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Blur - The Universal

With the video for their 1995 release The Universal, the British pop group Blur has created a parallel to Stanley Kubrick’s works A Clockwork Orange and 2001: A Space Odyssey. This song, according to Blur’s lead singer Damon Albarn, is about a “drug like Prozac” that has taken over the lives of the people in the future. The theme of loss of free will in A Clockwork Orange, combined with the futuristic style of 2001: A Space Odyssey gives the video a setting necessary to create a powerful portrayal of this drug’s role in the future. Although The Universal and the movies are not direct parallels, there are significant similarities which need to be addressed.

In A Clockwork Orange, the main character Alex becomes a victim in the government’s plan to control and reform the lives of criminals through reconditioning. After his experience, Alex is nothing but a shell of his former self with his every thought and desire under complete control. Similarly in the video, Blur’s drug, The Universal, appears to have the same effect. Knowing that the effect of Prozac is the induction of a state of consistent normalcy, Damon’s lyrics are hinting at the theme of external control. For example, the lyrics “Yes, the future has been sold” alludes to the idea that the path for the future is set. When people are on The Universal, like Prozac, they feel no highs or lows, and therefore for them, change is infrequent if at all existing. The same theme reappears later in the song when Damon sings “tomorrow’s your lucky day, so here’s your lucky day”. He is suggesting that, since The Universal ensures that every day is the same, and that “every paper that you read” tells that tomorrow will be lucky, today is just as lucky as any other. The idea that this is a futuristic tale is expressed through the lyrics “this is the next century”. The setting of the video reinforces this through its resemblance to the space station in 2001: A Space Odyssey. As well, the lyric “satellites in every home” can also be taken as a reference to the idea that this story is to take place in the future.

In the beginning of the video, we are taken inside to a bar which appears to be a combination of both the space station from 2001: A Space Odyssey and the Korova Milk Bar in A Clockwork Orange. On stage is Blur, dressed in similar outfits to the 4 thugs in A Clockwork Orange. Damon with his eerie resemblance to Alex, is singing about The Universal to the bar patrons. The remaining imagery in the bar, hint at the drugs effects. Along the ceiling of the bar are many mannequin parts, but at no point is there a complete model. These images imply the separation of ones self as a result of the drug, and are later reinforced through the static image of a hat sitting upon a pair of legs. This image is flashed for a brief moment on the screen, allowing little time for contemplation. But the image idea is strong enough to emphasize the effects of The Universal and its control over a person. They are no longer themselves and any thoughts are a mere results of the power of the drug Their minds are not their own, shown through the hat having no head to rest on. The people outside of the bar also poses this look of complete blankness, reinforcing the idea of sameness and emotionless that the drug possesses.

The impact of The Universal appears to have the same effects that the drugs in A Clockwork Orange had on the upper class patrons or “sophistos” as Alex called them, of the Korova Milk Bar. These people can also be found in the video. The majority of the patrons of the milk bar appear to be quite hedonistic. This too can be seen as a reflection of Alex’s comment of how the sophistos are “not caring about the wicked world”. Many of the patrons can be seen laughing and having a good time, while Blur on stage appears to be more like the common folk on the outside, completely straight faced. In actuality the patrons of the bar are more like the outside people but choose to ignore it. They hide behind there facade of hedonism. These upper class citizens have the necessary means to uphold this hedonistic lifestyle, unlike the common people who have considerably less. It isn’t until closer to the end of the video that we actually see that Damon’s words have in fact made an impact on the “sophisto’s”.

As Damon is on stage, he appears to be eyeing a female patron of the bar. His inability to do anything more beyond a sly grin or snarl is reminiscent of the Alex in A Clockwork Orange who was unable to fulfill his desires due to his reconditioning. It isn’t until the she makes eye contact with Damon that for a brief moment, a look of fear comes across her face It is as though she now understands the words that he is singing. There is no future, “it has been sold”. The Universal will now be influential in the path that your future will take.

Damon appears to be more closely paralleled with the Alex that we see towards the end of A Clockwork Orange. At this point, Alex is aware of what has happened to him. Damon too appears to be aware of the drugs effects. This imagery of awareness is shown through the gigantic speakers that can be found throughout the city. Through these speakers, Damon’s warning about The Universal is projected. The common people outside begin to converge in front of them. But the words that are being spoken appear to have little or no effect on them. They all appear to be expressionless and emotionless. It is as though they are all entirely under the influence of the drug. The fact that “the Universal’s free” plays a major role in these people’s lives. Unlike the milk bar patrons, theses people cannot afford any other means of escape from this “wicked world”. It is for this reason that “The Universal’s free” and that “you can find it anywhere”.

In order for the video to be effective and reflect the content of the lyrics, the use of appropriate imagery is apparent. Drawing from both A Clockwork Orange and 2001: A Space Odyssey, this Kubrick inspired video shows the effects of The Universal on the lives of the futures citizens. For the elite few who by other means, are able to escape the unbearable, the future does not seem as bad. But for the rest of the inhabitants, the future does not offer the same outlook. It is Damon who attempts to get though to the masses and let them know what in fact is happening to them. The parallels between the two films and the video are both effective and appealing. In the end, the viewer is left contemplating the possibilities that these lyrics and images hold. After all, “it really, really, really could happen”.

