THX 1138: Efficiency over Morality in the Bureaucratic Mindset

10 April 2023
THX 1138 is a masterpiece of dystopian science fiction that explores profound themes and presents them with stunning visuals and innovative storytelling. The film's stark and cold aesthetic, combined with its focus on the dehumanization of individuals in a highly controlled and regimented society, creates a haunting and thought-provoking atmosphere that lingers long after the film ends.

George Lucas, the director of THX 1138 (and Star Wars baby!), demonstrates his mastery of world-building by creating a society that is utterly foreign, yet frighteningly believable. The government's control over every aspect of citizens' lives, from their emotions to their physical movements, is a stark reminder of the dangers of excessive technology and the loss of individuality. 

The film's depiction of a society that values rationality and efficiency over emotions and personal freedom is both fascinating and chilling, presenting a warning to humanity about the dangers of unchecked technological progress.

The film's protagonist, THX1138, is a remarkable character whose journey from a cold, emotionless worker to a passionate, rebellious individual is both inspiring and relatable. His relationship with LUH 3417, another dehumanized worker who awakens to the possibility of personal freedom, is both touching and heartbreaking, as they struggle to escape from a society that refuses to let them be who they truly are.
thx 1130 themes

Here's a discussion of the key themes of the film.

The process of reducing individuals to mere automatons in a society that is rigidly controlled and organized

In THX 1138, the society depicted is highly controlled and regimented, with individuals reduced to mere numbers and stripped of their individuality. The film is set in a dystopian future where citizens live in a highly controlled and sterile environment, with their daily routines and behavior dictated by a totalitarian government.

The dehumanization of individuals is evident in several ways throughout the film. Firstly, all citizens are referred to by a number instead of a name, erasing their individual identity and reducing them to a faceless entity within the system. They are also required to wear uniforms, which further dehumanizes them by removing any sense of personal expression or style.

Moreover, the society is highly automated, with robots performing many of the tasks that humans would traditionally do. This reduces the role of individuals in society, making them feel like cogs in a machine rather than valuable members of the community.

All of these factors work together to create a highly controlled and regimented society where individuals are reduced to mere cogs in a machine, lacking any sense of individuality or personal freedom. This dehumanization is a key theme in THX 1138, highlighting the dangers of a society where individuality is suppressed and controlled by a totalitarian government.

The devaluation of emotions and the emphasis on rationality and efficiency

In THX 1138, the society depicted is highly controlled, and individuality is strongly discouraged in favor of conformity and efficiency. One of the ways in which this is achieved is through the devaluation of emotions, which are seen as irrational and disruptive to the system. Instead, rationality and efficiency are emphasized as the primary values.

The characters in the film are conditioned from birth to suppress their emotions and conform to a strict set of rules and regulations. They are expected to perform their assigned tasks with precision and without complaint, and any emotional outbursts are seen as signs of instability or illness. This emphasis on rationality and efficiency leads to a dehumanization of the characters, who are reduced to mere cogs in a larger machine.

The film also explores the consequences of this devaluation of emotions. The characters are shown to be unable to form meaningful relationships or connections with each other, as they are discouraged from expressing any kind of emotional attachment. This lack of emotional connection and the resulting isolation and loneliness are depicted as a source of great pain and suffering for the characters.

Furthermore, the film suggests that the suppression of emotions is not only harmful to individuals but also to society as a whole. In one scene, a character who has stopped taking his emotion-suppressing drugs experiences a range of intense emotions, including joy, fear, and anger. This outburst of emotion disrupts the carefully controlled environment of the society, suggesting that the suppression of emotions is necessary for the functioning of the system.

The oppressive nature of the government and its use of propaganda to maintain control

In THX 1138, the government is depicted as an oppressive entity that seeks to control every aspect of its citizens' lives. The government enforces strict rules and regulations to ensure that individuals conform to a standardized way of living. The film portrays this through the use of propaganda, which is used to reinforce the government's authority and to control the thoughts and actions of the people.

One way that the government uses propaganda in the film is through the omnipresent use of television screens. These screens are used to broadcast a constant stream of messages that emphasize the importance of obedience and conformity. The messages are designed to instill fear and anxiety in the population, making them more likely to obey the government's rules and regulations.

Additionally, the government in THX 1138 uses propaganda to maintain its power by suppressing individuality and free thought. The government promotes a culture of conformity, where individuals are discouraged from expressing their own thoughts or ideas. This is evident in the way that THX's co-worker, LUH, is punished for expressing her love for THX. The government sees this as a threat to its authority and punishes her accordingly.

The oppressive nature of the government is also seen in the way that it controls people's emotions. In the film, citizens are required to take drugs that suppress their emotions, making them easier to control. The government uses this as a means of maintaining order and ensuring that individuals do not deviate from the norm.

A story of rebellion...

The potential for rebellion and resistance against an oppressive regime is a significant theme in THX1138. 

Despite the extreme control exerted by the government, the film suggests that rebellion and resistance are possible. As THX1138 begins to question the rigid system he is trapped in. He becomes curious about the outside world and starts to have emotions, which is forbidden. THX1138 eventually falls in love with his coworker LUH 3417 and decides to escape with her.

Their escape is complicated, and they encounter many obstacles, including the government's agents, who try to stop them. However, THX1138 and LUH 3417's determination and rebellious spirit enable them to continue with their plan. 

Bean counters

At the end of the film, the bureaucracy's decision to call off the chase for THX and LUH is a striking commentary on the dehumanizing nature of the society depicted in the film. The chase, which involves government agents pursuing the two fugitives across a variety of environments, is a significant plot point in the film, as it showcases the regime's determination to capture and punish anyone who dares to question their authority.

However, as the chase progresses, the bureaucracy becomes aware of the financial costs involved in continuing the pursuit. They calculate the cost of the fuel and resources required to maintain the pursuit and come to the conclusion that it is not financially feasible to continue. They issue an order to halt the pursuit, and the agents are instructed to stand down and return to their respective stations.

This decision by the bureaucracy to call off the chase is a powerful commentary on the values of the society in which the film is set. The bureaucracy's decision is not based on the ethical considerations of whether it is right or wrong to pursue THX and LUH but rather on a purely financial evaluation of the costs involved. This highlights the lack of humanity and morality in the regime's decision-making processes and emphasizes the value that the society places on efficiency and productivity over human life and individual freedom.


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About the author Jimmy Jangles

My name is Jimmy Jangles, the founder of The Astromech. I have always been fascinated by the world of science fiction, especially the Star Wars universe, and I created this website to share my love for it with fellow fans.

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