Saturday, May 28, 2016

15 million merits- Nancy Shtarkman

Nancy Shtarkman

Professor Weimer

            Out of all of the utopian and dystopian works we have read in class, this one was the creepiest. My eyes were glued to the screen and I didn’t even see the time go by. Starting from the beginning of the episode, I must say that everything is symbolic. Everything is digitalized. This could have a connection to the third industrial revolution that we are currently in. Everyone lives in separate rooms and instead of being surrounded by regular walls, everyone is surrounded by computer screens which play the same shows daily. This digitalization is also symbolic of how dehumanized this society is becoming. These residents have never been outside, nor have they experienced nice weather. This reminds me of “The Allegory of the Cave”. All of the people in the cave are accustomed to their way of life, until one of the people decided to leave the cave and explore. When the main character, Bing, decides to share his feelings on the society, this reminds me of the character in the Allegory of the Cave. Both of these characters weren’t afraid to branch out of their comfort zones and to prove to themselves what was wrong with society.
            Another character that I can parallel Bing with is John Savage from Brave New World. Both characters show us that the system in which they are living in cannot be beat. John Savage attempts to overthrow the system and then ends up succumbing to it by beating Lenina along with the other residents. The next day, he is disgusted with himself and he kills himself. In 15 million merits, Bing didn’t want to escape his monotonous life pedaling away on the bicycle by going on this show, “Hot Shot”. He wanted to share his thoughts on what was wrong with this society. During his performance, he took out a piece of glass and mentioned that he will kill himself if the people don’t let him speak. There is an attempt at changing society and there is some sort of attempt at harming oneself, similar to John Savage’s actions.         However, there is a very big difference between these two characters. Bing ends up accepting the offer of the judges and falls into the trap of the system despite his efforts to thwart the system. Almost similarly, in Brave New World, John Savage gives into the system and ends up attacking Lenina when she comes to visit him in the lighthouse. However, he is disgusted with himself afterwards. In “15 million merits”, Bing doesn’t seem too disgusted with himself after he accepts the offer for his own television show. He claims he will commit suicide with the glass shard if the judges don’t pay him attention, but once they offer him the chance for a television show, he is engulfed into the system and he forfeits his initial plan. Although Bing exhibits some rebellion, as he is speaking out against the system in his television show, nevertheless, he is still part of the system. John Savage commits suicide to relieve himself of the influences of the system and this is where the two characters differ.
            Another parallel can be drawn to Lenina’s character. Although she sees what is wrong with the people in the Reservation, she decided to forget about it and drink Soma. By Lenina drinking Soma, she is exhibiting the strength of the system and showing us that there is no way out. By Bing accepting the requests of the judges despite his rebellious character throughout the episode, he is showing that there is no way out of the system. There was another very important scene which illustrates the idea that there is no way out of this system. Abi drinks her “compliance” drink before she goes on stage. She didn’t seem too compliant when the judges asked her to become a porn star. She eventually agreed, however, she wasn’t kneeling towards this idea. The judge even asked her, “You seem like you would rather be back on that bike again.” This can be contrasted with Bing and his decision to opt out of drinking the “compliance” drink. Although he didn’t drink this drink, he still complied to the system and agreed to have his own television show. Abi and Bing’s actions with their “compliance” drinks, when compounded, show us that there is no way out of the system.
            There is a strong correlation between this episode and “The Hunger Games”. All of the characters in The Hunger Games wear very dull colors to symbolize the monotonous and dehumanized life they live in their society. The same idea applies in “15 million merits”. All of the residents wear the same gray sports suits to show the lack of individuality in the residents. Furthermore, the dress of the judges is similar to the dress of the judges in “The Hunger Games”. While all of the residents live an impoverished life, the hosts of the Hunger Games wear bright and vibrant colors.  They aren’t part of this society because they live a life of luxury. The same idea applies to the judges in “15 million merits”. They are deciding who will go on to work in an industry to display their talents instead of pedaling away on the bicycle every day. Each of the judges wears different and bright colors. They are separate from the residents in this society.
            Another parallel between “15 million merits” and The Hunger Games is the idea of instilling entertainment for the other residents, despite how sickening the entertainment really is. In 15 million merits, Abi, a female singer, goes onto “Hot Shot”, the equivalent of “America’s Got Talent”, in the hopes of singing as a professional career. The judges decide that she should be a porn star and the digitalized audience unanimously decides that she should do it. Although she seems hesitant, she decides to succumb to the power of the system. Abi’s reactions and behaviors can be paralleled to those of the main character in the Hunger Games, Katniss. When Katniss volunteers to be apart of the Hunger Games, her voice is trembling. However, the crowd goes crazy to cheer her on. The residents who are drafted into the annual Hunger Games know that there can only be one winner and eleven losers. Those eleven losers end up being killed. Although this is a sadistic game, everyone gathers for the “entertainment”. This idea can be seen in 15 million merits. Although the crowd knows that Abi wishes to be a singer, they still cheer her on when the judges offer her a complete opposite alternative, pornography. This pornography will later be screened by the residents of the society and will serve as entertainment.  

            “15 million merits” was one of the most unique television shows I have ever watched. It can be compared and contrasted to other literature works, such as The Hunger Games and Brave New World, to name a few. It was a perfect example of how easily rebellions can be appeased.

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