- By Hanna KozlowskaHanna Kozlowska is a fellow at Foreign Policy. She previously worked as a fixer, researcher and freelance contributor for the New York Times in Poland, and as the associate editor for Poland Today, an English-language magazine. Her work has also appeared in the Huffington Post and several Polish publications. She graduated from Swarthmore College where she was coeditor in chief of The Daily Gazette.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably noticed that kids these days are obsessed with dark, dystopian novels, especially their film adaptations. There’s the Hunger Games franchise, Divergent, The Bone Season, and Ender’s Game. No more wands, brooms, and potions. Instead, it’s all about an all-powerful ruling elite, a militarized and repressed society and, usually, a pair of young and innocent star-crossed lovers.
A new movie starring Kristen Stewart, she of Twilight fame, and Nicholas Hoult, mostly known as the boyfriend of Hunger Games star Jennifer Lawrence, plays into this new craze. But the movie’s storyline is far from new. The film, Equals, will be based on the classic George Orwell novel 1984 (or, more precisely, its 1956 film adaptation) that gave us terms like "doublespeak" (derived from the book’s "doublethink" and "newspeak") and an underlying fear that "Big Brother" is always watching. "It’s a love story of epic, epic, epic proportion," Stewart said in an interview. But why 1984 has to be neutralized as a romance is something of a mystery. Sure, a romance with Stewart in a leading role will bring in hefty ticket sales, but 1984 and its depiction of a surveillance state run amok has gained new relevance in the aftermath of revelations of aggressive American intelligence gathering practices.
But instead of a thoughtful adaptation of a book that has become universally recognized as a masterpiece of the genre, we get this. Vampire-girlfriend-turned-vampire Bella Swan will portray the rebellious Winston Smith’s illicit lover Julia, turning a book that has explained the mechanisms of totalitarianism for generations of readers into a mushy romance. "I’m terrified of it," Stewart said. "Though it’s a movie with a really basic concept, it’s overtly ambitious." Stewart isn’t particularly confidence inspiring, is she?
News of the film has sparked what can only be described as outright dismay among fans of the novel. Writing about the literary Twittersphere’s reaction to the news of Equals, The Guardian‘s Allison Flood put it this way: "It’s silly but fun, and might help lift us — just a little — out of the pit of despair into which anyone with any sense will have sunk at the news of Equals." If there’s is one good thing that comes out of this announcement — although watching a cage of rats strapped to Nicholas Hoult’s pretty face is something to look forward to — it’s Twitter snark at its best.
‘We’ll always have room 101, won’t we, Winston? We’ll always have that, at least?’ #romantic1984
— Lavie Tidhar (@lavietidhar) January 15, 2014
‘Nobody puts Baby in the corner! The telescreen can see her better if she’s in the middle of the room.’ #Romantic1984
— Scriblit (@Scriblit) January 15, 2014