George Orwell is one of the most famous writers whose works are known throughout the world. His most famous novel 1984 was not the first dystopia, but this book made this genre popular, and many modern authors are still using similar concepts. Orwell is believed to be the foreseer because much of what he wrote was reflected in the policy of real states, and the most demonstrative examples are the USSR and today’s USA. This book can be called one of the most resonant because of its prophetic ideas and the image of a state soaked with lies that are presented as truth. In many countries such as the USSR, the UK, and the USA, the novel was banned, but nowadays everyone can read it and compare the policy of Orwell’s Oceania to the policies of different countries. 1984 made a great cultural impact, namely the term “Big Brother” that is often used when speaking about the total control; literature, movies, songs, and TV-shows related to the book; and policies of certain countries that seem to be similar to Oceania’s policy.
When it comes to Orwell’s book, the first thing that is immediately recalled is the concept of Big Brother. People use such term when they speak about a situation of the total control such as citizen tracking. It has many negative connotations since it represents the essence of the totalitarian system, where there is no personal space and everyone is watched. For example, in Great Britain, many people are concerned about total monitoring and insecure personal data, and some of them speak about the situation referencing Orwell (Oakley). Nowadays, individuals depend on their technical devices, and all their personal data are collected there. Therefore, the one who has an access to this information can invade citizens’ private lives. British researchers are deeply bothered by the fact that, one day, people will stop noticing they are monitored (Oakley). Such a society will have much in common with Orwellian society where everyone is watched by Big Brother.
Of course, the idea of Big Brother had a reflection in popular culture. A perfect example is the Apple’s advertisement related to Mackintosh’s release, in which the authors used many references to Orwell’s book, in particular, the concept of Big Brother and totalitarian society. The video ends up with the destruction of the screen with Big Brother by an athletic woman and a promise by Apple that real 1984 will not be like Orwell’s 1984 (Frost), which was a good way to interpret Orwell’s character and play with the plot. Other phenomena are TV-shows inspired by the idea of Big Brother. There is a famous franchise Big Brother originally created in 2000 by Dutchman John de Mol, but now it has many analogs in other countries (Roberts). The most violent analog of this TV-show was created in Russia, and the behavior of the participants has shocked the society (Roberts). The main idea of the show recalls Orwell’s idea of Big Brother because all participants live in an isolated house where cameras track their every step, which represents Oceania where people cannot have a private life, and the one who sits behind the camera can watch them 24/7. Thus, Orwell’s idea of Big Brother did not only increase the fear of totalitarian society but also inspired people to rethink this concept, creating advertisements and TV-shows.
1984 has also inspired directors, musicians, and writers to create movies, write songs and books using Orwell’s concepts. The most famous films related to this dystopia are 1984 directed by Michael Radford, which is based on Orwell’s book, and Brazil by Terry Gilliam, which has much in common with 1984. Furthermore, nowadays many authors inspired by Orwell’s dystopia write new books about totalitarian states. The Hunger Games, Divergent, Uglies – all these book series and movies based on them (except Uglies because there is only a book series) are popular, and now the dystopian genre is mostly used in so-called “young adult” literature. Besides, many musicians such as David Bowie, Thom Yorke, Stevie Wonder, and others used connotations with Orwell’s book in their songs. As seen, many films, songs, and books were created thanks to this novel.
Of course, the most important part of 1984’s impact on culture is politics. Many policies of different countries sometimes remind Orwell’s dystopia. Firstly, notorious Iraqi politician Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf, mostly known as “Comical Ali,” is known for his false claims about the successes of the Iraq forces during the Iraq War. His propaganda during the wartime was about to convince people that Iraq was winning, which was not true at all (Deprang). However, due to his convictions in his words, it looked like he was telling the truth, which seems rather similar to Orwell’s scenario about what the Party says. According to Orwell, the truth is not what is happening in reality but what the Party claims to be true, and Comical Ali’s actions represented this model. Another example of policy similar to the one that Orwell described in his book is Turkish policy. In Turkey, academics who fought for human rights were called terrorists and presented as the regime’s enemies (Ozkirimli). This example demonstrates how the ruling party lights the events in the way that is beneficial to the government. In 1984, a similar policy was presented by the Party, so what Turkish ruling party is doing now seems to be a reference to Orwell’s book.
Speaking about policy, the recent resonance that 1984 had in the USA should be mentioned. Since Trump became US president, the sales of 1984 have extremely increased. His politics reminds people of dystopian politics, where lies become truth if the ruling party wants so. There is a so-called “Kellyanne effect” that refers to playing with words and turning the situation in the favor of the orator (Tomson). Such strategy is now used by Kellyanne Conway from Trump’s administration, who is also known for using the term “alternative facts” when speaking about events that had never taken place in American history (Seaton et al.). It is quite similar to the activity of the Orwell’s Ministry of Truth. Trump’s authoritarian regime is built on lies and propaganda, and his policy shows that he is the one who decides what is good and what is bad. In other words, black becomes white if Trump says so, and no one would argue with him. As a result, a lie repeated too many times becomes truth. Such attitude to policy and nation reminds of Orwell’s Big Brother, and this fact is terrifying. Under Trump’s regime, America becomes more and more similar to Oceania, especially considering the fact that technological progress allows citizen tracking and watching. That is why there is nothing surprising in the fact that many Americans decided to buy 1984 because one should know how an enemy looks like.
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In conclusion, 1984 had a great impact on today’s society, but this influence is both positive and negative. As for the good things, it can be mentioned that Orwell’s work helped people to take a fresh look at modern society with its ubiquitous propaganda and citizen tracking. Furthermore, his novel inspired many writers, musicians, and directors from different countries to create their masterpieces. Advertisements and TV-shows inspired by Orwell’s dystopia became popular throughout the world, and the term “Big Brother” became a common noun. Nevertheless, many politics use 1984 as an instruction, causing negative effects. Lies, propaganda, manipulations, deliberately used logical mistakes – all these strategies are used by many governments, ranging from the USA to Turkey. Therefore, speaking about the value of literature and its ability to speak to power, it can be said that many strategies of the totalitarian state’s Party described by Orwell are successfully used by many modern governments. On the other hand, thanks to Orwell, people can recognize when they are manipulated and see how a lie can pretend to be a truth. That is why his book has great significance for the 21st century.
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