WHAT DO ‘NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR’ AND ‘V FOR VENDETTA’ SHOW ABOUT TOTALITARIANISM?
George Orwell’s novel ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ is set in a dystopian 1984 where Oceania is under the watchful eye of Big Brother and the Thought Police. Everyone who resides in Oceania is restricted from having basic human rights under the country’s totalitarian state. ‘V For Vendetta’, a film directed by James McTeigue, is set in the year of 2027 where London is a police state occupied by a fascist government party, Norsefire. Both ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ and ‘V For Vendetta’ display similarities and differences in themes and symbols which demonstrate the effects of a totalitarian society where it’s citizens are stripped of their freedom and dignity. Both the novel and film show the innate weaknesses of human nature that keeps the society in a constant state of conflict which shapes their susceptibility to government regulations.
In Orwell’s ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’, Big Brother and the Thought Police creates a society where its citizens have limited freedom of expression. Communication, personal beliefs, and individual loyalty to the government are all controlled by the inner Party. People do not have the jurisdiction to their own personal lives and are deprived of privacy and pleasure, resulting in subservience to Big Brother. Thought, speech and actions are all monitored through the use of telescreens which residents do not have the option to turn off. This allows the Party to be able to detect instances of rebellion. The people’s submissiveness to Big Brother contributes to the fact that the Party is still in power and it also allows the Party to grow even more powerful because they have dominance over the public. Newspeak is a modified version of the English language that is enforced upon the people in order to suppress free thought, individualism, and happiness. Disobeying Big Brother’s authority is considered ‘thoughtcrime’, punishable by torture or death. Syme and Winston, two middle-class workers in Oceania, discuss the concept of Newspeak. Syme reveals that he supports the system, demonstrating how he has been brainwashed by the Inner Party, “It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words… You haven’t a real appreciation for Newspeak, Winston… Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought” (pg. 46). This became a foreshadowing for Winston’s fate where his rebellion comes to a halt after being captured and tortured. In the end the Party succeeds by making Winston ‘love’ Big Brother, showing that Big Brother will always prevail.
The foundation of the film ‘V for Vendetta’ is also built on totalitarianism and a corrupt government party Norsefire ruled by Adam Sutler. Just like the Thought Police in ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ there is the secret police in ‘V For Vendetta’ along with a group of people who decides the fate of a whole nation without consulting its people. They also tap into the phone lines, and have surveillance cameras and vans all around London. All of this is to enforce government control on the people. The Police are used as the major form of intimidation and fear, until the people started fighting back. There is absolutely no accountability and transparency. There are camps formed by Norsefire which were a way of government control and they said they were “searching for a cure” but really just trying to build biological weapons by testing on people considered of lesser value. The character Evey is a regular citizen who works at the BTN as a production assistant gets guidance and mentorship from V, a vigilante who aims to overturn and get revenge on the government and Norsefire. V’s true identity is never revealed, he wears a Guy Fawkes mask which symbolises freedom and individualism, creating hope and optimism.
In contrast, McTeigue ‘V For Vendetta’ has more of a positive outcome in the end compared to Orwell’s ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’. Although the government Party in both the film and novel implement surveillance on its people, the film has a more sparing approach to security and surveillance as cameras and microphones are more likely to be set up in public places and not in homes.