Five 1984 and the Dystopian Genre



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Five

1984 and the Dystopian Genre

In his notes on the casting of V for Vendetta, James McTeigue remarks that he selected John Hurt for the role of Adam Sutler partially because of his former role as Winston Smith, the dissident romantic, in Michael Radford's version of the Orwellian classic 1984, auspiciously released in 1984. Similarly, Moore and Lloyd cite Orwell and Huxley as early influences on the genesis of the V for Vendetta project (270). Perhaps to as great an extent as The Count of Monte Cristo (1934 film version), Orwell's novel and the Radford film version, as well as several other cinematic dystopias, shadow and structure the VJV text. One might say that after Orwell's 1984, there was little else to do in the genre of dystopia than to create variations on and footnotes to the extraordinary creative insight of the author, who in 1949 managed to anticipate many of the technologi­cal developments of the next sixty years, and whose efforts were so suc­cessful that his narrative became a paradigm for visions of future societies in which government hegemony has become absolute, the state gone mad with surveillance, committed to the task of obliterating creative and abstract thought, thus producing a culture in which language is so impov­erished that it is no longer sufficient to conceptualize or express rebellion or sedition. While institutional control in V's England has not reached the monolithic intrusiveness of 1984, in which individuals are carefully mon­itored for minute indications of dissident thought or emotion, the Norsefire government has, nevertheless, adopted many of the surveillance and disciplinary techniques common within Orwell's Oceania. The 1984 ref­erences within McTeigue's film are not derived exclusively from the Orwellian text, but also from texts (cinematic and literary) that followed



Five. 1984 and the Dystopian Genre

the influential novel, and McTeigue's film in its turn appears to have impacted the more recent film Children of Men, or at least one cannot help but view the latter in the context of the former.

The societies of both 1984 And V for Vendetta evolved in the wake of an atomic apocalypse, a significant concern in the year that Orwell was writing, as the possibility of an all-out atomic exchange had become cred­ible if not likely. America had only a few years earlier exploded atomic bombs over Japan, and the Soviet Union had countered the threat in 1949 by detonating its first nuclear weapon, a blast that signaled the forty year arms race and cold war. Writing at the beginning of this process, Orwell predicts the exchange of nuclear weapons between the great military pow­ers of the age within ten years of Russia's atomic genesis; however, he also imagines that the shock of the limited nuclear conflict compels govern­ments to abandon this devastating weapon, concerned that they will oth­erwise destroy human civilization along with the very powers they crave (194). The result is ceaseless internecine warfare between the three super­states — Oceania, Eastasia, and Eurasia, a conflict that involves no risk of conquest or annihilation, its purpose only to distract the population, to act as a legitimation for greater governmental control, to justify increas­ingly greater demands for individual sacrifice on behalf of the power struc­ture. In V for Vendetta, the constant threat of war or terrorism and chaos ensures that the population will not question the judgment and the demands of the seemingly besieged government, for to do so would under­mine the war effort and thus national security. Orwellian critic John David Frodsham has identified this "need for a mass mobilization effort" as com­monplace within communist and totalitarian states (153). In V for Vendetta, Europe has been devastated by a nuclear conflict, and America has col­lapsed into chaos and civil war. England, which appears to have escaped much of the former devastation, save for some areas outside the city referred to as the quarantine zone, has become wary of international influences or inttusions that may interfere with the country's safety and renewed pros­perity. The shock of the faux terrorist attack involving the St. Mary's virus has led to popular support for the repressive gestapo tactics of the Norsefire Fingermen. The people are conditioned to believe (via constant television broadcasts and misinformation campaigns) that they need the strict con­trols of a totalitarian state in order to avoid further attacks upon their national sovereignty. Both Terry Gilliam's Brazil and Alex Cox's 2002



V for Vendetta as Cultural Pastiche

cinematic version of Cyril Tourneur's The Revengers Tragedy also share this post-apocalyptic dystopian landscape. While Brazil does not specifically mention nuclear war, all imagery of the countryside reveals utter devasta­tion of the environment, the landscape laid to waste by war or rapacious and destructive industry. The images of Sam Lowry's, the fumbling and benighted bureaucrat's, fantasy pastoral landscape are a sharp contrast to the devastated countryside, and they form a specific allusion to Winston's dreams of escape from the urban nightmare that is London to a safe bucolic setting that includes forbidden romance, as depicted in Radford's 1984. Cox's futuristic version of Tourneur's 17th century tragedy begins with a satellite image of northern France and southern England in which a vast hole has replaced the landscape making Liverpool one of England's south­ern most cities. In the wake of the nuclear devastation, Britain's class hier­archy has not collapsed but has intensified. Having escaped destruction, the aristocracy became even more exploitative and predatory than they were previously.

