Thursday, March 19, 2009

Pop-Culture and 1984


In discussing George Orwell's 1984 it is difficult not to find a number of references--whether explicit or implicit--to the novel's themes: industrialism, militarism, capitalism and totalitarianism, social control, imperialism, and the subjugation of the individual to the whims of the institution, namely, a government hijacked by a minority group with a vested interest in securing itself as a world superpower that, in its Machiavellian lust for empire, is devoid of a moral obligation to uphold human rights or the common good.

In every age and in every culture, such themes are relevant as history is marked by the rise and fall of various world powers who came into a position of such authority as a result of conquest, invasion, and colonization. Orwell's 1984 is a profound allegory in this sense, likening the fictional world of Oceania to imperial London. It is a time where industry and institution govern the personal lives of individuals to the point where they no longer have a sense of self-identity, nor a sense of history, for that matter. Any search for history or self-identity is immediately quashed by a police system of discipline and punish (eg., Though Police). And so the powers that be--i.e. Big Brother and his Party--because they operate on a system of fear and paranoia, keep the masses in check and submissive to their regime.

The videos listed below are just a few examples of Orwellian philosophy as portrayed in pop culture, namely, rock and hip-hop. Both musical forms provide a platform for the democratic ideal of protest against perceived injustices that favor the institution over the individual's human rights. Each of the videos below pertain both lyrically and imagistically to the themes presented in 1984.

For this assignment, I would like you to choose one video for individual analysis of themes presented in lyrics and image. I would then like you to compare the themes in the video to those presented in 1984, using textual support to back up your claims, including quotes from song lyrics as they pertain to the text of 1984.

This assignment is to follow MLA guidelines for formatting quotations. It is to be completed on the blog by Tuesday, March 26, 2009.

Big Brother Peach, FSC

Incubus' "Megalomaniac":

Rage Against the Machine's "Testify":

El-P's "Stepfather Factory":

Talkdemonic's "Duality of Deathening":

Aesop Rock's "None Shall Pass":

Mike Finnegan's "i1100":

Radiohead's "All I Need"


matthew said...

Matthew Clair
Big Brother Peach
Brit Lit

Orwellian philosophy and Incubus

In comparing the ideologies presented by George Orwell in his book 1984 to the themes of imagery and lyrical insight in the song “Megalomaniac” by Incubus, one can depict the similarities present in protest to totalitarianism. In breaking down the term Megalomania, we see that it is a Greek word, “megalo” meaning “very large”, or “great” and “mania” meaning obsession. Therefore, when combined it means “to denote an obsession with, either in the form of irrational perceived need for, or preoccupation with one's own estimation of having and/or obtaining, grandiosity and extravagance (especially in the form of great fame and popularity, material wealth, social influence or political power)”(Wikipedia).
The first similarities of the two are the lyrical references of the song, compared to themes in the novel. The opening lyrics of the song are “ I hear you on the radio
You permeate my screen.” this relates to a sort of media control which is also portrayed in the novel as a theme where since the party controls all of the media, the people tend to loose memories and believe anything they are told. This is done by the use of “telescrenes” and control of newspapers.
Another lyric which is interesting is “Hey megalomaniac /You're not Jesus /Yeah, you're no f***ing Elvis /Special, as you know yourself, maniac /Step down /Step down.” This describes the rejection of the principals of a single party in total control. By saying that the megalomaniac is not a sort of historical hero in which people followed not because they were forced to but were attracted to their personal individuality. This lyric displays rebellious feelings toward totalitarianism. We see this in 1984 when considering Winston’s same sort of rebellious feelings toward the party.
One final lyric which is very important is “all of us are heaven sent /There was never meant to be only one.” this is just another reference to the fact that people wish to resist the total control of one system.
The use of imagery in the music video “features a bleak, dystopian view of the world portrayed using posterization and spriting (using 2D images in 3D settings)”(Wikipedia). One very interesting image is when a George Bush look alike turns into a bald eagle and starts to eat people who turn into fish. This seems to be a way of showing how the central party who has the control starts to take the individuality of each person. In the novel, the same theme is expressed where as no one is allowed to express themselves in any way, but especially with writing or thoughts.

Mr. President said...

1) Incubus "Megalomaniac"

The song begins with the lyrics,"I hear you on the radio/You permeate my screen, it's unkind". This sense of omnipresence is felt by Winston too. Winston describes the telescreen as an "instrument [that] could be dimmed, but there was no way of shutting it off completely"(2). Also in the video images of Hitler are constantly used. The image of Hitler can be parralelled to that of Big Brother, " the face of a man [Big Brother] of about forty five, with a heavy black mustache and ruggedly handsome features"(1).

