We Are Big Brother's Reality Television Star

1473 words - 6 pages

Today, the American people are obsessed with reality television. Television shows such as, So You Think You Can Dance and The Bachelorette are just two examples of the fifteen reality or unscripted shows that placed on the Top 20 Highest Rated Television Programs in 2010 (Carter). What Americans fail to realize is they too are the stars of their own reality television show. Although their actions are not being broadcasted to the rest of the country, American citizens are still being monitored by the government through wire taps, GPS locators and cameras. These are just a few examples of ways the American government is beginning to introduce Michel Foucault’s idea of a utopia, called the Panopticon, into modern day American society. Although the government is trying to be as low-key as possible, movies like Enemy of the State tries to spotlight how obsessed society and the government are about surveillance. Though the motives of the government differ greatly from those of the citizens the line between right and wrong has become so obscured over the past decade that society doesn’t pay much attention to the surveillance being conducted upon them unless it directly affects the way they go about their life.
Enemy of the State follows Robert Dean, a labor lawyer, who is given a video of the murder of a Congressman Hammersley. When Hammersley was murdered, he was trying to pass a bill that would allow for law enforcement to greatly expand their surveillance abilities. The National Security Agency, in hopes of finding the video, sets up wire taps and cameras in Dean’s home. Unfortunately the National Security Agency was not able to find the video so they instead convict Dean of murder, he is then fired from his job and all his bank accounts are frozen. In an attempt to clear his name and restore his life he seeks help from an ex-communications expert for the National Security Agency named Edward Lyle. They eventually are able to expose the corrupt bill which in turn is not passed by the legislature. The corrupt ways that the National Security Agency conducted their surveillance is a prime example of Foucault’s Panopticon.
When the National Security Agency chose to place wire taps into Robert Dean’s home illegally, they exemplified Foucault’s panoptic model. The wire taps used by the National Security Agency are prime examples of Foucault’s “instrument of permanent, exhaustive, omnipresent surveillance” (386). Furthermore, by the National Security Agency exercising the use of these instruments they are “capable of making all visible, as long as it could itself remain invisible” (386-387). This illegal surveillance is just one way they exercise Foucault’s Panopticon. Moreover, when the National Security Agency continues to punish Dean by convicting him of the murder of Hammersley they are exercising Foucault’s Panopticon by ‘[undermining] the limits that are traced around the law” (394). Enemy of the State excels at showing how the government can...

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