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The Idea of Freedom in Elysium and 1984

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What makes one desire freedom? Does it come about with excessive control or could it result from insufficient power? I am going to explore these two ideas through the analysis of two texts, George Orwell’s renowned ‘1984’ and Neill Blomkamp’s science fiction ‘Elysium’. These two works offer comparable insights into a desire for freedom as well as representing various individual and collective human experiences.

George Orwell establishes the paradoxical nature of constant surveillance despite an absence in regulations under the governmental party, the Party’s, control. Using political satire, the constant reminder that “Big brother is watching you,” forces citizens to self-monitor and internalise surveillance, resulting in a decrease of personal freedom and submitting to leading authorities. However, we later understand that, ‘Nothing was illegal, since there were no longer any laws.’ This forces us to question how the Party has extreme control despite not having laws, as in today’s society laws reinforce authority. Tрe panopticon correlates to this idea, explaining the concept of higher authorities in a prison possessing the ability to see all of the ‘inmates’ at all times, yet the prisoners are unable to see them. As French philosopher, Michel Foucault, explains, “the Panopticon’s ultimate goal is to induce in the inmates a state of conscious visibility.” This objective is certainly parallel with the Party’s; to convince people that they are visible at all times, enhancing the idea that individuals never receive complete freedom.

Comparably, in Blomkamp’s Elysium, we are offered an insight into how neglect can cause a desire for freedom, yet also protection. Our initial vision of Earth, shown through a panning shot, is an impoverished, glum land, contrasted with the futuristic, advanced utopia of Elysium. Similarly, in the opening credits, we understand that ‘Earth’s wealthiest inhabitants fled the planet to preserve their way of life.’ These opening scenes show the inconsistent human behaviour of neglecting those in lower social divisions of society, regardless of their inherent desire for freedom from oppression. Furthermore, the protagonist, Max, is shown to be stopped and beaten by robots for making a crude joke. As the robots are subservient to those on Elysium, the neglect of humanity is portrayed once again. The anomalous behaviour regarding poor treatment of humanity for a personal benefit is also enhanced through the exploitation of labour for benefit of those on Elysium.

Throughout 1984, we can see that the extortionate control of the Party reveals no capacity for autonomy and hence a longing for freedom. “Whatever the Party holds to be the truth, is truth. It is impossible to see reality except by looking through the eyes of the Party.” The malleability and impressionable nature of knowledge is highlighted through the high modality of the statement, which in turn accentuates the paradoxical nature of humans as they aim to rebel, but always culminate in conforming. This is further highlighted through the famous paradoxical statements, “War is peace; freedom is slavery; ignorance is strength.” These phrases appear countless times, involving pairs of 2 contrasting words to indoctrinate citizens. When reading this, I questioned whether it was just a weak judgement that causes individuals to believe these statements. However, the repetition of these statements in the novel correlates to the manner that the Party achieves their objectives; through repetitive affirmations. This displays the inconsistent behaviours of believing an idea without verification but from repetition.

The dialogue between Senator Delacourt and the CEO of Armadyne, the company that Max works for, portrays the immediate concern with Elysium and neglect of those on Earth. Delacourt says, “this habitat is dying. There is a political sickness inside of it. A tumour that needs to be removed.” The inconsistent behaviour of those on Elysium is shown through the interest of a minor problem, compared to an immense issue which is seemingly not relevant; the destitute in need of help on Earth. This social inequality is further validated through the revealing desire for the same necessities. ‘They have it all on Elysium, food, water, medicine, and they’ll do anything to keep [citizens of Earth] out.” We can compare this to present society as humans are inconsistent and self-centred beings who have a constant primary concern; themself.

Social inequality and poor treatment of those in lower classes have continuously been evident in our society and through the likes of these two texts, we can understand the desire for freedom concerning excessive control and neglect. In my close study, both literary and cinematic techniques assisted the representation of this key collective human experience as well as enhancing my knowledge on human motivations and behaviors. 

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