It was interesting to watch “Fifteen Million Merits” and see a dystopian society come to life. It took technology to a whole new level and made a complete mockery of it by showing the absolute control it had over the society; control being a major characteristic of a dystopian society. The use of dreary, almost casino-like music and sounds provoked a hypnotic feeling that went perfect with the continuous routine that individuals went through. Color played an important part in this society because it was used as a form of control. Individuals were able to live colorfully through their avatars but they were stripped completely of their individualities in the real world as a result of uniforms; the “good” citizens of that technological society wore only grey clothing while the “bad” citizens wore yellow clothing and forced to become janitors. I found this pretty interesting because in our society, the color grey is a detached unemotional color and can be associated with being boring or depressed. However, in our society, the color yellow is associated with being enthusiastic or cheerful; whereas in this society, if you wore yellow you were seen as a bad person. There were even games that allowed the “good” citizens to kill and torture the people in yellow. Apart from these two colors, the only place there was full color was on the television screens that individuals used while they rode a bicycle machine and on the screen walls of the cubicle rooms that they slept in or the bathrooms.
While in today’s society earning a living means getting money through jobs to support yourself and your family; in this show, earning a living meant getting merits for playing video games, watching porn, or the show “Hot Shot,” or simply complying with whatever popped up on television screens. This meant sitting through ads or porn. The merits were then used as a form of money to buy things such as food or even a ticket to audition to be in the show “Hot Shot.” Each individual only had to worry about earning merits for themselves since they did not have a family or spouse to support. However, failure to comply with the technological control meant that you would be punished by losing merits. This reinforced compliance because it took long to earn merits.
Another major characteristic that made this a dystopian society but at the same time had a twist was the protagonist (Bingham) who tried to revolt against the way society was run; specifically going against the show “Hot Shot.” However, to my dismay, when his powerful speech about control and embarrassing contestants was done, he ended up falling right where society wanted him to be: as soon as they made him an offer to have his own show and live in luxury, he accepted. In the dystopian literature that we have read thus far, the protagonists’ never fell victim to the control of the “guardians.” Instead, they ran away and started a new life or just didn’t listen. But in this show, the protagonist was made an offer and he complied with it. This shows just how brainwashed everyone was and even when they saw the truth, they fell back into the vicious cycle of total control.
As I was watching this show, I could not help but think about a short story called “The Machine Stops,” by E.M. Forster. In that short story, society was also controlled by technology and individuals lived in a “machine” that did absolutely everything for them. From raising the floor if something fell or simply creating night and day; just like this show. While the short story is much older than the show, they both make technology out to be a horrendous thing. In today’s society, some of us wish we could sit at home and play video games or watch television all day and we don’t realize how corrupt our world would be if we were able to. This show expressed the harsh reality of what it would be like if technology was so advanced to the point where our minds would be so sucked into a screen that that was all we knew.