Monday, November 16, 2009

Robbing the Individual from the Self

The idea of having a utopian society has not yet been reached, but definitely seems to be what the elites in charge of our lives want to achieve when they say they want to make our society a” better” place to live. The ultimate goal of those who migrate to America is to reach the American dream, which in reality is full of misconceptions. The American Dream is to be successful enough to buy a big house with a white picket fence, have nice expensive cars and to be able to buy all that one wants and desires. The entertainment industry is fully in charge of manipulating people to think that the life that celebrities lead is the only type of life style that is glamorous and consists of happiness. The concept of a person reaching its full potential of knowledge and true happiness has completely diminished from the goals that drive us to “be better” and “live better”, just like in the story of Fahrenheit 451. The novel and film of Fahrenheit 451 describes how shallow the reasons are for destroying and overlooking the knowledge that makes us humans unique and true individuals who are able to speak proficiently and create personal opinions about issues that surround the world we live in. Guy Montag is a fireman who burns books in a futuristic American city. In Montag’s world, firemen start fires rather than putting them out. The people in this society do not read books, enjoy nature, spend time by themselves, think independently, or have meaningful conversations. Instead, they drive very fast, watch excessive amounts of television on wall-size sets, and listen to the radio on “Seashell Radio” sets attached to their ears. Fahrenheit 451 will be looked at through social critical theories and those involving the entertainment industry.
The book and movie of Fahrenheit 451 foreshadows the world we will live in if society continues to make media the focal point of our minds and the priority of our lives. The book Fahrenheit 451 is about a man going against the idea/norm of burning houses that consist of books, to add to the idea of how crucial knowledge, language and individuality is. Fahrenheit 451 uses the tool of taking away books as a way to dumb everyone down to the same level, but with society today, media is emphasized (nothing is directly taken away, but instead emphasized) as a way to make society pull away from books and knowledge and to make everyone look the same and to think/ focus on things that are only materialistic and have no real value. In the book Modern Social Imaginaries, Taylor suggests “in the modern ideal, mutual respect and service is directed toward serving our ordinary goals: life, liberty, sustenance of self and family” (Taylor 13). A person like Beatty, the captain of the fire squad who burned books in Fahrenheit 451, eventually becomes very robotic and shallow when mutual respect and service are the only things that direct him to his goals. Instead of knowledge being the tool that directs one closer to their goals, it is substituted by taking away what makes us different and valuable creatures. This is parallel to the society that we live in today. With society today, the media is so concentrated on getting the younger viewers interested in what they are selling, that they stray the younger generation, which is our future, to a path where knowledge is overlooked and not advocated in any way. The goal of the media which is also the reason that Beatty gives Guy Montag for burning books, the protagonist in Fahrenheit 451, is to “make everyone equal” (Bradbury 58 ). Beatty also mentions how “each man should be the image of the other; then all are happy, for there are no mountains to make them cower, to judge themselves against” (Bradbury 451). Media is doing the same exact thing by advocating the life style that celebrities have and telling the viewer that we should all be the same and look the same to be happy. When comparing Fahrenheit 451 and our society, I came to the conclusion that we are not that far away from reaching the point where we can physically burn books and where we can finally stop making the same negative effect in a way where it’s not obvious.
The oppression of ignorance is a theme that drives Guy Montag to free himself from the strain that was on him physically and mentally. Individuality is lost both in society today and in Fahrenheit 451 because “the industry robs the individual of his function. Its prime service to the customer is to do his schemasting for him” (Adorno and Horkheimer 4). In Fahrenheit 451, although Guy Montag found it wrong to burn houses, books and people, he was forced into it by Beatty’s rules. The fact that the entire town went after Montag to track him down, shows translucent characteristic of “Big Brother” in Orwell’s 1984. The industry in this case is the government and does all the thinking and decision making for the people so that they won’t have to decide what is good and what is bad. It will be stated and expected to conform to by the people for the good of the government. The entertainment industry has also robbed the individual of the self by brainwashing the public by making them think that one will gain more happiness about themselves if they mimic celebrities and their “glamour”. With movies that premier in theaters don’t let us decide for our own if it is a good or bad movie. We are directly told even before watching it that it is good/ bad through ratings and shows that cover the media. The industry has begun to serve all people by creating shows and movies that are appealing to all age groups and all ethnic backgrounds. This bright idea which earns the industry billions is created to completely remove the idea of knowledge/ earning an education. The destruction of knowledge and language is a work that is in progress today by the entertainment industry that we are so a part of. It seems to be having a stronger hold on us as individuals as time progresses and as we allow them to by eating up all that they try to feed the public (metaphorically speaking).

Works Cited
Adorno, Theodor and Horkheimer, Max. “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass
Deception. 1944. Source: Fa09/scripts/serve_home.
Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451. Ed. Del Ray. New York. 1978.

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