Although dystopian literature existed before Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four”, many critics argue that it kickstarted the genre through its grievous political warnings. This is clearly elucidated through the novels Pessimistic Tone and Limited Third Person Narration, making the protagonist, Winston, a conduit into Orwell’s thoughts regarding the rising Stalinist/Nazi regime.Orwell responds through the Imagery and Motif of Urban Decay, in “bombed sites where plaster dust swirled in the air” and “Whirling dust and torn papers mount in spirals, and everything seems colorless” Where “whirling”, “spirals”, and “colorless” imitates the chaos and lifelessness of totalitarian mismanagement and ignorance, provoking dilapidation of land and quality of life seen in post WW2 European society. Orwell further extends this idea, answering whether their idolatry are accusable of ignorance for partaking in the party’s practices. Such is evident through the Morbid Language and Cumulative Listing in Winston’s experience of The Ministry of Truth: “They wore them down by torture and solitude until they were despicable, cringing wretches, confessing whatever was put into their mouths”.
The heinous descriptors of “torture”, “solitude”, and “cringing wretches” showcases the magnitude of their draconian methods and punishments, suggesting the idea that ignorance is not derived from the individual, but because it is the only human quality their totalitarian czar will allow, warning the audience not to collectively give away their power, a contextually important didactic in the wake of the cold war. Thus Orwell adamantly promotes the idea that corrupt powerful individuals have the ability to destroy the world socially, economically, & politically and reduce healthy minds into empty shells of sheeplike human ignorance. Such a black mirror text reflects the flaws in society, and supplies the audience with the opportunity to understand and fear these dystopias both in a 1950’s context as well as a modern audience.
A half-century succeeding the release of Orwell’s novel, Radiohead’s Alternative Rock appropriation “2+2=5 (Lukewarm)” recontextualize the motif of manipulated truths from Nineteen Eighty-Four. Unlike the novel, the song uses a Dramatic Monologue Form to create a discourse that humanity’s obsession with comfort places them at risk of being controlled by dominant figures, such as politicians and presidents. Radiohead captures the tense political zeal of the 00’s US election through unsettling musical techniques including Half-Step Chord Oscillation & Harmonic Intervals that defy classic harmonic rules, establishing the overall fearful tone of the song. The band additionally coalesces an eerie Falsetto and Symbolism in the lines: “I’ll stay home forever, Where two and two always makes a five.”
Where home is symbolic of human credulity, as the persona would prefer to accept false truths then leave home and protest against the government’s misleading pretenses of two plus two equals five. The falsetto further underscores the sense of the unreal and its intrinsic fragility, still being durable enough to shatter what is left of human cognitive dissonance. Further during the elegy, it is sung: “It’s the devil’s way now There is no way out”.
The Biblical Allusion of the devil is a Metaphor comparing mendacious leaders to the ultimate evil. This additionally suggests that those who remain pliable suffer the punishment by trapping themselves in eternal purgatory. The song concludes on a note mimicking Winston’s inwardly acceptance of his new fallacious eternity, evident in: “That the sky is falling in But it’s not But it’s not Maybe not Maybe not”.
The Literary Contrast between the High Modality Anaphora of “But it’s not” with the Low Modality “maybe not” details the persona’s indefinance in re-correcting their false reality, further elucidates Orwell’s idea of human doubt and loss of cognitive dissonance.
Ultimately, the corrosion of cognitive dissonance has sustained itself from the 40s’ into the late 90s’, highlighting it’s intrinsic universalities. Similar to Orwell, Radiohead firmly protests against accepting such false complacency, warning against the initiation of a dystopic civilization birthed from human ignorance highlighting the social facets of their society.
Joe Wright’s ‘Nosedive’ also recontextualizes the warning of ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’, presenting a dystopian worlds pace that is vastly dissimilar due to the drastic change in social milieu. Unlike Orwell’s novel, Nosedive satirizes the “perfect” society to incite change. Such is evident through the recurring Non-Diegetic melody “On Reflection”, which merges a masterful balance between Major and Minor chords to mirror the multidimensional and haunting anxiety hovering beneath humanity’s forced optimism. During the opening scene, this melody is coupled through the Visual Contrast of the sunlight – honing in on the protagonist, Lacie, as she practices Yoga. This visual representation foreshadows Lacie’s sanguine demeanor in her ulterior, chilling, bleak environment. Additionally, Yoga is ironically purposed to train the body and mind to self-observe and become aware of one’s own nature. This Irony exposes humanity’s blind acceptance of increasingly controlled environment, where for Lacie, technology has “essentially” expunged all suffering.
Nosedive explicitly rehearses the idea of blind acceptance through the insincere interactions between the characters evidenced when Lacie is offered smoothies by coworker Chester who is desperately trying to rectify his falling rating. After Lacie accepts the beverage, a coworker turns and says: “Oh, poor Chester” “No. We’re all on Gordon’s Side” “Oh, obviously” This dramatic change in Lacie’s support for Chester directly reflects humanities neglect for information and reasoning in forming a judgment. Directly after the events, Chester is consistently rated poorly at work to ensure he is fired, further defining the surreptitious relationship between the bully and the victim. Through Metaphoric Chremamorphism the coworkers are compared to that of cyber-bullies, supported by the Omission of complete faces and disgusted Facial Expression in the co-worker’s eyes. Wrights’s argument reminisces that of Radiohead’s ‘2+2=5’, extending upon the idea that not only are individuals responsible for societal ignorance, but it is no longer aided by affluent figures, and has evolved to become self-perpetuating.