2) Rage Against The Machine "Testify"

In the song the lyrics "With precision you feed me/ My witness I'm hungry/Your temple it calms me/So I can carry on/
My slaving sweating the skin right off my bones/
On a bed of fire I'm choking on the smoke that fills my home" manifest a sense of dependency that the citizens of Oceania have for the government. Orwell illuminates this dependancy, " the little sandy-haired woman had flung herself forward over the back of the chair infront of her. With a tremulous murmur that sounded like 'My Savior!' she extended her arms toward the screen"(16). The video for the song also manifests how the way a country is run is predetermined by one person and not by the people exactly. This is clearly true in 1984 with the repeated images of a dictatorial regime ruling the proliteriate. This includes use of miltary time (1) , the military music (21) and the use of comrade (48).

chris said...

Chris Lisowski
Bro Peach
Brit Lit

Orwell vs. Incubus

When comparing "Megalomaniac" by Incubus and George Orwell's "1984", one would see that they are both similar in the recurring theme of megalomania and totalitarianism.
We see in "Megalomaniac" many disturbing pictures of powerful political figures, for instance Adolf Hitler, who can be depicted as a megalomaniac himself has a psychological problem with the belief that he has total power. Alike this political figure these ideas that derive from Big Brother could be described as a megalomaniac as well in George Orwell's "1984". These pictures in the video of "Megalomaniac" are of a world of total power and "dystopia". This closely relates to the novel in which the world Winston Smith lives in is of great physical manipulation and physical control over all the people of Oceania. For example in the video we see many pictures of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi regime. This shows ideas Hitler had of manipulation and brain washing of many German's in to thinking that the first step to a successful nation was the extermination of all the Jews. This directly relates to the ideas of the novel in which Big Brother has total power over all the people and if they do not comply to these "unwritten laws", they will be exterminated or will undergo rigorous brain washing to the ultimate belief of Big Brother's ideals.
When examining the lyrics of this song they are also alike the story of Winston Smith and the dystopia in which he lives. The lyrics from the song portrays a person looking upon another person that has no understanding of equality or selflessness and trying to make them understand that they are not God or someone with absolute power. For instance in the song he says, "Hey Megalomaniac/ You're not Jesus/ Yeah, you're no F***ing Elvis/ Special, as you know yourself, maniac/ Step down/ Step Down." This links to Winston Smith and his ideas of looking at Big Brother and wanting to overthrow Big Brother and over all regain his freedom that he once had but now cannot seem to recall.
Overall "Megalomaniac" and "1984" are very much alike in many of the idea's the artist/author brought forth in its lyrics/text. These themes of megalomania and totalitarianism are the shared themes in both the song and novel.

bp said...

Branford Phillips
British Lit.
Bro. Peach
Orwell’s philosophy to Finnegan’s “i1100”
Looking at both George Orwell’s 1984 and Mike Finnegan’s i1100, there are a number of similarities between the type of society in Oceania and the lifestyle that Finnegan describes in his movie. Take for instance, this line that shows up in Finnegan’s picture, ”…an army of millions/and no war to fight”. This can be compared to the scene in chapter 8 of part two in 1984, when it is discovered that the posters had been altered to say that Oceania was at war with Eurasia when it was said that they were at war with Eastasia, resulting in a massive change in every documentation, history book, and other sources of news or history in Oceania. This is an example of totalitarianism within society. Further into the video, Finnegan begins to list different quotes such as “always wearing a smile, even when sad” and “the illusion of safety”, both of these particular quotes relate to the society in 1984, where the people are fed and forced to believe in lies, whether they want to or not, which also shows the theme of social control. As Winston says in part one of the novel, he finds that he was unable to remember things like his mother, his father or even what year it was, which is a direct result of the Thought Police and the heavy influence of the government. At the end of Finnegan’s animation, it ends with the lines “do you remember when? /because I don’t/I lost myself” which could be described as the result of today’s society, the media and the government, insisting that you have to buy the newest phone or you have to be enviormentally friendly, otherwise you will not be accepted, much like 1984’s society, only in that case it’s “do this or we will kill you”.

bpipps06 said...

