1984

Big Brother is watching you
Film review: 1984 (adapted from the novel by George Orwell)

In a totalitarian society governed by the voices behind “Big Brother”, Winston Smith found his secret escape in the form of keeping a journal. In a life so contrived and regimented, where men and women were forced to rewrite history in order to obey their oppressors, Winston Smith dared to fall in love. In a soul-destroying landscape of rotting children and burning debris, where his every move was accounted for by the giant glaring eyes of Big Brother, Winston Smith faced an ultimatum in a torture cell numbered 101.

1984 is a tale of the time – a horrific dystopia envisioned in George Orwell’s 1948 novel of the same name. Whether this film aims to reflect a fictional time or one that could easily be recognised in Nazi Germany or Communist Russia, it warns the audience of the possible deterioration of society. In it, Director Michael Radford effectively displays key themes of Orwell’s story, such as propaganda, media manipulation, and the power of language in shaping human thought.

First impressions count, and this is certainly true of this film. The opening sequence is harrowing, and enough to induce nightmares. Hundreds of citizens of Airstrip One, enslaved, indoctrinated and mesmerised by the Party are seen shouting “Traitor!” at a screen presenting the face of the ‘enemy’. They are taught to believe wholeheartedly in the propaganda that shapes their lives. Their minds are manipulated in such a way that the most positive report of all is the fact that their chocolate rations – yes, poverty has struck – have risen by twenty five grammes. The citizens are brainwashed in every aspect of their lives; children are taught to monitor their parents for thought crimes so that they can report disloyal behaviour to the Thought Police; they are forced to wear dreary, boy-scout-style uniforms to make them feel united in a youth group, mirroring those of the Hitler Youth that existed in Nazi Germany. People are trained to be suspicious of each other from a very early age, and are encouraged to report acts of defiance against the Party.

Winston works in a corporation with a name as ironic as the Ministry of Truth, in order to eradicate the past and re-write history as the Party wants it to be told. Winston claims that “Freedom is the freedom to think that two plus two equals four,” but in the extreme case of his torture in Room 101, he must undergo the process of brainwashing until he believes that two plus two may not equal four, but five. If the Party tells him it is five, then the answer is and will only ever be five (or at least, until they update the last edition of the Newspeak dictionary).

As part of the Party’s agenda, publicity is essential in promoting the values of their ideal society. There may be a war going on outside, but it is designed to be a constant, continuous struggle, and not to be won, in order to bring Society together for one cause. Publicity of the Party means that Big Brother’s unforgiving face is on posters plastered everywhere, to remind people that they are forever being watched. The blood red colour in the background of the posters is another stark contrast to the otherwise bleak landscape of Airstrip One, and it acts as a warning to the citizens who cannot escape their lives governed by this figure. Furthermore, a distinct female voice constantly recites statistics through speakers, supposedly to encourage people that the situation is improving. The effect in reality is the opposite. The voice is a reminder of the eternal struggle of the people under the Party’s regime, and the depressing world in which they live.

The lack of freedom is expressed throughout the film, either through the almost monochromatic visual tones, or the destructive imagery of inconceivable living conditions (such as Winston’s room), created to shock the viewer. Colour is used sparingly in the film, so that when an extreme close up of Julia’s red lips or a wide shot of the lush green hills of Winston’s dreamscape appears, the viewer is left with an uncomfortable sense of danger.

Despite the wealth of the Party, the population is left to believe that they are no less worse off, and left to suffer with limited rations of food, as well as dormitories resembling prison cells, and tentative relationships. No one is ever allowed privacy, as helicopters hover endlessly around the dilapidated landscape, as a constant reminder that “Big Brother” is watching them, like their conscience. Most iconically, George Orwell created the term “Newspeak” for 1984: an abbreviated language used to make communication more precise and less liberating. Parsons, Winston’s neighbour, is the character who engages the most significantly with this, and often uses the term “doubleplusgood” to express satisfaction. As well as spoken language, there is no freedom in thought, as they are taught that individuality leads to rebellion and disobedience.

Can you imagine your work colleagues spying on you, or your own children reporting you to the police for illegal, illicit thought patterns? Perhaps not. But how about interactive flat screens fixed to walls, or cameras following you on the streets? How is it possible that in 1948, when flatscreen televisions and closed-circuit television cameras were not yet invented, Orwell could conjure up such ideas? To what extent have we somehow fulfilled Orwell’s prophecy in our times, and how can we ensure that we do not create a reality for his most unbearable dystopic dreams? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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Professional Fangirling

