Brave New World – The Book
Brave New World by Aldus Huxley was part of my high school curriculum so I was forced to read it in my youth. It is more than 30 years since I read Brave New World and such was the impression upon me that I remember it surprisingly well till this day. I also remember it being one of the hardest books to get into as I struggled with the first chapter or so trying to follow multiple conversations of the different characters being introduced into the story.
Once into the book I was fascinated by the dystopia Huxley described where on the surface all the world problems had been solved and finally everyone was happy. The scariest thing about this dystopia was that it seemed to work and there was no opposition to it nor could one develop.
A world where everyone belonged to everyone and nobody belonged to anybody. This was achieved by removing the function of procreation from individuals and assigning it to the state. Babies are no longer born but genetically engineered and decanted from test tubes.
The practice of eugenics and cloning is used to create a caste system with members naturally predisposed to their role in society and re-enforced further by conditioning including constant subliminal instructions from birth to be happy with their role.
Sexual promiscuity is promoted and even taught to young children. Forming long term relationships is frowned upon and considered unhealthy. Emotions are kept under control with voluntary doses of ‘Soma’, a drug to modulate feelings. There is even a new religion with Henry Ford as the figurehead admired as the father of modern mass production.
Brave New World – The Movie
I recently became aware that a 1998 movie had been made and was very curious to see it. I finally got a copy and have just finished watching it. I found it generally disappointing as it failed to present the same believable model of the dystopia I had read in the book.
Visually the movie was disappointing and unconvincing. The movie is meant to be set far in the future after the death of Ford and devastating World Wars that resulted in the setting up of a world government, but the technology shown was at best contemporary and in many cases already dated.
The clothing was also very dated with a mix of contemporary and retro 60s. In one scene the World Controller had on a bright orange suit with huge chunky orange beads and would have looked in place on a set for Austin Powers.
The movie only superficially covered the caste system and neglected the cloning aspect among the lower castes. At one point in the movie a Delta tea lady is asked if she is happy to be a Delta and she confirms she is using a programmed response from her conditioning. To my mind she looked far too normal and unconvincing compared to the glassy eyed moronic Delta I’d expected to see.
There were changes to the characters and story line also that I think detracted from the believability.
In the book Bernard is socially inept but desperately wants to fit in. He is physically shorter than other Alpha plus caste members and there are rumours that alcohol was accidentally administered to his test tube, this being a method employed to stunt the growth of Epsilons.
The rivalry between Bernard and his boss culminating in a plot to kill Bernard using a reconditioned Delta are additions not found in the book. While this made the characters far more human by our standards they are inconsistent with the socially conditioned members of Brave New World where such personal rivalry and aggression would be alien concepts.
In my opinion there is too much missing from the movie and it fails to deliver the believable vision of a dystopia that Huxley wanted to warn us about. I suggest skipping the movie which is very forgettable and reading the book.