The dystopian societies of these films recognize the virtues of pro­ducing misinformation in the interests of social control. Frodsham sees this as customary within the totalitarian system as well — the government con­trols "all mass communications and all organizations (153). VJVs BTN is a government sanctioned and manipulated media that rehabilitates or re­writes the news so that it reinforces ruling party interests and priorities. The director of the BTN, Mr. Dascomb, sits on the Chancellor's cabinet. Several times he is commanded by Sutler to spin the news in order to make the government seem unassailable. In the nightly news report, V's destruc­tion of the Old Bailey becomes a planned demolition and includes a lec­ture on the dangers of clinging to the old structures, "symbols of a decadent past." V's murder of Prothero is reported as a massive heart attack, and V's invasion of the BTN studio, according to that organization, ends in his death at the hands of heroic public servants. Dascomb remarks that it is the government's task to alter the news and the BTN's merely to report.

Orwell's Winston Smith is actually employed in the editing and rewrit­ing of historical reports and official records. Because the Party constructs itself as infallible, a complete rewriting of history must be undertaken when­ever the administration shifts its policies. When international hostilities and alliances shift from Eurasia to Eastasia or vice versa, all databases must be altered to make it appear as though the alliances have remained the



Five. 1984 and the Dystopian Genre

same. Big Brother's party slogan states, "who controls the past, controls the future, who controls the present controls the past" (35), and Winston Smith is employed in the rehabilitation of the past to safeguard party control of the future, yet he has become increasingly dissatisfied with his work. The country has been at war with Eastasia and allied with Eurasia, and when alliances abruptly shift, he cannot bring himself to forget the past (as is required in the practice of "doublethink") even though it is his occupation to alter it. He becomes increasing disillusioned by the lies to which he is privy. His odyssey of discovery is analogous to Finch's in VfV\ the inspector doggedly follows the trail of deleted and forgotten informa­tion about the Norsefire rise to power, only to discover the lies upon which the power apparatus was constructed. At this time, he actually begins to participate in its destruction. Gilliam's Brazil is a culture that has gone mad in the collection and control of information, and vast institutions have been created to process and safeguard this practice. Moreover, there is an assumption on the part of the state that the institutions are infallible because they are mechanized. No one will take responsibility for the fact that Buttle was arrested in place of Tuttle and that Buttle's bank account was debited for the arrest rather than Tuttle's.

The telescreen that is ubiquitous in the lives of the Orwellian party members is echoed in V for Vendetta as well as Brazil. The latter film includes a conceptualization of technology that produces a strong visual overlap between the two films. In each, the advanced technology seems to be based upon a 1940s or '50s aesthetic. In 1984, the advanced offices and telescreens appear to be futuristic versions of a 1940s work station. In the Giiliam film, the screens themselves constitute a visual quotation. The tiny black and white screens are reminiscent of early television rather than the video and computer technology of today. Moreover, the long rows of cubicles within the work environment of Radford's 1984 are reiterated in the industries of Gilliam's dystopia. The denizens of both attempt to escape the drudgery, squalor, and collectivism of their workaday lives through fantasy, in Brazil by altering the channel of the computer screen and in 1984 by escaping the omniscient eye of the telescreen. The Orwellian screen operates both as a receiver and a transmitter, monitoring the party mem­bers in their most private moments, but also serving as a source for patri­otic news, music, and oratory as well as other programming that advances state interests, such as the interactive exercise program in which Winston


92

V for Vendetta as Cultural Pastiche

is chided by his instructor for failing to make an adequate effort. The role of the telescreen in population control suggests Jeremy Bentham's "panop­ticon," an idea popularized among literary critics by Foucault's Discipline and Punish (200-217). The panopticon generates self-disciplined bodies by hiding its mechanisms in plain sight. The guard tower in Bentham’s pen­itentiary architecture offers visual access to all areas of the localized prison structure, but those under observation are only able to see the tower, not those who may or may not occupy the same. Thus the structure functions by evoking self-consciousness in the detainees, who do not know whether they are being observed at any particular time; thus they must assume that and subsequently behave as though they are always under scrutiny. Sim­ilarly, Winston is never certain whether he is being watched by the gov­ernment apparatus, thus he must assume he is. After all, the principal evidence in the prosecution of "thought crimes" is derived from the tele­screen's capture of somnolent speech. Winston must, therefore, hide his thoughts, even in his sleep.

