Friday, 23 March 2012

Hollywood Babble On & On #872: Why 1984?

Shepherd Fairey, the artist most famous for the "Obama Hope" poster during the 2008 election, is setting things up to produce a movie version of the George Orwell novel 1984 with Ron Howard and Brian Grazer's Imagine Entertainment.

First thing they need to do, make sure Fairey has the rights he needs from Orwell's estate to make the movie, he has a bad habit of forgetting that sort of trivia especially if the source material belongs to someone else.

Second thing, reconsider the whole idea.

I'll get to my reasons why, but first a little history for the blatantly ignorant among you.

1984 was written by George Orwell and was released in 1948.  It's about Winston Smith, a minor functionary in a grim socialist dystopia called Oceania.  His job is go through old photos and news articles and remove all references to people who have fallen out of favor with the regime, personified by "Big Brother," an all seeing, all knowing symbol of the ruling elite.

And boy is Big Brother all knowing, because you can't fart without someone in the ruling "Inner Party" knowing it, thanks to round the clock surveillance, most famously via the "telescreens." Telescreens beam propaganda into your home, and beam out everything you do. 
 Even the language is being rewritten into a new government creation called "newspeak" that promises communication without any actual human connection.

Smith begins a tragic love affair with a co-worker named Julia, crosses paths with an Inner Party puppet master named O'Brien, and then... well you should just read the damn book the way I did in the seventh grade.

Now there have been several adaptations of the book. First as a radio play, then a 1950s BBC TV version starring Peter Cushing, a 1956 movie from Columbia Pictures starring Edmond O'Brien that butchered the story so badly, and did so poorly, the Orwell estate was able to get it pulled from circulation once its initial release was finished.

The last version, made, fittingly in 1984, was pretty faithful to the novel, and marked the last performance of Richard Burton, but it didn't make much of a dent with audiences.  Because who wants to see a downbeat movie about surveillance and oppression when Police Academy is playing at the cineplex.

But now Hollywood is considering doing another version, and all I have to say is...


Now if you know my record in trying to get Hollywood to listen to common sense you know I'm going to have to explain my point. So let's look at the... PROS & CONS!


1. The original novel is a classic about the perils of a socialist society that must suppress individual identity and freedom in order to hold onto power while the lives of everyone but the ruling elite gets grimmer and more desperate.

2. People have been thinking a lot about the novel's themes of surveillance, sexual/intellectual freedom


1. Hollywood is completely incapable of doing anything remotely coherent that has a political theme. Especially if that theme is critical about socialism.  Recent developments in American politics has made Hollywood very unlikely to say anything bad about socialism.  

I fully expect the story to be rewritten to the point where the atheistic socialist society of Oceania, is replaced by a Christian fundamentalist capitalist society run by the Oceania Coporation, whose logo is Big Brother, who bears a passing resemblance to whatever Republican politician/talk radio host is the right wing bogeyman du jour.

It'll bomb horrendously, but the filmmakers will get pats on the back at the country club for their courage with other people's money.

2. The whole surveillance paradigm made famous by 1984 is now completely upside down.

Thanks to the internet and ever present and unblinking cameras the government can't fart without EVERYONE knowing about it.  And where Winston Smith and Julia sought to hide from the ever present gaze of the camera lens, people are running towards it, in the vain hope that it can make them a celebrity.

So just pay off the Orwell estate and let the 1984 remake just fade away in development. It'll be better for everyone that way.


  1. "Oceania, is replaced by a Christian fundamentalist capitalist society run by the Oceania Coporation . .."

    Of course, because remakes aren't just for making poor to mediocre movies saleable by just changing the title and a few character names to sort of emulate a form classic, they're also for updating old culture with the Hollywood new culture.

  2. Hollywood's attitude is not so much a "culture" as it is a "prejudice."

  3. Rainforest Giant here,

    Anywho, Hollywood is as you said absolutely incapable of doing this and the moron that stole the 'Hopey-Dopey' poster cannot be seriously considered for anything.

    On a related note, there is a discussion group I am part of that has been debating the 'party' of the ruling group in 'The Hunger Games'. Some are arguing they are being portrayed as liberals others as conservatives.

    Furious, have you seen the movie? Do they portray the ruling party as having a particular slant or are the people arguing projecting one way or the other?

  4. I haven't seen the movie, but I can say that there is probably some projecting involved in your little discussion group. ;)

    Liberals look at it, sees a violent "bread & circuses" society ruled by an comfortable elite, and automatically say: "A-ha! Those evil conservatives!"

    Conservatives look at it, sees a nation where the state controls everything, life only has the value the state puts on it, and says: "A-ha! Those evil liberals!"

  5. The capital culture is very urban elite in both book and film. (ie they're fashionable and trendy like an idealized Manhatten) in that sense, they're probably easier to see as liberal, but almost no mention of the actual politics were made in either the book or the film.

    Interestingly District 13 is a very conservative society (they're pretty much a military with starvation the punishment for anyone who doesn't do their assigned job).