I recently saw the film adaptation of 1984. I’d hold it up right next to Gilliam’s Brazil in quality. The slower pace and quiet, thoughtful moments reminded me of some of Ridley Scotts more atmospheric movies. As chilling a story as it is, I don’t think it’s very relevant any more. While its themes of the human spirit and danger of power are strong, Fascism of that sort really isn’t a danger anymore. While there’s plenty to be wary of, I don’t think it’s Orwell’s image of dictatorship.
Orwell took our tribalistic nationalism and inverted it. Instead of being afraid of the other guy’s nation, we become afraid of our own. However in today’s democracy, that nation is us. Politicians might seem like the cause, but they only get away with it because voters seem very open to deception. If we are to put a face on our national problems, they are ours. Or, if that is too scary, perhaps the faces of those around us. The grating drones with their cell phones, the wasting drunks in the street, the mindless consumers in the aisles; Anybody who can or will vote suddenly becomes the enemy of rationality.
This is one reason zombies have infested our pop culture so much. It’s the fear that we, as a people, as a collective, are not just a mindless crowd swaying about, but a bloodthirsty one that will devour the rational individual with an animalistic hunger.
If 1984 is fear of facism, the zombie apocalypse is fear of democracy. The crawling zombie hoard is reality television. It’s viral videos and Jersey Shore. It’s fear of the mindless, destructive masses whose numbers constantly grow and who will always win in the end. After they eat everything they get their hands on, they’ll eat each other, until they themselves are consumed.
“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping a human face – forever”-1984
1984 will remain a classic. Its exploration of the human spirit will remain timeless, if not its politics. However, if you want an exploration of modern political nightmares, I suggest you watch The Walking Dead instead.