Media and Medea

This past week I finished three things: the netflixable Stargate series, the Watchmen series (on disk), and listening to George Orwell’s 1984.

Stargate is almost entirely fluff. They throw in a slightly more interesting episode or arc every once in a while, and they will bump into some of the bigger questions, but not much. Mostly it’s save the team/world/child in 30-60 minutes. But there are almost guaranteed explosions, so it’s mildly entertaining. It’s also amusing to see how CGI/special effects improve from season to season.

Watchmen is something altogether different. At some point I learned the Greek myths. I guess that probably started in elementary school; gods, heroes and monsters. I certainly gained a deeper appreciation for them in college, reading some of the classic plays (thank you, Dr. Barker). Regular and supernatural people, visions of the future, events political, natural, and supernatural, and how the characters choose to deal with them; heroically, horribly, successes and failures. For me, Watchmen evoked those themes and characters. Ellyn was frustrated by a foretelling of future events that was not avoided. To me, it was a retelling of a story with the Fates and Furies.

Great acting, some really great shooting, and some amazing music/audio (thanks to Trent Reznor). I highly recommend it.

I read 1984 in high school. It might have actually been 1984. Recently, I was part of a class action suit against because of a jerky thing they did. We won, and as a result I was granted one audio book from a very large limited selection of things that I had absolutely no interest in. But I’ve been meaning to re-read 1984, and that happened to be on the list.

Several things struck me about the book: it’s amazing how anti-Soviet Union it feels. Not so much the USSR of 1948 as that of the 70’s and 80’s. He is really hung up on people’s physical appearance in the book. And I didn’t find it particularly good. But maybe that’s just me conflating good with enjoyable – ’cause enjoyable it ain’t.

It’s certainly an interesting book in what it gets right and what it gets wrong, though. There is so much thought and energy put into controlling the media – all media past and present. Eradicating any scrap of evidence that the party in power was ever wrong. That still seems like a ridiculous idea to me; there is print, there is uncontrolled media, there is memory. So it still feels like he got that wrong. More important than getting it wrong is that it seems to be so totally unnecessary.

What he got right is the terrifying idea: doublethink. That people will willingly believe what they are told and forget what they were told 15 minutes ago. That you can hold up four fingers and declare that they are 5, and people will believe you. There is some terrifyingly large portion of the population that doesn’t care what the record shows, what reality shows. The message is reality.

So, no, 1984 is not an enjoyable read. But if you have not read it, you really probably ought to.

One thought on “Media and Medea”

  1. Killer post Kurt! Makes me want to watch Watchmen (I’m sure the music is great if it’s Trent Reznor), and re-read 1984. I read that one in high school also and don’t remember a thing!

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