In A Clockwork Orange, the main character Alex becomes a victim in the government’s plan to control and reform the lives of criminals through reconditioning. After his experience, Alex is nothing but a shell of his former self with his every thought and desire under complete control. Similarly in the video, Blur’s drug, The Universal, appears to have the same effect. Knowing that the effect of Prozac is the induction of a state of consistent normalcy, Damon’s lyrics are hinting at the theme of external control. For example, the lyrics “Yes, the future has been sold” alludes to the idea that the path for the future is set. When people are on The Universal, like Prozac, they feel no highs or lows, and therefore for them, change is infrequent if at all existi! ng. The same theme reappears later in the song when Damon sings “tomorrow’s your lucky day, so here’s your lucky day”. He is suggesting that, since The Universal ensures that every day is the same, and that “every paper that you read” tells that tomorrow will be lucky, today is just as lucky as any other. The idea that this is a futuristic tale is expressed through the lyrics “this is the next century”. The setting of the video reinforces this through its resemblance to the space station in 2001: A Space Odyssey. As well, the lyric “satellites in every home” can also be taken as a reference to the idea that this story is to take place in the future.

In the beginning of the video, we are taken inside to a bar which appears to be a combination of both the space station from 2001: A Space Odyssey and the Korova Milk Bar in A Clockwork Orange. On stage is Blur, dressed in similar outfits to the 4 thugs in A Clockwork Orange. Damon with his eerie resemblance to Alex, is singing about The Universal to the bar patrons. The remaining imagery in the bar, hint at the drugs effects. Along the ceiling of the bar are many mannequin parts, but at no point is there a complete model. These images imply the separation of ones self as a result of the drug, and are later reinforced through the static image of a hat sitting upon a pair of legs. This image is flashed for a brief moment on the screen, allowing little time for contemplation. But the image idea is strong enough to emphasize the effects of The Universal and its control over a person. They are no longer themselves and any thoughts are a mere results of the power of the dru! g Their minds are not their own, shown through the hat having no head to rest on. The people outside of the bar also poses this look of complete blankness, reinforcing the idea of sameness and emotionless that the drug possesses.

The impact of The Universal appears to have the same effects that the drugs in A Clockwork Orange had on the upper class patrons or “sophistos” as Alex called them, of the Korova Milk Bar. These people can also be found in the video. The majority of the patrons of the milk bar appear to be quite hedonistic. This too can be seen as a reflection of Alex’s comment of how the sophistos are “not caring about the wicked world”. Many of the patrons can be seen laughing and having a good time, while Blur on stage appears to be more like the common folk on the outside, completely straight faced. In actuality the patrons of the bar are more like the outside people but choose to ignore it. They hide behind there facade of hedonism. These upper class citizens have the necessary means to uphold this hedonistic lifestyle, unlike the common people who have considerably less. It isn’t until closer to the end of the video that we actually see that Damon’s words have in fact made an im! pact on the “sophisto’s”.

As Damon is on stage, he appears to be eyeing a female patron of the bar. His inability to do anything more beyond a sly grin or snarl is reminiscent of the Alex in A Clockwork Orange who was unable to fulfill his desires due to his reconditioning. It isn’t until the she makes eye contact with Damon that for a brief moment, a look of fear comes across her face It is as though she now understands the words that he is singing. There is no future, “it has been sold”. The Universal will now be influential in the path that your future will take.

Damon appears to be more closely paralleled with the Alex that we see towards the end of A Clockwork Orange. At this point, Alex is aware of what has happened to him. Damon too appears to be aware of the drugs effects. This imagery of awareness is shown through the gigantic speakers that can be found throughout the city. Through these speakers, Damon’s warning about The Universal is projected. The common people outside begin to converge in front of them. But the words that are being spoken appear to have little or no effect on them. They all appear to be expressionless and emotionless. It is as though they are all entirely under the influence of the drug. The fact that “the Universal’s free” plays a major role in these people’s lives. Unlike the milk bar patrons, theses people cannot afford any other means of escape from this “wicked world”. It is for this reason that “The Universal’s free” and that “you can find it anywhere”.

In order for the video to be effective and reflect the content of the lyrics, the use of appropriate imagery is apparent. Drawing from both A Clockwork Orange and 2001: A Space Odyssey, this Kubrick inspired video shows the effects of The Universal on the lives of the futures citizens. For the elite few who by other means, are able to escape the unbearable, the future does not seem as bad. But for the rest of the inhabitants, the future does not offer the same outlook. It is Damon who attempts to get though to the masses and let them know what in fact is happening to them. The parallels between the two films and the video are both effective and appealing. In the end, the viewer is left contemplating the possibilities that these lyrics and images hold. After all, “it really, really, really could happen”.


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