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Aldous Huxley's Brave New World Is Finally Getting a Modern TV Adaptation

The cover of Brave New World.
The cover of Brave New World.
Image: Leslie Holland

Hollywood’s been trying to get a new live-action adaptation of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World off the ground for years, and it’s finally about to happen thanks to the USA Network, surprisingly.

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Today, The Hollywood Reporter says the network announced that Fear the Walking Dead producer David Wiener has signed on to write and showrun the 10-episode-long first season that’s set to film in the U.K. Black Mirror: San Junipero’s Owen Harris is attached to direct. Grant Morrison and Brian Taylor are also still attached.

While specific details about the series have yet to be announced, it’s likely to be a rather straightforward adaptation of Huxley’s classic story about a dystopian future in which society is strictly stratified, personal decisions about their bodied and emotions are regulated, and a disillusioned psychologist realizes that he’s going through life keenly unfulfilled.

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No premiere day yet but we’ll bring you more as we know it.

Correction: An earlier version of this post stated that this would be the first televised adaptation of Brave New World, but there have actually been two television films directed by Burt Brinckerhoff in 1980 and Leslie Libman and Larry Williams in 1998. We regret the error.


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DISCUSSION

Brave New World (1998)

Not the first live action adaptation of BNW. It played it safe (chicken) with the deeper dilemmas of the book.

Frankly, I doubt any treatment will be true to the book. It’s themes are built on political, psychological, and scientific concepts, many of which, if not wholly discredited, have required great revision. Huxley used the ideas of Freud, Jung, Marx, and others.

[Note: I’m going by memory. Apologies for any inaccuracies. Please feel free to correct me. My imperfect individuality will survive.]

Brave New World is brilliant in concept. The future is run dispassionately and there are no reasons to want anything (similar to Star Trek’s post-scarcity universe). And even if they did want anything, they have Soma to feed those desires with bliss.

But desires inherent to the human condition are not eliminated by fulfillment, so society is structured to eliminate personal relationships and the emotions and impulses that come with them. Births are in laboratories, eliminating the need for procreative relationships as well as parent-child relationships. No one can pursue goals or work for themselves, but are assigned work for the common good. People are, in fact bred into castes best suited for their particular type of work. Through this, it is easy to point to all the good of such a Utilitarian system. There is plenty of plenty for everyone and just enough people born to enjoy it. Cold math has ‘solved’ everything.

The genius is that everyone in this dystopia thinks it is utopia (save Bernard). There is much discussion of ‘freedom’ and it is easy to argue either side. Everyone is free to have a wonderful time (like pre-30 year olds in Logan’s Run) or simply enjoy somatic bliss (like wire-heads in Ringworld). But this comes at the expense of individuality, even consciousness.

Bernard argues that humans, whether dulled by drugs or not, cannot be happy without individuality and the ability to think and feel and choose. Humans have basically organized themselves into a herd and march themselves toward the lobotomy chamber.

But the freedom he considers necessary to even be human comes at a cost. One cost is that Utilitarian nightmare, the ‘Tragedy of the Commons.’ Our current global environmental state shows the consequences of that level of individuality. We breed to many people, consume to many things, and leave responsibility for the mess to someone else.

Huxley’s future also eliminates the prejudices and discrimination that are great ills in our own. Inequalities born of racism, sexism, religious division, etc... are no more. Drug use is totally acceptable. Politics are not real factors in the logically driven society.

Who is right? Who is wrong? Both. Neither. The book is an interesting launching point for fun philosophical discussions. But it doesn’t really answer them. Brave New World does what Science Fiction does best, gets to the kind of questions that are difficult or impossible to achieve outside ‘thought experiment’ situations. And it’s a good story to boot.

[Note2: I’ve largely ignored the whole genetic caste system. It always felt the artificial inequality was not central to the utilitarian concept. An obvious artificial wrong to act as plot lubrication. Inclusion wouldn’t change much else said here.]