We Are Watching You



“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”

― George Orwell, 1984

If ever there was a piece of cinema that encapsulated the sign of the times and the current Big Brother society everyone inhabits, albeit comically, The Truman Show (1998) would arguably be the stand-out example. A psychological comedy-drama written by Andrew Niccol and directed by Peter Weir, is about a show which airs 24/7 and documents the life of Truman Burbank (played by Jim Carrey). At first glance, it is easy to see this as just another light-hearted comedy, but the viewer is slowly shown just how inhumanly Truman is being manipulated and exploited for the sake of entertainment. Even before Truman is born, the public is watching the protagonist develop inside the mother’s womb. Truman emerges quite literally into the spotlight for all to see and from that moment on, life is not what it seems. It is a heartbreakingly cruel depiction, comedically offset by Carrey’s excellent performance, of a life that is not real. Actors replace real family members and take on a life-long role-playing Truman’s family and are constantly filmed night and day throughout Truman's whole life. Even when Truman sleeps. Everyone around who is not connected to Truman are actors hired to be extras in a pretend world.


Big Brother Is Watching You. (n.d.). [Illustration]. Big Brother Is Watching You. https://view.genial.ly/569111de1561e80c285e9eed/interactive-content-big-brother-is- watching-you-by-shepard-fairey

Granted, it stretches the whole Big Brother comparison to the extreme. But perhaps it is not totally inconceivable to imagine this being the next big reality game show. In recent times, the lives of millions have been heading in a direction where every move outside and in public is being ubiquitously monitored and recorded. There are difficult questions over security and privacy that have arisen due to crime and terrorism In the UK alone. It is estimated that there are around 5.2 million CCTV cameras. The cities with the most CCTV cameras in the UK are London (689,000), Birmingham (83,000), Leeds (58,000), and Glasgow (46,000), according to figures from counter-terror business. These figures exclude the number of monitoring systems that people have installed for home security purposes. Very few would argue that preventing crime is not a duty that people governing countries should not take seriously. However, the effect on what is essentially a good practice can have on society, if abused, can be a worrying one. Callum Woodhouse, a 19-year-old from Herefordshire, England was sacked from work as a refuse collector in 2021 for kicking a snowman that was already melting, in a residents garden. It was captured by the family’s CCTV system and the 19-year-old was let go. Hilarious if it was not at the expense of someone’s livelihood. There have been other cases where people have had altercations with the Police and have preceded to film the event on mobile phones or arguments that have inflamed on public transport, filmed and uploaded to the web.


There Are Spying Eyes Everywhere—and Now They Share a Brain. (n.d.). [Illustration]. There Are Spying Eyes Everywhere—and Now They Share a Brain. https://www.wired.com/story/there-are-spying-eyes-everywhere-and-now-they-share-a-brain/


The view that one has nothing to hide, therefore, film away! That is not really the point. Just as society gratefully welcomes protection governments, local councils, and the police give, it should not mean that the price to pay is giving up one's privacy. Most agree that having CCTV monitoring systems in airports, shopping centers, bus ports, banks, and even personal properties is a perfectly reasonable thing to do if the main objective is to prevent serious crimes like theft, arson, violence, and fraud, or acts of terrorism. But where should the line be drawn between privacy and security? Everyone can now spy on everyone else. Sometimes the filming can appear fairly innocuous. Stand-up comedians regularly hone and practice their shows before taking them to the theatres, however, nowadays people film everything rather than being in the present, and this can be quite frustrating for the performers because all mistakes are now on film and uploaded to the internet before the performer has a chance to rectify and perfect their shows. The problem extends to societies' online activities, too. The technology around us is listening and a harmless conversation about holidays or shopping can lead to one's phone suggesting various sunny holiday resorts or the latest sportswear offers. What are the effects on one's subconscious? Knowing that one is being filmed on a constant basis and that one's online activity is being tracked is a really strange thought. There is a kind of tacit control given up to the people in charge. The behavior within society has become one of suspicion. There is a telling slogan repeated in George Orwell's 1984 which seems quite apt in today's climate; WAR IS PEACE. FREEDOM IS SLAVERY. IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.

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Peter Terrence

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