This post might mean the most to those around 40, 45 years old. Do you recall back in 1984, there was a whole lot of craziness about Orwell’s book and whether not it had come true? It was so pervasive and hand-in-hand with everything else happening in popular culture at the time. (Do you remember Weird Al’s MTV hit “Big Brother Just Wants to Have Fun”?) Everyone and their teenage cousin carried the book around like it was our generation’s Catcher in the Rye. And we were all quick to cry out that “Big Brother was watching us!” which was our shorthand for any adolescent criticism of the government or our parents, i.e. “Man, my folks are just like Big Brother, man.”
OK, cut to now. It seems that we’ve finally seen Big Brother…and he’s us. Blogs, Twitter, GPSs, Facebook, etc., willingly let everyone know what we’re doing, where we are, what we’re thinking—all of the things that were labeled Orewellian back in the 80s. We all assumed the infiltration of our privacy would come from our government; maybe we were too naïve to realize that the self-obsession of the 70s would re-blossom in this century as techno-version of a six-year-old boy dancing in his underwear in front of his parents’ friends: We want everybody to watch us.
I don’t think I’m expressing anything terribly unique, but I’ve yet to see a Time cover story (look above for my idea of what that very-unsubtle Time cover could be), an essay, a book, etc., that revisits those paranoid early 80s and places them in a 2010 context. Is it such an article out there and I’ve missed it?
Since it would be out of character to not include a clip, here’s a portion of Michael Radford’s Nineteen Eight Four (1984), which I think is a forgotten film. It had a pretty big novelty factor when it was released, but it had a lot of cool shit going for it, too: John Hurt is great casting as Winston Smith; the Eurythmics score attracted a lot of well-deserved attention; portions were filmed on the exact calendar days in 1984 that were noted in the book, which was hyped in the press; and the purposely washed-out look was commented upon in the reviews.
But the reason I’m showing this clip is because of a sound effect. I saw this only once in 1985, and this one sound left a huge impression on me. This scene is towards the end, after Winston’s been tortured and is talking with Inner Party member O’Brien. Listen for Winston’s body hitting the floor.
I never forgot this moment in the film, and it stuck with me because of the sound. Better than any visual, I felt his pain. (And the sound of the tooth being pulled out is nothing to sneeze at either.) That should have been a dead giveaway to me that this whole ‘sound in film’ thing was calling out to me.