Brett Andrew Pippens II
Lord Father Bro. Dr. Rev. Rob Peach
Brit Lit

Orwell Philosophy and Talkdemonic

In the video, a series of images are used to describe the life of a robot trying desperately to be man. A few of theses images include the following: In the beginning, the robot returns home, sets his belongings down, and immediately reaches for a video labeled "Dinner Conversation". Also, directly beneath this video is another one labeled "Party Conversation". The robot then continues on to put on a plastic face and he also places a mannequin near the television in an attempt to create an life-like version of a dinner conversation. Immediately following the video, he then reaches for a book titled "Understanding Man". Inside it's pages, it delivers factual evidence towards thoughts and emotions believed to be in control of man's time. By this I mean things thought to be the main occupying elements in man's lives. Further along in the video, we can see a muscular skeleton of man, showing his innards and innerworkings. Then the next image is one that compares it to the innerworkings of a robot, with gears, conveyor belts, ect. This combination of images were difficult to decipher but it does in fact coincide with a theme in George Orwell's 1984.

The first thing that came to my attention is in the opening images of the video; when the robot tries to set up a make-shift conversation. The robot is trying to find himself an identity other than his own. This is similar to Winston's case, as he is also trying to find an identitty of his own. Winston is in fact a robot of sorts, due to the strict discipline in Oceania. One intriguing detail from the video is when the robot puts the plastic face. This symbolizes that the robot is indeed trying to establish a separate identity. Winston does the same when we notice that he is in fact a different person when he inscribes in his journal.

To summarize the video and intertwine the subliminal messages between both sources, I have the following to say. In man's struggle for identity, we must realize we will never be anyone other than our true selves. Even when we put our best foot forward, we cannot chang ewho we are. One last thought, as I close my thoughts, is the fact that the robot, at the end of the video, realizes that while he as arobot is trying to become man, man is in fact like a robot. With our routines, moral guidelines, and regularities, man and robot are one in the same. This may be a key insight in the closing chapters of George Orwell's 1984.

J. Harry said...

J. Harry Farina
Brother Peach, FSC
British Literature
March 23, 2009

Strange. During my time listening to Rage Against the Machine’s work, “Testify” I was able to draw similarities to George Orwell’s masterpiece 1984. In George Orwell’s 1984 a dystopia is created; people don’t fell safe to think or to act because of the fear installed by the “Thought Police” and “Big Brother”.
To “testify” by definition means; to express or declare a strong belief, especially to make a declaration of faith. It is safe to say that our main character, Winston “testifies” throughout the book. And these declarations don’t even have to be spoken aloud, even a profound thought or a thought at all during this time is a strong declaration or rebellion.
Right off the bat in the video, there is a suggestion that we are being controlled by our government, though a bit unrealistic the first caption reads, “Aliens plot to conquer Earth!” then it shows what appear to be aliens. Then a second caption flashes across the screen, “Launch the mutant now!” There appears a man that splits into two, taking the forms of George Bush and Al Gore (presidential candidates at the time). This idea that we can be controlled by our government is demonstrated in 1984 all the time, through telescreens, the thought police, or their control over history. It then flashes quickly to a woman screaming, obviously relates to the dystopia in 1984.
Throughout the video it has excerpts of what seem to be police raids, this parallels the police in 1984 who are overly aggressive and strike fear into the community. While listening I had the “slogan” of Oceana in my mind, that is, “War Is Peace/ Freedom Is Slavery/Ignorance Is Strength” a interesting saying, and I found a line in “Testify” that relates, “That cunning mantra of killing” because war is essentially killing and that’s what Big Brother is all about, hence the “Victory” banners, “Victory gin”, “Victory” cigarettes and so on.
The most significant lines in “Testify” were the ones taken from 1984 itself, “Who controls the past now controls the future/ Who controls the present now controls the past/
Who controls the past now controls the future/ Who controls the present now?” It all has to do with memory, because if people can think and remember the days that Big Brother was not in power they will want those days back and they then might rebel. Another significant quote was at the very end of the video when presidential candidate Ralph Nadar says, “If you're not turned onto politics, politics will turn on you.” Essentialy if you don’t conform to Big Brother’s ideals, you wont be around very long.

Adam Butler said...

Adam Butler
Big Bro Peach
Brit Lit

In comparing the song "Meagalomania" by Incubus to the book 1984 written by George Orwell we see many similarities between the two. "Megalomaniac/
I hear you on the radio/
You permeate my screen". We can relate this back to the book whenever Weston is his apartment. Their is a telescreen that is in the room and the government tells you what to do and when to do it. Basically you have no free will. And if you try to think for yourself you break "the law"."Hey megalomaniac/ You're no Jesus". This can be related back into the government controlling figures or Big Brother, who fancies himself as a "Christ-like figure". In a way Weston fills the shoes of this "Christ-like figure" because he is a "savior" or soon to be to these people by rebelling to the government. We see the rebellion the second Weston aquires the journal and begins free writing whatever comes to mind which is "breaking the law".

Dman said...

