Big Boss and the Era of Surveillance


The celebrity show Big Boss is creating headlines all over the country.  


What is quite interesting is the fact that the idea behind this show came from a writer who published his best work in 1949. Orwell might have had no idea that his work would inspire a television that would actually endorse the ideology of surveillance which he vehemently resisted in his work, 1984. The show brings together celebrity contestants from the society and locks them up in a house cut off from the outside world and always under the watch of cameras monitoring their words and deeds. The contestants follow the instructions of the Big Boss without questions and they are threatened with huge fines if they wish to exit the show.

Orwell talked about such a world in 1984 where the citizens are always watched by Big Brother through a television screen that acts as a transmitter and receiver. No citizen can question the authority of Big Brother and even thoughts are monitored by the thoughtpolice. Orwell was trying to point out the dangers of authoritarian rule. However, we live in a world where surveillance has actually become the norm. The transformation of the name from Big Brother to Big Boss indicates the fact that Orwell's predictions are becoming more and more true. Towards the end of the novel, Orwell says that the protagonist lost his will to resist the authoritarian state and decided to succumb to it. This is just what is happening now. People have accepted the authoritarian state and are willing to call them their boss.

In the real world, very few people have issues with surveillance methods like the aadhar which people like Julian Assange have described as a way of monitoring the people. Even in educational institutions, students and staff are constantly followed by surveillance cameras as if they are expected to commit crimes sooner or later. This criminalisation of people is happening everywhere; on the streets, in offices, and every imaginable place. Organisations and groups which tell people what is right and wrong in marital life are actually taking the idea of surveillance to the next level. In fact almost all religions work on the basic presumption that people are being watched by a Big Brother who is the ultimate authority.

This might be one reason for the acceptance that shows like Big Boss gets in countries like India. But these shows also promote a sense of subservience in people which is very dangerous in the present circumstances when people are being forced to accept the dictates of the government whether or not they like it. The lack of democracy in these shows is covered up by gimmicks like audience voting where the people get a false sense of being the judges. Instead of being the watchguards of democracy, the media is encouraging the people to follow the tasks set by their authoritarian rulers. Orwell might turn in his grave, if he knew his Big Brother is the new cultural icon.

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