Created By: ginsengaddict on May 17, 2011 Last Edited By: Dravencour on October 6, 2017

Big Brother Government

A government that seeks to control every aspect of its citizens lives.

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It would surprise me greatly if Wiki/TVTropes has gone this long without this trope. But if it has indeed, then How Did We Miss This One??

Within a work, the government is a secretive and oppressive regime where everyone is afraid to speak out, for fear of being disappeared. They are a combination of the Police State (Order is enforced through extreme measures), Sinister Surveillance (Everyone is monitored), and totalitarianism (Every aspect of citizen's lives is controlled by the state).

No free speech or free will is permitted. You are a mere cog in the system. Conform or die.

Will invariably feature a Secret Police.


Comic Books


  • Nineteen Eighty-Four is the Trope Namer and most prominent example. Everyone is monitored through use of telescreens that both receive and transmit simultaneously. Thinking anything against the government is an actual crime punishable by death, with the Thought Police arresting people in the dead of night. Language is being fundamentally altered to stamp out any hope of rebellion against the government by removing the very language of rebellion and political freedom. News and literature are also constantly being altered in order to favor the powers that be and/or erase people who fall out of favor from legal existence. Those who step out of line are arrested, taken to the Ministry of Love, tortured and executed, their very existence disavowed and removed from every public record. To call life under the Party's rule a totalitarian nightmare is putting things quite mildly.
  • Fahrenheit 451: Haven't read it, but I know it's about this in some way. - Zero-Context Example
  • Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut. The government enforces the 211-213th amendments to the Constitution to make sure that everyone is equal in every way. If you're stronger than average, they make you wear weights to hinder you. If you're smarter, you have to wear special gear that basically gives you tinnitus to keep you from thinking. Etc.

Live-Action TV

Real Life

Community Feedback Replies: 22
  • May 17, 2011
    Dystopia covers the examples, but you're right, it is an important designation. I wonder...
  • May 17, 2011
  • May 17, 2011
    ^ Kinda. That's definitely part of it. More of a Super Trope though.
  • May 18, 2011
    I'd rather call this Big Brother (pre-existing term) and move the existing article to the TV namespace.
  • May 18, 2011
    ^ Agreed
  • May 18, 2011
    We do need to be a bit more cautious naming examples, or else we run into Trope Decay. Some of these aren't quite Orwellian; the government in Equilibrium, for example, keeps its people in check less through surveillance and more through mandatory use of emotion-suppressing drugs and the destruction of all potentially emotion-inducing media. Brave New World, not mentioned here but easy to accidentally lump in, is the opposite: it keeps its people loyal and happy through its "free drugs and sex" culture (not to mention a kind of proto-eugenics). Fahrenheit451 is something of a cross between the two: the government keeps its people under control by keeping them mindlessly happy and destroying all literature.

    So yeah, we have to be careful what we define as "Orwellian". An Orwellian regime rules by instilling fear and paranoia, usually keeping the people productive through conflict or the threat of conflict.
  • May 18, 2011
    Stratadrake is correct. This would be better titled Big Brother Society. That covers all possible variations.
  • May 18, 2011
    Nowadays's USA seems to fit the bill. The "nake-or-rape" airport scanning, wiretapping, the govt. helping corporations to judge people for piracy when they sing a song in the bathtub, ...
  • May 18, 2011
    Just an idea, but...

    Orwellian may be too vague a term. Maybe we should have separate tropes for Police State (We have this. Order is enforced through extreme measures.), Surveillance State (everyone is monitored), and Totalitarianism (Every aspect of citizen's lives is controlled by the state.

    The government of Nineteen Eighty Four would be all three.
  • May 18, 2011
    In the short story "Harrison Bergeron" by Kurt Vonnegut the govenmernt enforces the 211-213th amendments to the Constitution to make sure that everyone is equal in every way. If you're stronger than average, they make you wear weights to hinder you. If you're smarter, you have to wear special gear that basically gives you tinnitus to keep you from thinking. Etc.
  • May 18, 2011
    ^^ 1984 is the most important example so far. But more importantly, you've illustrated exactly what the trope is.

    Can I take your comment and morph it into part of the description?
  • May 18, 2011
    Go for it.
  • May 18, 2011
    Now has a better description, thanks to Topazan. Added some more examples and formatting.

    Coming along nicely.

    Point of interest: Stalin's Russia was definitely this, and probably a few other current governments as well (Indonesia, Burma, etc). But, since this is a decidedly negative trope, shall we:

    1. Allow Real Life examples?
    2. Only include historical Real Life examples?
    3. Exclude Real Life examples?
  • May 20, 2011
    Fahrenheit451 is a minor example: the government does take efforts to maniuplate history and control thought. However, it's not to the level of 1984 level of Totaltarism.
  • June 26, 2017
    Maybe we already have this as Peoples Republic Of Tyranny.
  • June 26, 2017
    Has nothing to do with Big Brother Instinct.
  • October 4, 2017
    ^^ Is that right...
  • October 4, 2017
    Peoples Republic Of Tyranny is a naming convention. It's when the evil oppressive empire or regime gives themselves some benevolent name with words like "Republic/Federation" and "People's/of the People".

    Also, is this trope for inherently evil governments? Because there's plenty of fictional stories with citizens who are happy being controlled. Mostly through Deliberate Values Dissonance or Author Filibuster.
  • October 5, 2017
    I couldn't believe we didn't have Vile Villain Laughable Lackey for the longest time. These things can take a while to crystallize into tropes. That said, is Big Brother Is Watching already this trope? ...Reading Big Brother Is Watching makes me think that we actually do have this one.

    Just in case we don't, I'll put this example here:

    • Protomen: In a dystopian fiction based on the Megaman games, Dr. Wily's regime has people using his robots to do all the work, theoretically allowing him to use the robots for surveillance. He definitely has snipers ready to kill anyone who thinks aloud that something is wrong with the society he's built.
  • October 5, 2017

    Zero Context Examples have been marked as such. They need more information to show how they fit the trope. Please don't remove the marking unless you add enough context.

    Please don't give this proposal any hats until all of the Zero Context Examples have been corrected.
  • October 6, 2017
    Expanded on the 1984 example, illustrating quite nicely HOW Ingsoc more than qualifies as the Trope Namer for this trope.
  • October 6, 2017
    Yeah, Big Brother Is Watching makes this trope redundant