While the television in VfV can be interactive, such as that used in Chancellor Sutler's cabinet meetings, the screens operate almost exclu­sively in the circulation of propaganda. Non-governmental programming, such as Gordon Deitrich's show, is censored. Most of the broadcasting seems to consist of government propaganda in its many forms, such as the misleading news reports, nightly editorials by Lewis Prothero, and occasional fiery speeches by Chancellor Sutler. Population surveillance is more conventional in McTeigue's fascist London than in Orwell's dystopia. Much monitoring is conducted by roving vans with high-pow­ered antennas mounted on the roof; thus little or no effort is made at con­cealment, but the nocturnal activities and long distance detection of this spy apparatus makes it somewhat less conspicuous. In addition, more tra­ditional surveillance is conducted by plainclothes Fingermen, who cannot be identified until they flash their badges. In Terry Gilliam's Brazil, a Kafkaesque dystopia in which public works, mechanization, and infor­mation collection have proliferated to the point of absurdity and madness, surveillance is achieved through ID tracking and through CCTV cameras mounted throughout the bloated social institutions.

Frodsham recognizes the need to purge historical artifacts as indica­tive of totalitarian rule, "Anything old and for that matter anything beau­tiful, was always suspect" (145). The authoritarian regimes of both 1984



Five. 1984 and the Dystopian Genre

and VfV consolidate power by purging cultural artifacts, the same that would verify and validate an alternative past, one contrary to that con­structed by the ruling party. As cited above, the Orwellian dystopia engages in a full-scale revision of history whenever an alteration occurs that would tend to discredit official constructions of historical and contemporary events, including the deletion of all written references to people who have been eliminated by the state. There is also a systematic effort to eradicate material reminders of an alternative past, reminders such as antiques which testify to a bygone culture that revered novelty and individuality. The production of entertainments, such as reading materials, have been rele­gated to a government institution that mass produces narratives consid­ered harmless to the interests of the state, and the purpose of these entertainments is escapism. The absolutist control of the population does not extend to the Proles, who are considered beneath consideration and contempt; they are merely distracted from political engagement through pornography and cheap liquor. One particularly callous party slogan states that "animals and Proles are free." From one of the few remaining antique shops in the Proles' sector of the city, Winston Smith purchases an innocuous glass ornament that encases a chunk of coral; its simplicity and impracticality fascinate him, and he feels compelled to conceal it from the telescreen because it might constitute evidence of thought crime, evi­dence that his ruminations have strayed beyond the simple consideration of duty to the state. Radford's version of the Proletarian antique shop is a dusty and desolate room filled with junk, the mostly mechanical left­overs of a culture completely devastated.

The institutional control of cultural artifacts in VfV has been touched upon previously in this discussion. V's home is virtually a museum in which he safeguards the interdicted relics of past ages. Director McTeigue told his design and art department that he wanted the Shadow Gallery to contain "little pieces of civilization that aren't available anymore" (Lamm and Bray 196). His home becomes a repository for the portions of a frag­mented and fragmenting civilization. While there seems to be no con­certed effort to control people's thoughts or eliminate individuality as Frodsham observes in 1984 (151), there are efforts to abolish all materials that would seem to challenge governmental hegemony. For example, after V broadcasts Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture and blows up the Old Bailey, Sut­ler, demonstrating his philistinism as he is unable to identify the familiar

V for Vendetta as Cultural Pastiche

music, quickly has it added to the list of "objectionable materials" that are to be publicly banned because they challenge his power. As in 1984, pub­lic displays of art in VfV are replaced with government propaganda posters, particularly those tending to promote a fear culture founded upon the threat of terrorism from foreign powers and interests. London of 1984 is plastered with posters depicting Big Brother, hostile foreign soldiers, and party slogans. The same is true in other cinematic dystopias: the walls of Gilliam's Brazil are plastered with parodies of propaganda, including many nonsensical and absurdist placards; Cox's Revengers Tragedy is decorated with banners and billboards advocating the cult of personality that has grown up around the Duke and his decadent family. Similarly, Sutler's Lon­don includes images of the Chancellor and the party mantra "Strength through Unity: Unity through Faith."

