Out of Frame


About this show

Video essays that explore the intersection of art, culture, and big ideas written & produced by FEE's Director of Media, Sean W. Malone.

The "Perfect" Society Is An Epic Disaster

September 4, 2020

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Aldous Huxley’s 1932 novel Brave New World has finally gotten the TV treatment it deserves. The Peacock original series of the same name clings pretty tightly to Huxley’s original story, and the few modern additions make a lot of sense.

Brave New World shows us the fictional, futuristic setting of New London, where the World State cleanly and scientifically runs everything and everyone completely. Babies are not born, but “hatched” in a lab, genetically engineered from “conception” and psychologically conditioned from infancy to be perfectly suited to their caste-specific duty.

And while Brave New World routinely gets labeled as a dystopian story, it seems more accurate to say it’s a utopian story that’s just as terrifying as its grittier counterparts like George Orwell’s 1984. New London is clean, technologically advanced, and wealthy. Its residents have access to all the food, consumer goods, entertainment, and Soma they could want. Every conceivable hedonistic desire is indulged. And yet, something insidious lurks beneath the gleaming surface of New London.

A centrally-planned and closed-off society like New London operating with the success that it displays is simply not possible in the real world. But such dreams have long been the fantasy of many progressive thinkers over the years, especially in the early 20th century. Philosophers and writers like Huxley, George Bernard Shaw, and Bertrand Russell were convinced that central planning was not only good but necessary for managing the rapidly increasing complexity of the modern world, up to and including eugenics.

Huxley, unlike most of his contemporaries, was prescient enough to foresee the profound, negative psychological effects of such a level of state control over people’s entire lives. The latent unhappiness that would definitely exist with such a lack of personal autonomy is the reason for the invention of the fictional drug Soma, which does everything from calming anxiety and easing pain to, in a large enough dose, quietly euthanizing those members of society who have outlived their usefulness.

The combination of centralized control, intense psychological conditioning, and psychotropic drugs has created a society of mindless drones in New London. And when the cracks in that society begin to appear, which are then exacerbated by the arrival of John the Savage, we see just how fragile such a society would be.

Written & Produced by Sean W. Malone
Edited by Arash Ayrom & Sean W. Malone
Asst. Edited by Jason Reinhardt

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