When I was fifteen, I saw Terry Gilliam's movie Brazil for the first time. It broke my heart and my brain. Especially during the dream sequence when Sam Lowry flies through the clouds, his wings a glorious steampunk fangle, and suddenly skyscrapers erupt out of the Earth, sucking him and the woman he loves into a horrific dystopia. At that time, I had never experienced office drudgery or state oppression or even a duct system that didn't work perfectly — and yet I identified with the film's political message.
I had been to high school, after all. I had sustained myself on heroic fantasies, and knew what it felt like when mean-spirited authority figures snatched them away "for my own good." But until I watched Brazil, I don't think I had ever pondered the idea of high school life writ large, as it were, until it filled up the entire world and became a political and economic system. Something about the cartoonish nightmare of Gilliam's film drove home to me that there were far greater injustices than P.E. class and getting grounded for not making straight As on my latest report card.
Watching Brazil taught me that politics can hurt in the same way that being a teenager can — only in a way that is far more permanent and complete. It changed my perspective forever, and I think it meaningfully contributed to making me more of an adult.
What science fiction or fantasy stories changed your political perspective? Was it when you were young or when you were an adult? Tell us in comments!
We want everyone to be able to tell their stories without worrying that people will get judgey and rude, so if somebody tells a story about politics that you disagree with, please don't respond by snarking at them. Save that for another post.