The respective dystopian societies of 1984 and VfV are cultivated by hatemongering. The blighted outer party members of Orwellian Lon­don are obliged to engage in a virtual ecstasy of hatred on a daily basis, a practice known as the "Two Minutes of Hate," in which the image of "Emmanuel Goldstein, the Enemy of the People" appears on the telescreens along with the broadcast of his fiery seditious rhetoric that denounces the goals of Big Brother's regime and demands peace as well as a restoration of civil liberties. The population are required to repudiate the message of the subversive and his clandestine organization —"The Brotherhood." Of course, the text suggests that both Goldstein and the Brotherhood are mythic, created to channel the hostilities and tensions of the population into a harmless carnivalesque display of powerful emotions. The poten­tially seditious pressures associated with everyday coping in a totalitarian regime are burned up in an innocuous display of loathing for an over-deter­mined face and dogma. Big Brother is then constructed as the savior of the state, standing between the people and the chaos of Goldstein's destruc­tive agenda. Ironically, Big Brother himself is in all probability a fabrica­tion generated by the party to give a face to its agenda and to create a simplistic duality between good and evil in the socio-political spectrum, and in which the choice of the present regime is made easy. The book which contains Goldstein's anti-totalitarian manifesto was actually written by O'Brien, the inner party member who betrays and then interrogates Winston.

The power of the Sutler government in VfV k similarly based upon



Five. 1984 and the Dystopian Genre

hate-mongering and divisive rhetoric. The Norsefire party came to power. as we know, by scapegoating a group of Muslims who were blamed for the worst bio-terrorist attack in the history of the nation, one actually perpe­trated by ambitious politicians. However, the hate-mongering in Britain obviously pre-dated Norsefire and was merely exploited not created by Sutler and his cronies. The medical experimentation on Muslims, homo­sexuals, and foreigners antedated the Norsefire power play. For much of the narrative the government propaganda is effective. The bourgeoisie, even Evey, are compelled to believe that V is a terrorist and a threat to the safety and prosperity of the nation; however, the repressive tactics of the increasingly nervous government eventually turn the people's sympathy toward the revolution or restoration that V embodies.

The internment camps in 1984 and VfV are identically named "reclamation camps" (Orwell 163), and V's association with the indestruc­tibility of revolutionary ideals—"Beneath this mask there is more than flash.... Beneath this mask there is an idea, Mr. Greedy.... And ideas are bullet-proof"—is echoed in O'Brien's recruitment speech to Winston — "The Brotherhood cannot be wiped out because it is not an organiza­tion in the ordinary sense. Nothing holds it together except an idea which is indestructible" (Orwell 176). Of course, O'Brien's statements are equivocal. The Brotherhood is literally only an idea and one that is cre­ated, perpetuated, and contained by its nemesis. It cannot be destroyed because it is too useful in creating the antithesis against which power defines and maintains itself. The idea that V embodies is inevitable wher­ever inordinate power exists; he is the oppositional principle that period­ically reasserts itself when governments become overly arrogant and intrusive. In 1984, subversion has been eradicated via the perpetuation of war with Eurasia or Eastasia. Making danger omnipresent eliminates the threat that it will ever make any head against total government hegemony. It has been appropriated into the government's own mechanisms and is spectral, merely an illusion always already eliminated at the moment of its inception.

In VfV, the antithetical political philosophies of liberty and oppres­sion are cyclical, suggesting a periodic reevaluation and re-evolution. Orwell's government is systematically eliminating the very words that describe sedition, a process which Henry Giroux identifies as "the language of eternal fascism,' which produces an 'impoverished vocabulary,' and an

T

V for Vendetta as Cultural Pastiche

'elementary syntax' whose purpose is to 'to limit the instruments for com­plex and critical reasoning'" (18). Conversely, Sutler's power structure may be more authoritarian than totalitarian, not so much seeking to control every facet of the people's lives — including their language — as attempt­ing to manage political expression, and thus it may be more vulnerable to the vicissitudes of the public will than is Big Brother. The people can think about changing their government whenever they are sufficiently scan­dalized or enraged, but they dare not express the will until there are sufficient numbers to mobilize a mass effort. Indeed the mass demonstra­tion of the populace at the end of VfV may be a specific negation of the hegemony O'Brien sees in Oceania, where the Proles or masses will never rise to put down the Party.

Rebellion against tyranny, which is so commonplace a theme within the dystopia genre, frequently takes the form of interdicted romance. The totalitarian regimes of these narratives attempt to control the population by controlling the alliances that people form with each other, the individ­ual loyalties must be reserved exclusively for the state. O'Brien explains,

We have cut the links between child and parent, and between man and man, and between man and woman. No one dares crust a wife, a child or a friend any longer. But in the future there will be no wives and no friends. Children will be taken from their mothers at birth, as one takes eggs from a hen. The sex instinct will be eradicated. Procreation will be an annual formality like the renewal of a ration card. We shall abolish orgasm.... There will be no loyalty, except loyalty toward the Party. There will be no love except the love of Big Brother [Orwell 267].

Winston's increasing dissatisfaction with Big Brother eventually takes the form of a traditional romance that is based upon attraction and desire as well as a mutual contempt for the oppressive environment in which the protagonist and his forbidden love, Julia, are forced to live. Their romance is a luxurious reprieve from the emotional wasteland of their lives in which they are compelled to marry according the wishes of the state, and any sign of mutual attraction guarantees that the couple will not be permit­ted a marriage license. Winston despised his wife, particularly her belief that sex was a duty to the state conducted exclusively for the purposes of procreation, for the purposes of creating citizens for Oceania and Big Brother. Both Winston and Julie are certain that their romance will even­tually lead to their capture, interrogation, torture, and execution, but their desire is fed by the sense of danger and freedom. They defy the state by

Five. 1984 and the Dystopian Genre

loving each other and they swear they will continue to love each other in spite of Big Brother's tortures and the inevitable mutual betrayals. They know that they will confess and will implicate each other, but they will resist the compulsion to stop loving each other.

Gilliam's Brazil involves a similar thematic. The bureaucrat Sam Lowry, a combination of Walter Mitty and Kafka's Joseph K, falls in love with a woman, Jill Lay ton, whom he first sees in his dreams, but who later turns out to be a real person fighting the establishment to win the release of her neighbor Mr. Buttle, who has been mistaken for the renegade repair­man Tuttle. When Lowry sees the incarnation of his fantasy woman, he pursues her across the wasteland of futuristic London, an environment in which bureaucracy and the pursuit of information have taken a patholog­ical turn, the entire city wired for surveillance and flowing with missives shuttled through vacuum tubes. Although his fantasy woman is actually a truck driver, he assumes that she is a terrorist, and in his efforts to res­cue her from herself and from Information Retrieval's fascist thugs, he inadvertently implicates them both in the very activities from which he mistakenly sought to extricate Jill. Just when Sam believes he has success­fully deleted her from the institutional records and saved her from Infor­mation Retrieval, the storm troopers or Black Maria Guards burst in upon the couple's private interlude and drag them off for interrogation. As in 1984, the protagonist's desire for his love interest appears to be partially motivated by the excitement of pursuing a forbidden romance; here Sam's fantasy life intrudes upon reality creating an antagonism between Jill and the law. In the process of living out his fantasy of rebellion against the increasingly inhumane establishment, he creates a forbidden romantic interest from a simple truck driver and subsequently destroys both of them.

Huxley's Brave New World envisions a futuristic society in which emotional attachments between individuals have been obliterated. Child birth is no longer conducted via the womb, but is instead industrialized, restricted to the test tube, guaranteeing that bonds will not be created between mother and child. Social and genetic engineering, however, does not mean that the denizens of the new society are deprived of happiness and sex. They are instead encouraged to engage in recreational drug use and promiscuity. It is the emotional attachments (either romantic or famil­ial) between individuals that have been eliminated via indoctrination and social pressures. A single individual, John the Savage, who grew up on a



V for Vendetta as Cultural Pastiche

reservation outside of the World State, challenges the social norms by falling in love with Lenina, but he is first confounded and later infuriated by her continued promiscuity until he murders her and commits suicide. Here powerful sentiments for others have been systematically obliterated, and the check upon romantic attachment has been internalized through socialization and indoctrination, and those who experience powerful sen­timents of love are banished to outlying regions.



