Friday, September 23, 2005

feed your students... then depress them

For tonight's viewing of "1984" (the Hurt and Burton* version) I had three-- yes, THREE-- students. One had to leave in the middle of the movie, so she missed dinner: we stopped the film after about an hour to order Chinese food, which arrived surprisingly quickly. We talked a bit about movie symbolism and what it's like to teach and learn English (and Korean). I got to hear a few student rumors up close, and offered some insight into the minds of my colleagues, all of whom I described in ringingly positive terms.

After the dinner break, we started the flick up again, and by the end, my two remaining students were thoroughly depressed. North Korean society was mentioned more than once by way of comparison to "1984." I made bold to mention the things that made me uncomfortable in South Korea: omnipresent cameras, loudspeakers in the Olympic Park (and other parks), the speaker on the wall of my dorm room (standard in many apartments). For balance, I talked about how the privacy issue gets debated in America, and how American companies can monitor their employees' activities fairly closely these days.

Spielberg's "Minority Report" might have been on to something, though: instead of mind control by a cruel and repressive government, we're more likely to be monitored by corporations interested in getting us to spend our money on their grounds and work according to their rules.'s software, a low-grade form of AI, already makes my shopping experience much easier by tracking my preferences and offering me selections based on them. Sort of creepy, that: rule through seduction.

If I had to choose between tyrannies, though, I'd rather live in Spielberg's dystopia than in Orwell's.

I didn't discuss the irony of the Korean government's censorship of the film (the blotting-out of the naughty bits, and, I think, the chopping away of some dialogue), but I'll hit that topic when I see my students again next Tuesday.

I might have to go rent "Equilibrium" so my students can see what happens when Hollywood nuts take "1984" and make it into an action flick.

*Say that phrase in your head repeatedly. Hurt and Burton. Hurt and Burton. Hurt and Burton. Hurt and Burton. Hurt and Burton. Pretty cool, the echo, eh? It gets even funnier when you start saying:

Hurt and Burton version
Hurt and Burton version
Hurt and Burton version
Hurt and Burton version

There's just something about the American rhotic "r" that inspires cackling.


No comments: