Critique Of Consumerist Ideals In The Truman Show And Brave New World

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Since primitive times, humans have depended on storytelling as a means of sharing crucial information that may be lifesaving and is thus a connection for cause and effect. It is a narrative that can relay messages and warnings, act as a portrayal of what the future can hold or allow introspection on what has occurred in the past. Ultimately, composers nowadays have learnt to manipulate this method in a way in which it makes a profound statement on an issue that is prominent in our society today while also keeping the audience engaged, such as the problem of a consumerist culture, an issue I am going to focus on in this video. But what is consumerism? According to the Merriam-Webster website, consumerism is the theory that an increasing consumption of goods is economically desirable. It is a scathing commentary on us as an individual and society for our immoral infatuation with money, products, entertainment and the lives of the rich and famous. The two texts, Brave New World and The Truman Show, a novel and film created by Aldous Huxley and Peter Weir respectively, provides an intricate insight of the manifestation of consumerist ideals that is reflected upon both societies.

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The novel Brave New World is published in 1932 and is set in an alternative realm that resembles the elements of Huxley’s contemporary, an unpromising state with the outlook of science, materials and technology as a potential futuristic remedy due to the war. Thus, he uses storytelling as a platform for representing a possibility that may branch into the future and connects with the audience so that they are able to comprehend his intentions. Likewise, we are awakened to realize the negative effects of consumerism and its ability to control masses through the 1998 film, “The Truman show”. The director, Peter Weir, satirizes a consumer culture by making materialism and product placement comical in the film, which serves as a warning and reflects on our contribution to a declining culture. It depicts the desperate pursuit of the American Dream and illustrates the inauthentic connections confirming to a consumerist culture. As a result, both texts have enabled us to visualize what might happen into the future.

In the novel, Huxley portrays the unconventional ways of the future through the representation of significant characters as an allusion to consumerist ideals. Lenina Crowne, the female protagonist, is arguably one of the most conditioned characters whose purpose is to favour a consumer’s culture. She is taught from birth the ideals of consumerism through conditioning in such a way that one could argue that she has also become a product of consumerism. Lenina was owned by many men through her sexual promiscuity, an unorthodox method taught by the world state as a means in promoting consumerism, hence the repetitive saying of “Everyone belongs to everyone else”. This is shown during the solidarity services where the chant orgy porgy is repeated after the drinking of soma, and before the participation in group sex. Here, we see Huxley make a critique of the consequences of consumerism when humans have also become a commodity but in a mocking way. Similarly, in the opening scene of “The Truman Show”, we see Truman, the protagonist, giving a brief in the bathroom mirror behind a wall of products. He says in his imaginings, “when I die, use me as an alternative source for food”. In this quote, Peter Weir uses dramatic irony to subtlety point out the fact that Truman is consumed as a product in the show. However, unlike Lenina, who is supportive of the act of consumerism, Truman is completely oblivious to this fact. His face, the trademark of the Truman show is common within all consumers household item, such as the Truman pillows depicted in two old ladies lounge, a satirical way of expressing Weir’s disgust in this issue. Hence, in both texts, we see the true intention of storytelling as a warning to the aftermath of consumerism at its worst.

A stories’ ability to evolve with us, to engage us and to connect us with others speaks to something much deeper than simply a desire to be entertained. Thus, the two texts Brave New World and The Truman Show play an immense role in communicating the devastating impacts that consumerism has on our society in the twentieth century. Their messages and warnings have allowed us to reflect on our behaviour as a society in providing a clear visualization of the outcomes on the negative impacts of consumerism. 

09 March 2021

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