Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Awakener of Dreams Fahrenheit 451

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Awakener of Dreams

This is the most interesting time we live in, filled with new technology and designs to help make our lives better. As wondrous and beautiful as it appears to be, there lies a certain amount of danger that can be nearly as seductive as it is deadly. The beauty often lies behind commercialism, materialism and capitalism. This seductiveness creeps in and brings anguish and chaos in our society, a place where popular culture flourishes. It is far easier to live a life of seclusion and illusion, a life where television is one’s reality. This is how life is represented in Ray Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451, in which a society has changed into a pleasurable fantasy world by thinking censoring books is superior. Our world today coincides with Bradbury’s world because even though we do not realize it, technology, media and advertising all play a crucial role in our influence through our thoughts and judgment. Tom Shales and Jack Solomon also reinforce the idea that our lifestyle is being swallowed by the pop world. The illusion of the utopian society in Fahrenheit 451 and the media today illustrate how it really is a dystopian world.

With the media controlling the public as mere puppets, we tend to strive for an image that emulates what we see in our surroundings. Solomon claims that “America is a nation of fantasizers” (164). He explains that we enjoy living the “Fantasy Island of commercial illusions” because we are aimed towards the many tactics of the market, creating new desires and clouded dreams. Advertisements are created because companies want to show why we should by that particular product and how it will be beneficial towards our lives. By having images of a young, beautiful woman laughing, surrounded by friends and with Absolut Vodka in hand, it portrays an image that we too can become popular and confident if we drink alcohol. Not only does it send off a bad message, it shows how advertisers manipulate and control what people think. Similarly to Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury gave examples of the society’s enrapture towards advertisements.

Advertisements serve as a desire to “belong” and grasp a hold on the illusionary world. They are everywhere, provoking our minds into buying a fantasy that will erase our securities. An example would be how Montag’s thoughts are being impounded by the ad for “Denham’s Dentifrice Dental Detergent.” He becomes so aggravated by the catchy jingle that is being played in the subway that he jumps to his feet, even in shock of himself to find that he could act in such a way. “He clenched the book in his fists. Trumpets blared. Denham’s Dentifrice. Shut up, thought Montag. Consider the lilies of the field. Denham’s Dentifrice.” (78) The advertisements targeted a hammering effect, which shows a prime example of how empowering they can be. The consumer is drawn towards the musical theme, thinking that toothpaste is the cure for being accepted by the world. People buy into a product because they feel insecure and want to belong to a perfect media-cultured society.

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Since our culture is subdued to a “cookie-cut” perfect lifestyle, television is an example of how fictional it is. People get drawn into what is real and what is a script-form of entertainment. Many shows like MTV’s Real World became popular because it was supposed to portray the “real world” with a camera in sight at all times. A group of eight strangers are brought into a gorgeous house in a popular destination all ready to play out the fantasy that viewers can see how life is from their shoes (8). Little did the public know that reality shows like the Real World isn’t all what they are cut out to be. Instead, it manipulates viewers that this ‘real world’ is fabricated with ‘near perfect’ flawless people, having MTV pay for all expenses to fall back on and go partying every night. The public finds it hard to believe that it can be make-believe because television gives the desires that we want to watch.

Television recreates an illusional world can coincides with Bradbury’s story. Instead of accepting our real identities, we rather see dreams and desires that can be “what if they can come true.” Wishing for a ideal lifestyle shows how one can be captured into the fake media. Montag’s wife, Mildred, is an example of fleeing away the real world by being subdued to television. She has a television system that covers three of the walls and is upset that they cannot afford to buy the screen to cover the fourth wall. This sophisticated TV has a control unit that allows the viewer to interact with the characters on the program and an option to insert a name into specific placers, a feature that Mildred is ecstatic about. This creates the image that the characters are actually conversing with the viewers. Since Mildred has only a few friends, she spends most of her day in the TV room watching a program that views a family in action, similar to today’s MTV Real World. Mildred is Bradbury’s example of how being washed into television brings nothing but a fake reality.

Montag’s wife seizes television as a substitute for reality. She is almost addicted to the glowing screens of the fictional world. Bradbury uses this example of television and its programs as a way of showing the escape it’s creating. Instead of actively questioning society’s values, characters like Mildred are constantly eyeing the fantasy life. In Tom Shales’ “Resisting the False Security of TV,” he explains the dangers of the “treacherous evil” of being comfortable with television (87). In the scene where Mildred and her friends are focusing so much on the television set, they do not even realize what is going on in the world outside of them until Montag flips the switch. An example in particular would be how their concern for the war is diluted by a fictional television show. Mildred says, “I’ve never known a dead man killed in the war…that reminds me…did you see that Clara Dove five-minute romance last night in your wall? Well it was all about this who-“ (5). She rather escape the real factors of life in exchange for a five-minute show. It is how Shales concludes “If TV lets us get too comfortable, the war will be over. And we will have lost” (Shales 87). Instead of looking on and seeing how to explain and change an already troubling society, we not only hide in our caves to the television set, but erase reality. The alarming effects of being swallowed into the entertainment world have taken over Mildred. She is a metaphor of what we would be like as mindless, lost souls, only depending on the fictional world for happiness and understanding.

Through the effects of popular culture, the feeling of happiness and escape is portrayed from the real world. Many people today rely on technology and the media to carry on with life. In Fahrenheit 451, ear radios or seashells are actively used throughout the book as a communicative system that the public relies upon. These seashell radios are used to send messages towards the public, but also to promote propaganda of the government and advance its agenda. Using these shells, people almost drift off to sea, so to speak. It is a sign of losing sight of reality. In today’s world, we are splashed with entertainment, technology and television images that advertise a certain lifestyle that we have to maintain. We have to get the latest cell phone, vintage styled boot-cut jeans and nineteen-inch LCD screen computers in order to stay competitive with the latest trends and styles. Jack Solomon says “American advertisers use to manipulate us into buying their wars. ‘Manipulate’ is the word here, not ‘persuade (161). This can be taken into effect of all aspects of media, not just advertising. By playing into the viewer’s attention, weakening us into buying desires is achieved. Our world today is manufactured by the dominance of the fantasy media, just as how Bradbury’s fictional society is in Fahrenheit 451.

The illusion of the proper lifestyle in Fahrenheit 451 and today’s lifestyle is like a manufacturing company. Like constructing new cars or furniture, we are constructing a society, consumed by the media, as thinking it is a new project to mold. The firefighters of Fahrenheit 451 thought they could construct a society, by taking away books to distract from what is real. The artificial family that Mildred views through her television is what is promoted as superficiality. The “family” knows nothing of reality but instead is feeding the public with temporary pleasures of what they want to see. In our world today, we are distracted by the advertising and mass media. Like the seashells, popular culture and the media, it serves as a distraction and an effortless way to occupy one’s mind. Life should not be illusional because the key to humanity lies in thinking and questioning. Fahrenheit 451 is a novel that serves as a warning call to epitomize the weak nature of society today. Even if the novel was written fifty years ago, it is still a reminder that there can be no utopian world. The real world has always been an awakener of dreamers.

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