Big Brother Is Employing You
"You are not allowed to have conspiracy theories when you're in the employ of the conspiracy."Hello, worker drone number 54234. I have been asked to inform you that you are the perfect viewpoint into our insanely oppressive dystopian society, because you are our dystopian society. Or at least a cog in the machine powering it. Don't think that makes you important though. Get the least bit uppity with us, and we can and will easily replace you. And don't think anyone would care to remember you if that happened; we have already taken the liberty of erasing you from the few publicly available databases. Now, now, don't look so upset, it just came with the job. Granted, it is a bit hard knowing exactly what you are signing up for, when you are eager to get out there and take your boot to the face of the numerous enemies of our glorious state, or if you are volunteered at gunpoint. As you can imagine, all of this can easily make you a morally ambiguous character in a very "delicate" position, which means you are very likely to be the main character of a work of fiction about this society. Because we don't want that, you will be terminated 23 and a half seconds after your Heel Realization. Have a nice day. See Rage Within The Machine. Compare Government Procedural.
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
- Edward Elric (and his brother Al, in practice), as well as Roy Mustang and his staff, all work for the oppressive Amestrian military in Fullmetal Alchemist.
- Pumpkin Scissors is a Spiritual Successor to Fullmetal Alchemist and similarly features a squad of heroes within a corrupt army.
- Some might say that Section 9 serves a similar purpose in the Ghost in the Shell universe, given how they're more or less the 'net police/swat for Japan.
- Both Yomiko and the Paper Sisters in the Read or Die franchise start off this way.
- Claire and the other Claymores in Claymore
- Re-l and Vincent in Ergo Proxy
- While Kirihara of Darker Than Black is very much good, her bosses certainly aren't, and several episodes indicate she has at least some awareness of this.
- And on one of the other sides of the Mêlée à Trois of government conspiracies and Spy Versus Spy and suchlike, we have Hei, working for The Syndicate. Hell, in the Breather Episode before the Grand Finale of the first season, they both get disgusted with their bosses and, thanks to a convenient accident, end up hanging out together, which included a lengthy discussion of what it's like to feel like your employers are just using you as a pawn.
- Suzaku Kururugi from Code Geass, who thinks it's better to work for the Britannian Empire to reform it instead of fighting against it.
- The protagonists of Psycho-Pass are the law enforcement arm for a government that arrests people based on their judged psychological criminal tendency (instead of actual crimes) and has scanners and cameras everywhere.
- The main cast of the Avatar The Last Airbender fanfic Gilded Green is made of the Dai Li. (And later, Xiaofan.)
- In the Metal Gear/Generation Kill crossover series Patriots Verse, this is at first subverted with Fick's political career, which never had a chance of getting off the ground in the Patriots-controlled United States, but later played straight when Fick settles for a business job at ArmsTech Security, a front-company for much of the assets the Patriots used.
- The main characters of the Teen Titans/Ranma ½/X-COM: UFO Defense Mega Crossover fic Reflections Lost On A Dark Road are on the inside of one such organisation.
- In the Ranma ½/X-COM: UFO Defense crossover The Road To Cydonia, a character will, on occasion, muse on the unpleasant implications of what X-COM is doing, and its abuse of ordinary people's rights. Then they'll decide the end justifies the means and carry on with whatever distasteful task they were going to do.
- In The Lives of Others, the main character is a Stasi agent, keeping the people of East Germany under surveillance.
- In Equilibrium, John Preston is the top Grammaton Cleric, responsible for tracking down and bringing to justice "sense offenders," the opponents of the Tetragrammaton Council, the government of Libria.
- In Terry Gilliam's Brazil, Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) works for the Ministry of Information Processing. God help him when he gets unavoidably tangled in the toils of Information Retrieval... It's strongly implied that everyone works for central services i.e. the state.
- Charlton Heston's character in Soylent Green was a police detective, so he technically worked for the oppressive state that was feeding poor people to poor people.
- The cast of Silent Running all worked for the government that ordered them to destroy the last preserved ecosystems.
- Logan from Logans Run, before he starts running. Big Brother in this case is the city's mainframe computer, which implements population controls.
- A rare positive example are the titular Men In Black, who run the vast government conspiracy keeping people in the dark about alien life on planet Earth, with all the lying, violence, and mind-wiping presented as ultimately justified.
- Eagle Eye the two protagonists are forcefully recruited by a renegade A.I. to help it kill the President, and replace him with the Secretary of Defense.
- In contrast to the earlier two Cube movies were the protagonists were implied to be under covert surveillance by whoever controls the Cube, the two main characters in Cube Zero actually are the Orwellian observers of the Cube's occupants and perform its day-to-day operations. At the same time they also have people to answer to and are inferred to be under constant surveillance themselves, as their masters throw the technicians into the Cube if they become too much of a nuisance. This is because the technicians are actually another level of the Cube experiment — observing the observers and such.
- Many of the characters in The Orphan Master's Son, a novel set in North Korea, including the protagonist (an intelligence agent), as well as a government torturer who narrates most of the novel, and the female lead, an actress who works in the state-run film industry.
- Winston Smith in 1984 works for the Ministry of Truth, where he alters the past and turns lies into objective truth. The book invented the term "Big Brother" and is thus the trope namer.
- Played with in Brave New World: Bernard Marx works for the government like everyone else... except for the Savage, who becomes the protagonist for the second half of the book.
- Fahrenheit 451: The protagonist starts out as a book burner for the government.
- Richard Decker in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and the movie it (loosely) became, Blade Runner.
- In fact, lots of Philip K Dick books and stories can work for this one. The Penultimate Truth (maybe, depending on how you interpret the crazy, drugged-out second half), The Minority Report and We Can Remember It For You Wholesale which became the movie Total Recall (1990) and the 2012 remake.
- The Warchild Series by Karin Lowachee. While Captain Azarcon isn't the narrator in any of the books, he can undoubtedly be considered the protagonist. And he's a captain of a large space carrier for a government which invaded an alien lunar colony, started a war, and then re-started the war out of prejudice and bigotry when he tried to end it. Needless to say, he stops working for the government by the end of the second book.
- Arguably, most of the characters in Warhammer 40,000 tie-in novels, from Ravenor to Eisenhorn to Gaunt of Gaunt's Ghosts.
- D-503 in We is the chief engineer of the One State's first starship, the Integral. As such, later on he is recruited into the rebellious MEPHI to give them an opportunity to capture the ship.
- Jonas in The Giver is being trained to take a role in perpetuating the dystopia they all live in.
- Chip, in This Perfect Day, works in a genetics lab identifying gene samples as part of the evil supercomputer's plan to genetically-engineer the human race into identical, interchangeable sameness. His grandfather, Papa Jan, actually helped BUILD the evil supercomputer, but later regretted it.
- The protagonist of the Robert A. Heinlein novella If This Goes On (also known as Revolt In 2100) is one of the guards at the HQ of the Corrupt Church that rules a dystopian future America.
- The government of Earth goes through some Dystopic stages in The Forever War, and the main characters are soldiers.
- In a way, Miles Vorkosigan and his friends, from Vorkosigan Saga. While it's definitely reformed significantly and he is continuing that process, Barrayar was The Evil Empire a generation ago and is still viewed that way by many people.
- In this case, Miles is also literally working for his big brother, given that The Emperor is his five-years-older foster brother.
- Thursday Next makes efforts to change the Mega Corp.-run Crapsaccharine World England in which she lives, but still works for its government.
- In The Other Side of the Island by Allegra Goodman, the world is run by a sort of Peace & Love, Incorporated, called Earth Mother. Honor's mother ends up working for them when she decides to rebel against the government.
- The eponymous Jen from Jennifer Government works for the government, but that's not the dystopian power in the novel. Meanwhile, beta protagonists Hack Nike and Billy Betchel (later Billy NRA) work for the dystopian corporate clusters, Hack for Nike (the main antagonist in the novel) while Billy is the muscle.
- Tracer by Stuart Jackson, set in a 1999 Britain controlled by a neo-fascist government as a result of the AIDS crisis. The protagonist is a policeman whose job is to track down AIDS carriers.
- Blind Faith by Ben Elton features, as its hero, Trafford, who works for NatDat, the National Data Bank, which knows everything about everyone. Almost everyone works for NatDat in one way or another.
- Everyone in Matched works for the government, because everything is controlled by the government.
- The protagonist of Fatherland, Xavier March, is an officer in the Kriminalpolizei who holds the SS rank of Sturmbannführer.
- Gary, Martha, and Charlemagne from Clocks that Don't Tick are all employed by the Bosses. They're not very happy about it.
- Most of the cast of Death Star. Some were enlisted, some conscripted. At a few points characters complain that they can't resign and any difference they might attempt to make would be trivial and get them executed. Still, they find themselves happy and complacent - for a time.
- In Coda, after being captured and arrested for starting an underground band, Anthem is given the best musical equipment the Corp has... to produce music that will control everyone.
- In Babylon 5, Zack Allan joins the Nightwatch, an SA-type organisation for the fascists who are plotting to take over the Earth government, because he needs the money. He eventually has a Heel Realisation at the point when the coup starts, and betrays the group.
- Stanley Tweedle of Lexx is a lowly Class 4 Security Guard whose own selfishness in the past actually helped build a foothold for the nightmarish theocracy he works for.
- Hawkwind's long paean to the existential angst of being one of thousands of identical units. Spirit of the Age:-
I am a clone, I am not alone,Every fibre of my flesh and blood is identical to others;Everything I say and doIs in the same tone//As my test-tube brother's voice;There is no choice between us,If you had ever seen us, then you'd rejoice in your uniqueness,And consider every weakness something special of your own!Being a clone, I have no flaws to identify...
- "Clampdown" by The Clash:
You grow up and you calm downYou're working for the clampdownYou start wearing the blue and brownYou're working for the clampdownSo you got someone to boss aroundIt makes you feel big nowYou drift until you brutalizeYou made your first kill now
- Paranoia. In most of the official products your Player Character is a Troubleshooter who works for The Computer, the paranoid, repressive dictator of Alpha Complex.
- SLA Industries. The PC's are Operatives who work for some branch of the eponymous company, which is the brutal, corrupt government of the Worlds of Progress.
- Warhammer 40,000. To serve the Imperium is to be a servant of the the cruelest and most bloody regime imaginable. It says so right on the box.
- Dark Heresy is this in a much more specific and direct way: the player characters are acolytes of the Inquisition, the State Sec of said cruel and bloody regime, with a mandate to keep that cruel and bloody regime functional at any cost. That their actions in doing so will tend toward the lesser of many evils says all you need to know about the setting.
- The premise of Papers, Please is that you're a citizen of the fictional Soviet satellite of Arstotzka, working as a checkpoint inspector.
- In Deus Ex, JC Denton begins the game working for the puppet organization of the Secret Masters.
- Additionally, depending on which ending the player gets, he may become one of the Secret Masters of the conspiracy that takes over from the one he destroyed or install himself as one half of the possibly benevolent post-human big brother.
- In Mass Effect 2, the Illusive Man, brings Commander Shepard back from death and equips him/her with everything s/he needs to help him defeat the lackeys of the Reapers, who want to destroy all organic life in the galaxy. Once the Collectors are defeated he wants you to not destroy their technology, but to salvage it to make mankind stronger than any other species. But that's pretty much the same thing every other slaves of the Reapers have believed to be doing.
- However, this outcome was completely predictable less than half an hour into the game when you first meet his Ceberus agents. The Illusive Man himself never realizes that he's just playing into the Reapers hands.
- Happens on occasion in Final Fantasy.
- Cecil starts out as pretty much The Dragon until he realizes that his king is being more evil than usual (too late for many towns, unfortunately)
- Terra and Celes start out Final Fantasy VI as generals for The Empire, though the former was brainwashed.
- Terra wasn't ever actually named as a general, though it's clear she was fairly high-ranking in the Empire due to her half-Esper status. However, the fact that she had a Slave Crown placed on her makes it fairly evident that she can't have been that high-ranking.
- Zack spends most of Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII working for Shinra.
- Midway through Final Fantasy XIII, Lightning realizes that Cocoon was not built as a safe home for the humans, but for the Fal'Cie, who run absolutely everything on the world. The human population is completely unnecessary and purely decorative, and the people really just well pampered pets.
- Red Faction is about a rebellion of Martian miners oppressed by the corrupt Mega Corp. Ultor Mining.
- Half-Life: The protagonist, Gordon Freeman, is revealed at the end to have been little more than a pawn of the mysterious G-Man, who appears to be engineering most of the plot as part of an inscrutable cosmic scheme. Freeman is not (as far as we know) a willing participant, but the G-Man has the apparent ability to manipulate time and space in such a way as to effectively railroad him into doing what he wants. in Half-Life 2: Episode 1, the G-Man's control of Freeman is, at least temporarily, interrupted by the Vortigaunts.
- X-COM has you playing as the top-secret transnational Government Conspiracy attempting to cover up an alien invasion, with secret labs full of captured technology and space monsters, and squads of heavily armed commandos and psychic MIBs delivered around the world via Black Helicopter… Or at least that's what you aspire to.
- Fatebane in Associated Space is a government agent of the Terran Associated States.
- Civil Protection: The protagonists are Punch Clock Villains for a Dystopian police force ruled by transdimensional alien invaders.
- Red vs. Blue: The Reds, the Blues, the Freelancers and Doc are working for Project Freelancer, at least until Reconstruction where the Project and its Director are brought down by some of them.