A Brave New World
A Brave New World was released by streaming service Peacock in July 2020. Written by Comic book writer Grant Morrison along with his creative partner Brian Taylor.
I remember having to choose a dystopian novel in high school. It was between 1984 and A Brave New World. It was a choice that put into motion my journey into classical sci-fi, a genre that tended to priorities exploring ideas over character. Despite my choice, both are considered the granddaddies of dystopian sci-fi and it would be a challenge for any creative team to bring this book to modern screens.
Synopsis: No Privacy, No Family, No Monogamy
A Brave New World, tells the story of a perfect society, set with unique social classes, social norms and a looming pharmaceutical dependency. I wont go into too much detail but in short, the denizens of New London have exchanged Privacy, Family and Monogamy for Happiness and stability. The city is an icon of futuristic prosperity and not hindered by disease, hunger and conflict. Visually the world has been brought to life with great technical effort, well designed sets and supported by an impressive display of costumes. Its the strongest element of the show. The story doesn’t really reveal itself until through a series of events, an outsider called John is accepted into their world. We follow John, (Aiden Ehrenreich), as he navigates his way through their “civilized” society, as he learns to understand their culture.
Sex, Drugs & Robots
I would watch this show before work, the sound of a sex scene is bouncing of the walls and my partner is standing at the doorway with “..what are you watching?’ sprawled across her face. Sex is a prevalent and reoccurring dynamic of the TV series and not without reason. In this world, the role of sex has been stripped of its taboo power and intimacy. Without children or monogamous partners to bind our loyalties, sex is just an outlet or a valid form of sensory entertainment. But…sexuality without discrimination, without shame, toxic behavior and violence. It solves a lot of complicated social issues and I’m conflicted to see the downside.
Soma on the other hand is a different issue. Its is a rhythmic clicking that is heard through out the series. A constant reminder of the drug being popped and consumed at any conceivable moment by everyone. Click. Instant bliss on tap. Click. No physical repercussion. And on one hand, it would solve the surmounting issues of drug & alcohol violence, addiction and health problems. But Soma is a shallow band aid that avoids any conflict. Its through life’s tribulations that we learn and grow to face our challenges. Its a memorable part of the show and the book to learn their stories didn’t have conflict. It was such a foreign idea to them and it mirrors their society, their stories were absent of conflict but also purpose.
Meanwhile, the whole system is held together by a governing Artificial Intelligence called Indra. She is the invisible hand that guides and design everyone’s lives and as one of the characters quotes ” …no one bumps into each other”. Indra’s presence is felt everywhere and without giving away too much, her agenda is ominous and vague on the details.
Historically, I have never been impressed with his Aiden Ehrenreich work, the script had many opportunities for him to give something desperate and vulnerable but you never get to see that. You’ll see him scream and throw things but that’s a tantrum and not to be confused with a crisis of character. But despite this, he is a very capable actor and was able to bring a natural charm to John. Its a major part of what draws people to him and I will admit, its easy to like him.
Harry Lloyd is introduced as Bernard Marx, a counsellor put in charge to help John transition into their world. If you’re an X Men geek like me, you would remember him from his welcomed performance as Xavier on the television show Legion. I highly recommend it. Of all the characters, I feel more for Bernard. He is unwanted, unsure and in these flaws I see myself. In the book, Bernard is noticeably smaller then others. It publicly sets him apart but allows him to observe his world more critically. In the show, he can not reconcile his socially unacceptable feelings with the obligation of his position. In the end, it’s his emotions and not his position that sets him against John.
Lastly, you may have also remembered Jessica Brown Findlay from another dystopian future, the Black Mirror episode Fifteen Million Merits. Her character Lenina Crowne, a love interest to John and Bernard, really goes through the ringer, being pushed through these emotional hurdles, I never questioned her authenticity. She refuses to take the drug known as soma in order to feel the spectrum of emotions her society denies. I thought it would have been interesting if they explored why someone would want to experience their “negative” emotions. Because they never explain the reason why, I’m left wondering why anyone would be motivated to abstain.
Just tell me is it good and should I watch it.
Yeah it’s good and yeah, watch it. What it sets out to do, it does so…. adequately but as much I wished, its never able to make that leap to something exceptional. Ultimately the story is predictable and the philosophy is never fully explored. This show could easily fly under the radar, bashed by film critiques and left to die on the side of the road. If you accept its limitation, you’ll see a hidden gem. It has a high production value, a great cast and a solid story.
I didn’t want this review punctuated with judgements of every creative change made between the novel and the television production. Really, as long as the tone and foundational concepts are not lost in translation, I’m not too critical. Their choice to extend this into a second season however is a dubious decision. I feel like they are extending this story unnecessarily. For now, the story seeks to expand into new territory and I hope it reveals a worth while conclusion.
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