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Allusions, Influences, and Refrences: SatAM.


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Note: I originally wrote this for the Fans United for SatAM forum back in 2012 and am reposting it here at the request of @TheRedStranger. I have not read the novel in question since then, so my contributions to any discussions in this thread will be limited.


A few hours ago, I finished reading George Orwell’s 1984, during much of which I found myself drawing rather intense comparisons to a certain Saturday Morning Cartoon. Major spoilers for the work will invariably follow, though I’ll try to be vague. If this is rather incoherent, I apologize; I spent the entire night reading and am exhausted, but want to get this off my chest before going to sleep, which will likely muddle my thoughts and quell any desire of even writing this.

Most fictional works I experience, classics or no, fail to elicit a strong emotional reaction from me, but 1984 was an exception. It was horrifying, due not so much to its bleak dystopic setting, which I doubt will reach any great semblance of realization within the foreseeable future, but to the utterly pessimistic conclusions it drew about human nature. The novel postulates that, given enough pain, any person can be so completely broken as to disavow reality, not just externally but to themselves, that one’s belief in truths so basic as two plus two equaling four can be altered to suit the whims of another. Even love, Orwell seems to argue, that most treasured of emotions, is not exempt. Except it’s not a forcible change at all; the ultimate, damning act of submission, of betrayal, comes from within. And it always occurs.

Almost as terrifying is the notion that such pain isn’t even required in most cases. Simple conditioning is enough to usually ensure complete obedience, in thought as well as action. People will be told to believe something they know to be wrong and they wholly accept it without hesitation, so that, save for in a fleeting, invisible objective sense, it becomes true.

The origins of the INGSOC society in which the novel occurs are never fully detailed (assuming that the book Winston read on the matter was indeed inaccurate), but there remains a sense throughout that it is inexorable, inevitable, both in its emergence and in its growth. I may be mistaken in the former point, if 1984 was indeed written as a warning against socialism (implying the possibility of prevention), but Orwell seemed to see the rise of such a society as unavoidable, or at least that the permanent loss of freedom for all people was a very real possibility.

I by no means entirely concur with Orwell on the matter; hours later, the emotions I experienced reading the novel have long since cooled, and I doubt I will consider the work life-changing in any meaningful sense. Yet the fact remains that, whether due to the quality of writing or my tired condition, I found myself gripped by the terrible hideousness of the novel’s final act, forced to confront these grim beliefs that, forged in the aftermath of the atrocities of the Second World War, are not easily dismissed as unfounded cynicism.

As I read the last third of 1984, my mind issued again and again an almost unconscious “NO!”, a rebuttal, grounded more in emotion and raw simple knowing than any coherent logic, that what O’Brien, what Orwell, was saying is untrue, that good can and will prevail, that there exists a part of the human soul that is unquenchable. Though this wellspring of bitter emotion was in part driven by my spiritual beliefs, it also stemmed from themes and concepts that I saw in other works and life in general, those few that are profound and beautiful enough to shape one’s identity.

As it happened, what thus personified this secular side to my insistence that Orwell’s bleak view of human nature was wrong was not the writings of some Greek philosopher, nor the message of a classic piece of literature. It was a young man and woman who dared stand against the monster that had enslaved their world…and won. It was Sonic and Sally.
It sounds ludicrous, I know. It likely is, using a children’s television program starring talking animals to mentally counter one of the most influential works of literature of the twentieth century. It isn’t as if SatAM’s this profound source of life-shaking philosophical wisdom, a source of inspiration that dwarfs all other works in my eyes. Yet I find beauty in it, have found myself pondering the show, its settings, its characters, its themes, a great deal ever since I was re-introduced to it last year. There’s something so.... compelling about them, that transcends those twenty-six episodes, a fair number of which I found mediocre or in a couple of cases flat-out terrible. When I began 1984, I was already looking forward to comparing the dystopian setting of the novel to Robotropolis, Big Brother’s indoctrination to the possible mental effects of roboticization.

And so, for whatever reason, SatAM was on my mind when I concluded 1984, watching with growing horror and eventual resignation as Winston’s soul was utterly violated, utterly destroyed, from without and ultimately within. The novel gave a great deal more understanding to one of the reasons I love SatAM:

It’s optimistic.

Though many dissimilarities between the two exist, the settings of SatAM and 1984 share a similar foundation: extremely controlled, ordered worlds governed by a ruthless and tyrannical figure, whether literal or figurative, whose inhabitants have been conditioned against any possible dissenting thought. Yet where Orwell believed escape from such a system to be ultimately impossible, Hurst and the other writers argued that it is possible for goodness and hope to exist amidst oppression and tyranny, that against all odds they can not only sustain people but, as illustrated through Uncle Chuck’s rescue, break through the webs of lies tyranny enthrones itself upon and even put an end to such evil (cliffhanger notwithstanding).

Sonic and Sally, though both flawed, are in a sense themselves embodiments of concepts that simply cannot exist in the Orwellian society once its noose has been tightened. Sonic is playful irreverence and unshakable self-confidence, a source of joy stemming from simply being, from living as oneself. Sally is selfless love and nurturing, a leader who does not seek power but places the weight of the world on her shoulders so that it will not have to be borne by those she cares for.

I suppose the ability of good to not simply exist but actually thrive in the face of evil is what makes SatAM so charming. Tails being read bedtime stories by his adoptive family; Sonic cracking a defiant one-liner toward Robotnik even as SwatBots close in; the playful bickering and banter amongst the Freedom Fighters; their taking pleasure in something as simple as the tree slide; the cheerful exclamation of “Let’s do it to it!”. All are elements that I find much more endearing, much more meaningful, than I normally would, due to the fact that they take place in the face of such hardship. To assert they even can take place in such a world is to reject the core of George Orwell’s 1984, to believe, as Samwise Gamgee mused, “that there’s some good in this world…and it’s worth fighting for.”

Well, that wound up being longer than anticipated, but I needed to get out of my system both some thoughts on how the novel related to SatAM and musings on the show in general. For those who have read 1984, would you agree that SatAM is fundamentally opposed to it thematically? What are your thoughts on why the series is so memorable and potentially thought-provoking?

Edited by TheRedStranger
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  • 2 weeks later...

I agree 100% that Satam offers more solutions to Orwell's well addressed problems. We need more optimism than "imaging a boot stomping on the face of humanity forever." I think it's because of Satam's American-ness personally. Orwell was drenched in the deceitfully warm wave then cold, wretched backwash of European socialism during his time as a revolutionary. He saw where his worldview led him and the Russians ultimately under Stalin and could not see the light for the end of the tunnel. Satam has the American hueristics of Freedom (despite there being a Monarchy) while being one of the first post-modern cartoons. Satam was developed in an amazing social and historical moment, the first few years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the old guard of Communism (and years before the reactions to 911 slightly frayed this optimism). Ben Hurst himself mused in an interview that someone wrote him a paper about Satam: 'being a metaphor for America's fight for freedom.' It definitely embraces the mileu of classical-liberalism (now a days ironically called modern conservatism) whilst Orwell struggled in a darker moment and proximity to the social unrest auch authoritarianism he criticized caused. 

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