The Influence of ‘1984’ and Big Brother in Popular Culture References

Introduction: The Legacy of ‘1984’ and Big Brother

In 1949, author George Orwell penned a dystopian novel entitled 1984 that would go on to become a classic in the literary world. The book tells the story of a totalitarian government that monitors and controls every aspect of its citizens’ lives. The government’s leader is known as Big Brother. This novel has had a significant influence on popular culture, both past and present. The themes of surveillance, government control, and the power of propaganda are prominent throughout the story and have been adapted to films, television shows, music, and even advertising. In this article, we will explore the influence of 1984 and Big Brother in popular culture references.

The Film Industry and 1984

Films, similar to books, are a powerful storytelling medium and allow filmmakers to convey messages and ideas to a broad audience. Many producers and directors have been influenced by 1984 and the world that Orwell created. One of the most well-known film adaptations of the novel is Michael Radford’s 1984, which was released in 1984. This film’s tone captures the novel’s dark mood and director Radford’s depiction of the party’s propaganda and censorship propaganda techniques is particularly notable. Terry Gilliam’s Brazil (1985) became famous because of its retro-futuristic dystopia, which looks like it belongs in Soviet Russia, but also in the near future. Brazil offers critiques of consumer culture, bureaucracy, and the state.

The Television Industry and Big Brother

In 2000, a new, long-running genre of reality television was created in the UK, titled Big Brother, which displays the surveillance cameras operating throughout the house 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The show had contestants live without contact with the outside world and compete in different challenges to try and win a cash prize. Throughout the show’s history, viewers are watching housemates being manipulated, emotional conversations, and game strategies. Big Brother was extremely successful in many countries around the world, including the UK, Canada, and Australia, and generated spin-off programs and merchandise.

The Music Industry and 1984

Musicians have also found inspiration in Orwell’s novel and have utilized its themes in their music. For instance, David Bowie’s 1974 album Diamond Dogs includes a song titled 1984, where he combines his own ideas and principles with Orwell’s reflection on a dystopian reality. Following that, MTV was all the rage in the 1980s, and the dystopian future of 1984 was the basis for one of the first great music videos, Dire Straits’ Money for Nothing, with the introduction of digital animation techniques. Pink Floyd’s 1979 album The Wall, another significant example, is frequently linked to 1984 for its critique of conformity and the destructive nature of governments.

The Advertising Industry and Big Brother

As we all know, advertising is all around us, even if we don’t notice it. Many ad campaigns have used 1984 to create a sense of fear and paranoia in their viewers, as they do by highlighting how their products will protect people from a dangerous future. For instance, in 1984, Apple launched its Macintosh computer, which was hailed as a revolutionary piece of technology that would kickstart the computer revolution. The TV commercial for the product features footage from an Orwellian society, where a young woman, brandishing a sledgehammer, throws it through a giant screen that broadcasts the face of Big Brother. The message is clear: the computer is our key to freedom.


1984 and Big Brother’s influence on popular culture is undeniable. From books and films to music and advertising, their themes have been widely used and adapted. The concepts of individualism, propaganda, and the power of technology are still relevant today, making 1984 and Big Brother’s legacy as pertinent and essential as when they were first published. As artists and creators continue to incorporate these themes into their work, it’s clear that Orwell’s powerful ideas will live on for generations to come.

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