VfV includes several manifestations of the same thematic discussed in the above narratives. The potential romance between V and Evey is doomed from the start for several reasons. First V's physical condition does not permit him to be sexually intimate with another person, his body ravaged by the fires at Larkhill. His refusal to remove his mask to allow Evey to see his face is not merely a reticence born of disfigurement and self-loathing, but also a metaphor for another obstacle, V's commitment to revenge. As we already know, his mask is the face of Guy Fawkes, Catholic revenger and revolutionary from the early 17th century. His dis­guise signifies his commitment to the process of social change and specifically the elimination of fascism and its subsequent persecutions and discriminations. He can tolerate nothing that would dissuade him from his obligation to revenge. Evey constitutes a distraction, a temptation to opt for happiness rather than social justice. However, the thematic of inter­dicted love in the dystopian state is most clearly represented in the moti­vation for V's vendetta — the persecution and death of Valerie Page. The dystopian obsession with interdicting inappropriate sexual relations is revealed in the same sex romances of the film and graphic novel. Valerie risks everything, even her life, for a few years of happiness with Ruth, and continues to live openly even as it becomes clear that the state is system­atically rounding up homosexuals for shipment to internment camps. The reinvention of the dystopian forbidden love premise seems calculated to demonstrate that our increased contemporary prohibitions against same-sex bonds constitute a step toward fascism, that prohibiting and criminal­izing desire constitute an infringement upon personal liberties that should not be tolerated.

The fascist tactics of the Sutler regime within the romance thematic are particularly reminiscent of Gilliam's Brazil, including the hooding of detainees and the intrusion of black clad storm troopers into the domestic space, multiple guns trained on unoffending and basically harmless indi-



Five. 1984 and the Dystopian Genre

viduals. Indeed this later aspect is so similar that it may even be a visual quotation of the antecedent text. Both 1984 and Brazil focus on the the­matic of "the walking dead." In both narratives, a man's life has become so blighted by governmental control that he considers an antiestablishment and inevitably self-destructive union with a likeminded woman preferable to a continuation of a tedious single-minded pursuit of safety and longevity. The same is true of Valerie Page. In all three, the sadistic power structure intercedes to punish the seditious romantics.

Most of the antecedent texts also share with the VfV subject of ter­rorism, as an impetus for restrictive social control. The periodic rocket attacks upon Oceania may or may not be originating from Eurasia or Eastasia, but they have the effect of mobilizing public support for war and for the government of Big Brother that heroically battles to ensure pub­lic safety. Random violence tends to legitimize the restrictive practices of the totalitarian regime, which cites external threats as justification for repressive tactics at home. The population must fall in line to battle the threat from outside. However, in Oceania, since the power of Big Brother has become hegemonic and monolithic and the threat of war has become perpetual, the violence of rocket attacks operates largely as a tool to stir the rage of the population and consolidate the requisite support and self-sacrifice for war. Brazil also develops terrorism as central to the power of the state. But terrorism has been more broadly defined, expanding to include activities that merely disrupt the meticulous functioning of their morbidly obese institutional bureaucracy. Tuttle is a dangerous subversive and fugitive because he makes repairs to structures without appropriate permission from the public works institutions. Moreover, the routine tor­tures at the Bureau of Information Retrieval are legitimized on the grounds of necessity; they serve to interdict terrorist and subversive activities. Sam and Jill disagree on the relative merits of the state's abductions for the pur­poses of information gathering. Jill complains of the mistaken arrest of her neighbor Buttle, and Sam quips, "I suppose you would rather have terrorism." In VfV, Sutler's government literally consolidated its power by manipulating terrorism as in the St. Mary's viral attack. But the news media and the government censors also invoke terrorism to turn public sentiment against the activities of V, activities which are actually designed to discredit the establishment and restore a representative political process. Thus the people's hysterical fear of terrorism is manipulated to their own

V for Vendetta as Cultural Pastiche

detriment, encouraging them to oppose their own liberation. And it must be said that V's explosions are not designed to kill innocent people but to draw attention to the repressive tactics employed by the fascist regime bent on social control and to ignite a popular rebellion.

