Tuesday, July 20, 2010
The (Not So) Political Manifestations of Big Brother - Who Is He Really?
In my lifetime, I've come across the term Big Brother three times:
A) Big Brother: The George Orwell Edition
I first read George Orwell's 1984 in Grade 10. And quite honestly, the book had me hooked on the study of authoritarian politics. The concept of a dominated, controlled state fascinates me even today, and as we flip through our textbooks, history shows that such a reality has often existed. We've all read up on Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini, but is the concept of Big Brother always inherently political?
B) Big Brother: The CBS Edition
Twelve years ago, I started watching the CBS reality show Big Brother and omg, I was hooked. Seriously, I am not ashamed to admit that, to this day, I still follow this show every summer during its live airing. I constantly log on to the 24/7live feeds, checking out what the locked-up houseguests are eating, doing, plotting, and playing. (Oh no, I'm not creepy at all ;). I obviously have no qualms admitting my love for trashy reality television!)
When houseguests do something wrong (such as fiddling with their microphones or talking about production), a voice booms through the loudspeakers that says (I kid you not), "Houseguests, this is Big Brother. Stop playing with your microphone!" As corny as it is, this show is seriously addicting. I still fangirl over last year's winners (Jordan Lloyd and Jeff Schroeder, look them up!)
C) Big Brother: The Jesus Edition
While Big Brother can be the most powerful political figure or a big-shot Hollywood producer, He could also be someone even greater than those two put together. The concept of an Almighty, omnipotent God who has watched every step and move you've made since your birth isn't lost on everyone. And while these thoughts may never have crossed your mind, we're always left with the following choices: to turn away from or faithfully depend on an unseen yet watchful Creator who continues to unconditionally love the world despite its doubts of His existence.
Big Brother - Who Is He? What Is He?
Despite various applications of the term, the idea of Big Brother remains strangely similar in all three of the above contexts. Big Brother can be one person or a group of people who can have different levels of input and influence (from one extreme to another) on your opinions, your lifestyle, and even as far as your hopes and dreams.
One extreme was so awesomely demonstrated by Jim Carey in The Truman Show (love this movie). Truman Burbank lived 30 years of his life blissfully unaware of his controlled existence. Yet Christof watched over his emotions, his habits, what he ate, what he drank, and who he loved (oh-so-similar to the actions of Orwell's dominating Party and CBS producers in every season of Big Brother).
Yet Big Brother isn't always as evil as 1984 or The Truman Show imply. And ultimately, Big Brother can appear in many different forms in our day to day existence. While existentialists scoff and skeptics roll their eyes in dismissal, perhaps I'll leave you with the following thoughts:
Big Brother can be the parents who have watched & disciplined us throughout our lives thus far. Big Brother can be the teacher in elementary school who reprimanded us for running in the hallways or talking in class. Big Brother can be our favourite university professor who skillfully oversaw our lectures. Big Brother can be the security guards who ran that hot mess called the G20 Summit, the test administrator who facilitated my LSAT, the marketing team who convinced you to buy your MacBook Pro, and the politicians who run our province & country. And, if you so choose, Big Brother can be your Creator, your Heavenly Father, your God.
The various manifestations of what Big Brother can be are numerous--and they aren't always political. Big Brother can exist in many different forms, in many different contexts, and with many different levels of control. But ultimately, the overall concept of Big Brother leaves us with the following questions: Are we ever really free of a dominating power structure or watchful figure? Are our choices exclusively the result of our own desires? Or are we always, whether we are aware of it or not, influenced by a bigger unknown plan that we aren't yet aware of?
"Truman: [to an unseen Christof] Who are you?
Christof: [on a speaker] I am the Creator - of a television show that gives hope and joy and inspiration to millions.
Truman: Then who am I?
Christof: You're the star."
- The Truman Show