Negan: The Big Brother No One Wanted
Negan is one of the most terrifying villains on television, and over the last year has emerged as a powerful force to be reckoned with; but where does his power come from? It’s well known that he’s hated by his followers, yet they still obey his every command.
Negan's regime can find a lot of similarities to that of the people of the fictional country of Air Force One (formerly Britain) in George Orwell's classic novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. Below is a brief insight into the philosophy behind Negan and how much the character is inspired by Orwell’s anonymous antagonist, Big Brother.
He Breaks His Victims
In the last season, we’ve seen just how afraid Negan's army really are of him, with each appearing to a be victim to attacks not too dissimilar from those that Rick and the rest of the group encountered at the end of season six. Negan breaks his victims.
In Nineteen Eighty-Four, Big Brother uses stories and propaganda with the odd shelling to reinforce the illusion of danger, killing a few of its own citizens each time to remind them that Big Brother is needed to keep them safe.
Negan goes down a similar route as we saw in s7 e1 where he killed Abraham, one of the strongest of the group, reminding Rick and the others that anyone can be killed. Glen is later killed as punishment for Daryl stepping out of line.
Both the group and the population from Nineteen Eighty-Four live in fear from both experience but more of what could happen rather than what will.
He Controls Them
Like Big Brother, Negan controls what his people hear, see, do, eat, can have, and even to a certain extent what they can say. Control of such nature can lead to previous habits being conditioned outside of rational thought, eventually resulting in them being non existent.
A controlled mind is an obedient one; and with the absence of critical thinking, Negan can easily control and manipulate his followers to do whatever he says with little resistance, because the idea of resistance has been turned into a fantasy rather than a genuine possibility.
Before the introduction of Negan as a character, non comic readers were in the dark as much as Rick and the group were about who or indeed what Negan actually was; with those who came into contact with the group all claiming to be Negan.
The fear of an enemy that’s unknown is worse that the one that’s known. Rick tried to launch an offensive, and for a while believed that they had wiped out Negan, but we later found out they only attacked an outpost, which allowed the group to wrongly let their guard down.
Like Big Brother, Negan knows the value of keeping your enemies confused, and he uses it to his advantage; using a faceless entity to cast a large shadow leaving what Negan actually is open to interpretation.
Installs a Hierarchy
Air Strip One has a class system in which you have Big Brother itself, the inner party, the outer party and then the proles; who live in the worst parts of town, and receive the least benefits from Big Brother, if any at all.
Negan has a similar system in place with the lowest (proles) being made to clear walkers from their defenses and the highest (inner party) has a lot more freedom including better accommodation, better food and access to important plans regarding anything from future attacks to the day to day running of the sanctuary.
His followers are kept sharp, however, and are constantly made aware that their privileges can be revoked should they step out of line and disobey Negan. Keeping everyone fearful of losing not their life, but also the comforts they see themselves to have earned through good behaviour.
Whether it’s the ministry of love, truth, or justice, everyone in Air Strip One has a role to play in society that keeps the proverbial machine running. In similar fashion, Negan assigns roles depending on their particular roles in the hierarchy.
This would be someone of low status cleaning out latrines or someone with higher status leading teams to go out into the wild and find other survivors that they can potentially exploit. Everyone has their job to do, and failure to do so can result in them losing their position or worse: being put into Negan’s very own reconditioning programme.
When Winston is finally caught breaking the rules and venturing outside of his designated area, he’s taken away and locked in a cell where he’s left to stew in his own despair. He is then taken to a room to face his deepest darkest fear in the hopes of breaking his spirit and reconditioning the love he has for Julia out of his brain by making him betray her so that he can be reintroduced into society.
Negan attempts to do the same to Daryl and Sasha, playing "Easy Street" over and over again in the hope of making a connection between his environment and the mood of the song; driving him insane enough to think that being locked in a cell is indeed being on easy street and that everything else is a bonus, subsequently breaking him so he can be rebuilt.
Negan could easily kill those who disobey or wrong him, but instead he chooses to recondition them into a state where they can imagine nothing else but being a screw in the well oiled machine that is Negan.
In Nineteen Eighty-Four, Winston's fat colleague Parsons is taken into reconditioning after muttering, “down with Big Brother” in his sleep; his children being the ones to turn him in. Big Brother encourages everyone to inform on each other and no one, not even family, trust each other.
Negan follows suit with many of his followers eager to inform with the hopes of receiving added privileges or advancement of status. However the main aim of this approach is to scare his followers into putting the idea of a revolt outside of rational thought.
For any revolution to work, it needs to have a number of unified people behind it. If followers are petrified and uncertain of who they can and can’t trust, then it acts as a barrier blocking any rebellious thought, keeping Negan’s empire collapsing from the inside.
In summary, Negan rules through fear in not one, but multiple different areas that are stricken into the mind of his followers. It’s clear to see that Negan has the same sort of influence over his followers as Orwell's faceless antagonist.
It’s rumoured that before walker's roamed the earth that Negan was a gym teacher, but perhaps he could have also been an English teacher, or at the very least been interested in literature.
When the world changed for the worst, and he lost whoever or whatever he held dear, perhaps Negan snapped; deciding that he could emulate the oppressive regime from the fictional world of Air Strip One as a guideline for rebuilding civilisation; putting himself at the head of his very own dystopian future.
What are your thoughts on this? Let me know in the comments below.