Devon Mancini
Bro Peach
Brit lit/eng 141

Orwell Vs. Incubus

After viewing the video and combing through the lyrics of Incubus' "Megalomaniac", you can see many similarities to George Orwell's "1984". The thing that stuck out the most to me is when the character in the music video turns into the eagle and begins eating the people in the crowd, which looks like a mass of proles. To America, the eagle is a sign of pride, justice, and freedom. It is ironic that the eagle turns on the people and starts to kill them. This relates to how the inner party in 1984, who is thought of highly by most people in Oceana, vaporizes anyone who they think is a threat to their strength. Later in the video, the crowd of people overthrow the eagle and it falls. This could possibly foreshadow an overthrow of Big Brother by the proles in 1984. At the very beginning of Megalomaniac, the words brain washing flash across the tv screen. This could possibly be an indication of all the propaganda that is played on the telescreens in every home in Oceana. They are using these to try and brain wash all of the citizens and make them stupid so they don't rebel. Also, there is a giant eyeball watching over the streets in the beginning of the music video. This relates to 1984 in the sense that "Big Brother is watching you", always.

vinnie said...

Vinnie Venturella
Brother Peach
Brit Lit

Orwell's Stepfather Factory

In Orwell's book 1984 there are many different theme which come up. Some of these themes can be seen also in EI P's Stepfather Factory. In their song it says, "A Stepfather Factory
The age of familial industry
Building tomorrow's fathers today" it shows the theme of social control. In the video and lyrics you can see that there is a company which is trying to sell a new product (the stepfathers). Exemplified in the song when it says, "We grew with the concept now we're ready to go public
Today's a big day for the company". This song shows how they control society by selling the masses a product which can in some way control them. It uses the symbol of a stereotypical stepfather to show if a substance such as alcohol is the equation it can turn into something uncontrollable. This is shown in the lyric, "The cheapest way to keep his battery running is with booze/ Fuel sources are at a slight risk of mixing/
Possibly leading to the unpredicted stimulation of its artificial emotion circuits/
Manifested in the highly unlikely but still possible act
of physical aggression towards you and your loved ones fleshy surfaces". The book 1984 shows this with the uses of the victory gin and the victory cigarettes. it is also shown because these substances seem to have a long lasting effect on whoever takes it.
In both these sources it shows that if a company and/ or government can sell a product or even an idea it can be detrimental to a society.

Mike Kretz said...

Mike Kretz
Bro. Peach
Brit. Lit.

George Orwell’s “1984” and the song sung by Incubus, “Megalomaniac” have many themes in common. One of these themes is social control. Winston is part of a party in which his life is controlled by big brother. The opening part of the music video is very similar to Winston’s life. It zooms into a small, dark apartment (like that of Winston’s) and shows a telescreen with the words “brain washing”. These words are significant because most of the people of London do not remember their past before big brother.
Some of the lyrics of the song portray the hate for the theme of totalitarianism. The lyrics “Hey Megalomaniac/ You’re no Jesus/ Yeah, you’re no f-ing Elvis/ Special, as you know yourself/ Baby, just step down, step down” are criticizing a totalitarian government, like as in “1984”. The meanings behind these words are that there should not be total control. In Winston’s case, he would even be able to think about taking action towards the government because of the threat of being vaporized. George Orwell states, “You had to live- did live, from habit that became instinct- in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized” (3). In other words, Winston could not do anything about the government because he is always being watched. Incubus and George Orwell display the same themes of social control and totalitarianism in their works.

iownyou01 said...

Shane Yuhas
Brother Peach

Talkdemonic, "Duality of Deathening" and Orwell's philosophy

In comparing the video by Talkdemonic and the novel 1984 by George Orwell there are many similar themes. In the video it is giving the impression of a robot tying to be a human. He appears to be coming home from work with his hat and briefcase he seems to be carrying. He then goes over to the dinner table slides a tape in labled "Dinner Conversation". Moments later he slides on a mask of a man and is having a conversation with the 'telescreen'. It almost is as if the woman on the telescreen can hear what he is saying because she is laughing histerically. Then, after dinner the robot seems so desperatly wanting to be human, or be an actual person, he picks up a book titled "Understanding Man". A book that explained the feelings and emotions man has. Also, It was showing how the human body works by diagram. It showed the inner parts and what made the body function and all the complicating and vital organs that makes life possible. The robot reads on and then it shows the inner parts of the robot and it all presumably is all 'lights' and 'clock work'. This in a way relates to Orwell's philosophy in 1984 because robots are what everyone is in a sense. Not being aloud to think, have feelings/emptions, and not being able to express themselves at all. Everyone in a sense is cut from the same mold, sort of like robots they are all put together the same, therefore they operate somewhat the same.

