George Orwell’s novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, reveals legitimate fears for our future society. In fact, in many ways this past future created on paper is reflected in the world we experience today on bigger, more colourful pieces of paper -advertisements. Presently in media, women are portrayed as objects for the pleasure of a man’s wandering eye. Their bodies are transformed into commodities for others consumption and we consume. The leading corporations have taken power over our own beings by enforcing rules on how we must present ourselves and so we do: we change our appearance, our manner and devalue ourselves. Perchance, we oblige without realising, but to believe your behaviour is not affected by these companies is to be affected, because not knowing the power multi-million dollar companies have over you, gives them power.
In the totalitarian state of Airstrip 1 a hierarchy has been formed, controlled by Big Brother who is forever watching; your thoughts, your movements are no longer your own. You are programmed what to see and programmed when to see and any action or thought against this is punishable by death. No longer a human being but a human doing, you do what the party requires of you in order for them to maintain their power; their control.
Repeatedly, characters of the novel are distorted from their human nature and forged into an animal creature. This is done to establish dominance over the lower classes. An example of this is Syme. He is introduced as one of Winston’s (the protagonist) comrades as “a tiny creature, smaller than Winston, with dark hair and large, protuberant eyes”. This description directly reflects that of a small rodent, a bush baby in particular. It is not coincidental that Syme is portrayed as a small primate; as a baby is reliant on their parents, he is reliant on the Party to survive. The increased ability of night vision given by the bush baby’s characteristic of large eyes imitates Winston’s analysis in the lines: “One of these days, thought Winston with sudden deep conviction, Syme will be vaporized. He is too intelligent. He sees too clearly and speaks to plainly. The Party does not like such people. One day he will disappear. It is written in his face.” This validates the knowledge that the Party has control over Syme and they will classify how and when he will live in this government because of his features. It is also important to note that Winston acknowledges Syme as smaller than himself, and that Syme is “vaporized”, again verifying the unspoken law of the Party that the bigger animal will survive; power will win.
The “proles”, or proletarians, namely the working class in the novel are also subjected to this animal classification. Simply put, Syme describes how the proles are nugatory when he states, “The proles are not human beings.” The Party enforces this belief upon the Outer Party which is affirmed by Winston’s lines: “the party taught that the proles were natural inferiors who must be kept in subjection, like animals… Left to themselves like cattle turned loose on the plains of Argentina.” Society reflects this by utilising the derogatory tone off cattle when we label those that travel in economy class. Instantly, we degrade these people with less resources and subject them to services that are deemed unpleasant. Media demonstrates this through the intent in which they exhibit the traditional house wife cleaning, cooking and caring for the kids. Advertised as passive women who are dependent on men for financial, emotional and physical support, these images leave little room for the aspirations of strong, independent women. They are presented as women smiling, enjoying these vexatious, demeaning jobs which is far from the real women we see today. Nineteen Eighty-Four demonstrates this through degrading characters by their animal personas. “The person immediately ahead of him in the queue was a small, swiftly-moving, beetle-like man with a flat face and tiny, suspicious eyes.” This quote describes a character from the Outer Party who, much like Winston, exists to serve the state. As a dung beetle works with feces, the description of the man becomes fitting as his contribution to society sacrifices much more than the slum life he receives from the Party.
The Heinrich Boell Foundation Feminism and Gender Democracy explains how women are debased in media. ‘In the initial stage of its history, media were managed exclusively by men. The media images of men and women were tailored to men’s preferences. In other words, men were creating media images of men and women they wished to see in reality… Fragmental display of the female body and fragmentation of women’s body in advertisements promote the objectification of women’s bodies. When the TV screen or a commercial poster displays only slender long legs, prominent breasts or thighs, it is difficult to perceive that body holistically and as possessing personality.’ Orwell warned us of this when he took away the opportunity for individualism within the Outer Party characters. “In principle a Party member had no spare time, and was never alone except in bed… There was a word for it in Newspeak: ownlife, it was called, meaning individualism and eccentricity.” The characters were no longer human, instead being unintelligent creatures and therefore, no longer had thoughts of their own. Like men generated the ideal woman, the Party has created the ideal member; one who has no thought power to rebel against their desires. The Headless Women of Hollywood is a modern day example of this. Continuously women are pictured on movie posters and adverts as fragmented, sexualised body parts which are unquestionably intended as passive objects for the male gaze. These images have been collated as part of a campaign to bring awareness towards the issue of objectified women. Intentionally or not, we become the viewers of these images when corporations use their monetary power to besiege our devices, buildings and even clothing with their brands and commercials. We ignore these displays because we are accustomed to seeing them thus we don’t even comprehend they are there. The danger in this is not being able to identify the erroneous representations of women due to the normalization of these images.
As a population we are unconscious. We are manipulated everyday into being someone who society will accept based on what we are forced to see and yet we don’t know it. The very clothes we put upon ourselves are decided by what the media determines ‘fashionable’, the words that come out of our own mouths are predetermined by what we hear and read and must be ‘acceptable’ for our age. Unconsciously we have no control of the influence the media obtains on our behavior, George Orwell’s awareness of this is present in the line: “Orthodoxy means not thinking-not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.” If humans continue to be unconscious of the media’s domination we will lose the power of individuality altogether. We will be made to conform to the expectations of the media and will possess little more character than the next small animal. Consciously, we must begin to take control of our actions, behaviour and beliefs before the effects the media hold on us begin to shape and label who we are and define our purpose.