97'
off their album
"Spiritual Machines"
is a short narration in which Ray Kurzweil describes
and the chilling world Orwell creates within it.
As well, the song
off their 1994 ablum
has lyrics that suggest it might reference
's Julia. Research did not confirm nor deny this.
Their album
"Hail to the Thief"
is inspired by both
Dante's Inferno.
It includes the song
As well, the song
'Karma Police'
off the album
"OK Computer"
, refers to the Thought Police.

Rage Against the Machine
Three songs off their 1999 album
"The Battle of Los Angeles"
have lyrics that are influenced by the novel.
'Voice of the Voiceless'
includes the lines "Orwell's hate a terror era coming through, but this little brother is watching you too"
'Sleep Now in the Fire'
references the Parsons family with the lines "I'm deep inside your children, they'll betray you in my name"
which is arguably an indriect reference to
, ends with the lines "who controls the past now, controls the future/ who controls the present now, controls the past"
Apple Computers 1983/84 Commercial
released the Macintosh computer in 1984, they produced a commercial that depicts a society based off the one in
The ad was directed by Ridley Scott and was meant to show that the Macintosh was to save humanity from conformity.
An underground street art group that originated in Germany and Australia (but is now worldwide) is called
; the German translation of 'crimethink'.
They use stickers (as well as grafitti and posters) and display them in public places.
Their trademark design, a stylized white bunny looking over its shoulder, is refered to as 'Winston'. It is also interpreted to represent the rabbit in
Alice in Wonderland
'Winston' has been found in places like the Forbidden City in Beijing and Times Square in New York.
From the Undenk Official Website:
"Orwell’s flagship dystopia ’1984′, about the struggle of the individual in an overwhelmingly powerful and oppressive society seems to hover as a guideline in our approach on today’s and tomorrow’s developments."
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier
The graphic novel,
'The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier'
(part of the DC comic book series of the same name) is set in a world after the fall of Big Brother.
The exception is that this version, BB wasn't as powerful as two years after the fall, Britain reverted to its pre-BB state.
Also BB was General Harold Wharton and Oceania/Airstrip One was only in control of Britain.
It is also set in 1948, when Orwell had intended to set his novel.
The Justice Machine is a team superheroes that appeared in various comics by small publishers during the 1980s and 1990s.
They live on planet 'Georwell', a future version of Earth that has been taken over by a totalitarian government.
The characters in
Fallout 3
are supposedly from a place called 'Vault 101'.
A character, Irving Cheng, calls everyone comrade and his computer has a "Daily Affirmation" which says
"Comrade Cheng is Watching You."

As well, the terminal of the director of vault 92, (the overseer), has the phrase
"Sanity is not statistical."
, a phrase O'Brien says to Winston.
The second game in the
'Batman: Arkham'
series contains a couple references to
Signs in the prisons force authority and one appears to look similar to Big Brother.
As well the Arkham City symbol, when flipped upside down, appears similar to the INGSOC symbol.
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