The main thing that caught my eye was how the robot put on a mask to try and hold a dinner conversation then took it off and was different. In a sense the robot was struggling to find a true identity for himself. The way 1984 relates to this is Winston can relate to the robot. Techniqually Winston is a robot of sorts because of the harsh laws in Oceania. So Winston too is trying to find himself an identity, like the robot in Talkdemonic. A fact of this is in the video the robot puts on a face, or different identity at the dinner table, then changes identities when he removes the mask. Winston does the same in 1984 when he is like a robot most of the time and in a way puts on a mask, of different identity, when he writes in his journal.

In conclusion, in a man's struggle for identity we should not pretent to put on acts for people. You are who you are. Everyone has their own identity. There is nothing worse than pretending to be someone or something that you're not. So to close out, robots are in a sense like us, humans and we are like them because of the way we live and the robot sees this at the end of the video.

zach said...

Zach Carlino
Bro. Rob peach, FSC
Brit. Lit.

In the song "Megalomaniac" by Incubus we can relate ideologies in the lyrics and images to the book 1984, by George Orwell. To start the video there is a television with the words "brain washing" on it. Relating this to Orwell's book we see that the people of Oceania are literally brain washed by a telescreen, that is controlling what they can watch on the screen all the time. Another idealogy we see in the video is that of an army of men with a huge eye watching them. Again we see this in the book 1984 with the telescreen. This screen can be used by the government to spy on the people of the house, if the goverment suspects a person of treason the governement can watch the telescreen to see if this accusation is true. The beginning lyrics in the son "Megalomaniac" start out as this, "I hear you on the radio/you permeate my screen." This is shown in 1984 by the media control. The media is controlled by the government so then the government can put only what they want the citizens to know out into the news.

Beast said...

James McDonough
Big Brother Peach
Brit Lit
The American government has seen its share of leaders, but in the election of 2000, the two candidates for presidency were George W. Bush and Al Gore. Although elected from separate parties, George Bush belonging to the Republican and Al Gore belonging to the Democratic, both candidates portrayed similar views on controversial issues America faced at the time. These similar views are represented by the lyrics and music video of Rage Against the Machine’s “Testify.” Seen in the video are back to back clips of both candidates publicly supporting the death penalty and their alleged encouragement of the free trade system, both met with spontaneous happiness from their people. These views are obvious examples of how the government exercises their control in matters out of reach for the people. As Rage Against the Machine saw this, they compelled to preach, “The movie ran through me/ The glamour subdued me/ The tabloid untied me” With these lyrics it is apparent that Rage Against the Machine noted the serious flaw in politicians flaunting their glamour and smiles in order to support issues very serious to the world met with thunderous applause, as if to say there is really nothing to worry about. A parallel between this video’s statement and the content of George Orwell’s 1984 can be seen when Winston gazes at the surrounding posters of Big Brother, or discusses the people’s overwhelming defense and cooperation with the Party and Big Brother. These instances can be seen in the Two Minutes of Hate, when people are united in their rage against Goldstein, and even in the cafeteria , “Parsons, on the other hand, would never be vaporized. The eyeless creature with the quacking voice would never be vaporized,” (page 61). Also, the excerpt of the parson children pledging their full support to the government and the Party can be seen as a form of vapid, shallow support that people give to the government with no actual reason, but with full effort.

Joe R. said...

Joe Rabel
Brit lit
Bro Peach
March 24, 2009
1984 meets pop-culture in you tube
In 1984 and Incubus – Megalomaniac, the music video given to us, was a good example for the relation of the two. In the music video I saw a lot of different symbols and imagery that could relate to 1984. One I saw was barbed wire. It relates to 1984 in which that the barbed wire refers to caged freedom, they are free to move around yet the minds are dead. Another was the TV screen having the words brain was on it. The TV relates to the telescreens and how the telescreens could be related to mind control, for example the two minutes of hate. “But the face of Big Brother seemed to persist for several seconds on the screen,...At this moment the entire group of people broke into a deep, slow, rhythmical chant of ‘B-B!...B-B!’... In the two minutes of hate he could not help sharing in the general delirium, but this subhuman chanting of ‘B-B!...B-B!’ always filled him with horror.” (page 16-17) The last one was when they show the leader presumably megalomaniac growing in power and size. The third thing I saw with the leader figure, in the video there was a symbol of relating size with power, just as in the novel, big brother also physically grows in power and size with the telescreens. With the lyrics they keep on calling the leader Megalomaniac which could be compared to big brother. “You're no Jesus / You're no Elvis / YOU'RE NO ANSWER” Even though in 1984 big brother is an answer he can be referenced in this situation due to the leadership role.