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Dystopian narratives involve a society in which great suffering and injustice are present of which is caused by authoritative figures craving of power. Thus, when one is able to critically control all aspects of society, a totalitarian regime results. Dystopias result in the infringement upon the rights of humans, a great amount of surveillance, and a lack of societal privacy. Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four revolves around a dystopian society undergoing a totalitarian rule, that strips the rights and freedoms provided to individuals leading to a constant state of injustice. Gilliam’s film Brazil showcases a science fiction-based society ruled over by the “Ministry of Information”, employing a large centralized bureaucracy conquered by an authority figure relying on paperwork. Such fictional narratives seem so falsified in comparison to present-day America; the continuous fabrication of narratives and technology is given the benefit of the doubt due to the assets it is in order for the betterment of society to occur. However, with this advancement, citizens are forced into giving up their rights to privacy allowing a dystopia to be formed.
The unreliability of privacy in today’s society revolving around the technological advancements exposed in the BBC’s article “Is privacy dead in an online world?”, manifests the ideology that is composed by the gathering of an individual’s record of activities. The knowledge stored within technology has evolved at a tremendous rate, leading to a far more efficient society that is provided to one within a click of a button. Throughout the novel 1984, the residents of Oceania suffer the unfortunate conditions of living under constant surveillance.
Big Brother uses telescreens, devices that operate as televisions, security cameras, and microphones to monitor each individual’s actions. “It was terribly dangerous to let your thoughts wander when you are in the public or within range of a telescreen. The smallest thing could give you away’. The people of Oceania live under constant fear as their entire life revolves around being observed. They do not have the freedom to express themselves as “Reality exists in the human mind, and nowhere else”.Within the novel 1984, it is evident that the defiant thoughts presented in Winston’s mindset can lead him into a world of trouble. It is certainly impossible for the citizens of Oceania to think for themselves given that their thoughts and opinions are always being monitored. The citizens of Oceania are deeply oppressed, the sole reason why they do not stand up for their rights is that they fear of getting “Vaporized”. This is merely significant as it shows the level of authoritarian power Big Brother has over the people of Oceania.
Similarly, Terry Gilliam’s Brazil merges many of society’s issues, including the lack of privacy with the use of technology, to produce a controlled society. In the film, it is evident that human violation by technology is problematic, as it is shown when the “two main characters are being nudged by machines”. Technology is for a fact turning against human society. Similar to how the use of technology infringes upon the right of humans, in Brazil, it is obvious that man’s own creations can turn against the human race. The use of technology as a ploy to blind citizens into a life filled with oppression showcases the detrimental distress caused when technology’s use is altered.
For instance, at the starting point of the film, prior to Buttle’s detainment, a family is watching television when suddenly, getting interrupted by the electricity being cut. No one had known what was going on until the main provider of the household is captured, bagged up, and taken away. With the family coming to know of how big of an impact technology can have on one, the family is left with nothing but a sudden realization of how oppressive a dystopian society is. This correlation between the awareness of the situation and the appearance of technology continues throughout the film like when Sam Lowry, returns to Buttle’s apartment, to issue the refund check, Mrs. Buttle and Jill Layton are confronted by people. People who seem to understand the depths of the corrupt system they are forced to be a part of, while coexisting, in a setting where not even a light bulb is turned on. In fact, the block that the Buttles live on not only seems devoid of technology but is against it.
Another example of technology turning against humanity in a sense is when Sam’s car blows up while he is trying to help out a poor widow. All while doing a simple courteous act, it is prevalent that technology can turn any situation into a bad one. In all, these sources demonstrate the consequences technology has on dystopian societies. BBC’s article suggests that “big corporations steal people’s basic information such as their sexuality and any health problems they might have” which in turn sparks a lot of backlashes. Just after when the credit rating agency Equifax was hacked where one’s “social security numbers, birth dates, telephone numbers…. in some cases, driver’s licenses and credit card numbers” were exposed. As a result, this is left to be one of the largest data breaches in the world. Until this point, everyone started to question: the safety of one’s information online. how safe one’s information is online these days. It is “technologically and financially feasible” for businesses and governments to do something so discriminatory such as storing records of activities for their own personal use. This is a transparent example emphasizing how despite having a lot of technological advancements in today’s society it comes at an inevitable cost of giving up one’s private data for the mere benefit of companies creating new products and services for the public.
The dystopian society portrayed in these mediums not only involves technology infringing upon the rights of human beings but also the dependency people have on technology. This is prevalent in 1984 when Big Brother and The Party solely depend on telescreens to monitor the lives of the citizens of Oceania. Telescreens are consistently present throughout the novel. Like when, “Winston turned a switch and the voice sank somewhat, though the words were still distinguishable. The instrument, the telescreen, it was called could be dimmed, but there was no way of shutting it off completely”. It is evident that the privacy of each individual is diminished due to these advancements in technology, which eventually results in a degraded society involving the restrictions directed towards each individual in this society, forcing them to live controlled and boring lives without the freedom to think and act upon free will.
As a result, a dystopia emerges in which each person is not truly happy with the conditions that they must reside in, just to survive. In a like manner, the movie, Brazil, shows that when complex machines are built, more chances arise for those machines to deteriorate. Given this, if we have built our lives to revolve around those machines and become reliant on them, then we too, break down with them. There are numerous examples of this argument: The first being when “Lowry’s coffee machine pours liquid on his toast”, his “air conditioning breaking down”, and the ridiculous “plastic surgery operations”, which in turn “stretch people’s skin to temporarily capture the youth, making people prematurely old and then killing them“.
When fiction mirrors reality, one can relate to the issues that happen in 1984 and Brazil and make connections to how these issues still go on today. Quote from Brazil. In BBC’s article, it is evident that no one is safe these days with such fast-growing technology, and “the time has come to recognize that privacy is now an illusion”. The fact that “Data is being created as we breathe, and as we live”, it is becoming even harder to live without creating data with such technological advancements which are skyrocketing.While most people disagree about the data that corporations take from us and that it infringes upon our rights. Some don’t mind and that one should “embrace the fact we’re creating lots of data because we get better products and services in return”. Regardless, many people fear that one may “become desensitized and become quite resigned” due to the fact that one’s data is harvested, and that any criminal who wants the data can get access to it. With that being said, places such as Europe have taken some steps to introduce new regulations on data privacy to prevent governments and businesses to take data that is not theirs from users.
In conclusion, Dystopian narratives reveal a world that one can relate back to reality. In “1984” the society is interpreted as a complete dystopia which is visible through the overpowering authority figure, lack of freedom, and distress present within the society. Brazil suggests that with the benefits of growing technological advancements it comes at an inevitable cost of the futuristic machines deteriorating. From a more global perspective, the loss of privacy will, unfortunately, continue considering the fact that we as a society live in a fast-growing technological era that will be difficult to control, resulting in desensitization to information theft.
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