The institutional scare-mongering in the dystopia genre creates an interpretive context in which the VJV audience can read the totalitarian potential in contemporary events such as the post-9/11 Bush administra­tion's penchant for spying, torturing, detaining suspects without repre­sentation or due process, price gouging, violating the right to privacy, and demonizing of the political opposition. The allusions to 1984 in VfV the most well-known governmental nightmare of literature and cinema; however, the latter film alters the political orientation from left to right. Orwell's dystopian novel has long been acknowledged and often con­demned as an unfair attack on the communism of the Soviet Union (Frodsham 143). VfV effectively reminds the audience that repressive and controlling government can emerge from either the left or the right and in the present time, most likely from the right, which has already begun the process of depriving the population of civil liberties with the justification of national emergency and national security. By implication, if the trend continues, the people will need security from their own national security apparatus. In his article, "Representations of the Unreal: Bush's Orwellian Newspeak," Henry Giroux recognizes in the George W. Bush administration's reductive, divisive, and impoverished rhetoric the lan­guage that Oceania's bureaucracy shapes and manipulates for the purposes of deception. Big Brother misnames its social and political institutions in order to create positive connotations and engage the practice of double­think—the place of torture and interrogation named the "Ministry of Love" or the source of propaganda dubbed the "Ministry of Truth." The Bush administration created the Healthy Forest Initiative and the Clear Skies Initiative, both of which permit the exploitation and degradation of the respective resources they should ostensibly protect, and the mislead­ing rhetoric in the case for war against Iraq is now notorious.

The dystopian genre also observes and interrogates the anti-intellec­tual bias of a large portion of the population who merely accept the gov­ernment propaganda without intellectual engagement. The masses want to remain uncritical, an idea richly satirized in the film Idiocracy, in which future society has succumbed to this trend, and all of humanity has



Five. 1984 and the Dystopian Genre

devolved into idiots. The same can be seen in the image of Orwell's Proles, who would rather be distracted by cheap booze and pornography than evaluate the world around them and particularly their living conditions. VfV includes a periodic summary of the reactions of the population to V's activities. The imagery focuses on people drinking in pubs or clustering in front of the living room TV screen or resting in the old folks' homes. In his BTN address, V reviles the population for its critical indolence, the same which facilitated the Sutler regime's rise to power and subsequent exploitation, persecution, and genocide. He urges them to abandon their indifference and struggle for the rehabilitation of their society along dem­ocratic lines. VfVs anti-neoconservative, anti-Bush subtext simultaneous rebukes the film audience or rather the indifference of Britains and Amer­icans to the disastrous foreign and domestic policies of their respective governments, policies that include constant and increasingly brazen encroachments upon civil liberties. The film suggests that the population is partially to blame for the failures of government because they did not impeach government propaganda in the lead up to the Iraq war. Thus the subject matter urges the population to confront government intelligence reports -with skepticism.

The irony of VfVs invocation and condemnation of surveillance and propaganda through cinematic quotations of 1984 is that the former film, as a cultural artifact, operates in a similar fashion to the Orwellian sur­veillance apparatus. Cinema in Orwell's novel and in Radford's screen adaptation largely serves the purposes of "political propaganda" (Verrocchio 98). The political commentary that is explicit and implicit within McTeigue's film serves as a type of propaganda just as in the Orwellian nightmare, and while the actual film appears to advocate a politics of lib­eration, one that reveals the potential for positive social change, it never­theless functions as a type of scaremongering, urging its audience to fear the dystopian potential of contemporary events, a process that could just as easily promote rightwing policies, as is the case in the more recent film 300, or initiate a leftwing totalitarian backlash. VJVs, like Big Brother's broadcasts, an example of the manipulation of the public via the mass media, making its audience mindful of potential misery that follows a fascist power play. Moreover, the obvious terrorist predisposition of VfV constitutes a reversal of much popular cinema, but the film regardless attempts to steel the audience against the suffering and sacrifice that will

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