A 5-step guide to becoming the ultimate fangirl

  1. Choose a fandom
  • A fandom is a collective group of people who form an obsessive community where they can share an interest in a specific topic. Find something you’re fanatical about – for example, a TV show, book, film, actor or sports team.
  • Make sure you know the name of the fandom you belong to. Some popular examples are: Whovians (Doctor Who fans), Directioners (One Direction fans) and Danosaurs (danisnotonfire fans).
  1. Know the basics
  • Shipping: When you fantasise about two people or characters being in a romantic or platonic relationship and want them to be together, regardless of their gender or whether they are fictional or not. For example, if you ‘ship’ characters Four and Tris from the Divergent series, you could refer to the couple as Fourtris.
  • OTP: One true pairing. This is your favourite combination of characters from a fandom, your ultimate ‘ship’. It’s possible to have a number of OTPs, depending on how many fandoms you belong to. In the YouTube community, my personal OTP is Troyler (Troye Sivan and Tyler Oakley).
  • Feels: shorthand for the word ‘feelings’, and used to describe an intense emotional response, such as sadness, excitement or awe. For example, “OMG, the ending to The Fault In Our Stars gave me so many feels!” Grab a box of tissues and get ready to embark on a rollercoaster ride of emotion as you grieve the death of your favourite character, or squeal in delight as your OTP becomes ‘canon’.
  • Canon: An idea, belief or aspect of a story that is true to the original work. When it deviates from the plot but is accepted by the fangirl, the term used is ‘headcanon’ because it’s canon in their head. For example, in Harry Potter, it’s canon that Harry marries Ginny, but in your headcanon, Harry could end up with Ron!
  1. Interact and contribute
  • Tumblr: The number one place to find like-minded people and scroll for hours through the endless content your fandom has to offer. Create your own GIFs of Honey Boo Boo drinking her go-go juice or write a reflection of the moment when Alex Gaskarth made eye contact with you at the All Time Low concert for a split second.
  • YouTube: Watch the highlights of a sports match you missed, an interview with cast members from an upcoming film, a videogame un-boxing, or a book haul vlog. Whatever your interests, there will always be related videos for you to view. Or why not create your own videos? All you need is a camera and something to talk about.
  • Twitter: Be the first to know what’s going on in your fandom by following fellow fangirls, and let your idols know how much you admire them by retweeting and “favouriting” their every post. Use the relevant hashtags to immerse yourself in conversations about trending topics. Twitter is a simple means of entering various competitions for winning ARCs, merchandise, and VIP tickets to exclusive events… And don’t forget to wish your favourite band’s lead singer’s girlfriend’s cat a happy birthday!
  • Facebook: Click “like” on all the pages related to your fandom. This will generate a more interesting news feed, full of news updates, exciting release dates, memes and competitions to enter.
  1. Share your passion
  • For the artists: Try drawing your favourite characters from a memorable scene, compile a montage of quotes or screenshots, or create an alternative movie poster or book cover. You can use any media, but if it’s not done on the computer, take a photo of your work or scan it in so that you can upload it to a website dedicated to like deviantart.com, which specialises in displaying fan art.
  • For the musicians: Create your own soundtrack for a TV show, book or film, based on the themes, characters and setting. Think about how the lyrics could relate to your interpretation of the storyline. You could put the songs in a playlist on YouTube for others to enjoy, or burn the playlist onto a CD to give as a personalised gift to a friend who belongs to the same fandom.
  • For the writers: Start up a blog and dedicate it to spreading love for your fandom. Make sure you promote your blog to generate a wider audience by including the link to each new post on your social media accounts. You can take inspiration from pagetopremiere.com – a brilliant website which targets fandoms of popular book-to-film adaptations. If you’re into creative writing, try writing fanfic. You can come up with alternative endings to storylines or devise a cheeky narrative between your OTP. Don’t be afraid to be a bit unorthodox – you are the writer and your headcanons are valid. Read examples on fanfiction.net for ideas.
  • For the adventurous: After spending hours locked in your bedroom on your laptop or phone, you may want to go on an adventure! Book tickets for events like meet-ups and conventions to be surrounded by fangirls just like you. Check band websites for tour dates and CD signing events, and authors may have book-signing tours, so check out their websites, too. If comics and cosplay are your thing, head to Comic-Con, whereas Katsucon is for those who are into Japanese culture. If you love YouTubers, some big events for your calendar include: Summer In The City, Vidcon, DigiFest and Playlist Live.
  1. Be proud
  • Merchandise: Whether it’s Manchester United’s new season football shirt, an Adventure Time poster, a Fall Out Boy wristband or a mockingjay pin, make sure you get kitted out with awesome merchandise from your fandom. A visit to Pulp and Afflecks Palace is definitely worth your time. Alternatively, you can browse through websites like distrctlines.com, dftba.com and hottopic.com. I recommend cafepress.co.uk because, as well as choosing from an array of unique designs, you can create your own, which is really cool.
  • Show off about your fandom and be proud to belong to the community. How about singing the school song in Elvish next time, or resolving an argument with a game of “Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock”?

Remember – stay safe while on the internet, and don’t give out any personal details/arrange to meet up with strangers, even if you both think you’re Jacksgap’s number one fan. Have fun exploring your fandom, and DFTBA!

Glossary of fandom jargon:

GIF – graphic interchange format, a compressed file format used for pictures.

Vlog – video blog

ARC – advance reader’s copy (of a book)

Meme – an image or video, typically humourous in nature, which is spread around the internet using a variety of captions

Fanfic – shorthand for “fanfiction”, meaning a fictional story based on the original work, written by a dedicated fan

Cosplay – shorthand for “costume play”, an activity in which participants wear the costumes of fictional characters and create a subculture based on role play

DFTBA – “don’t forget to be awesome”, the slogan of the Nerdfighter fandom

To look up definitions of more words in pop culture, use urbandictionary.com.