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Big Brother Is Employing You

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Just another day at the office.

"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.


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  • 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. 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 Logan's 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 where 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.
  • Finn in The Force Awakens starts out as a Stormtrooper for the fascist First Order but does a Heel–Face Turn after his first combat assignment.

  • 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 Nineteen Eighty-Four 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— 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.
  • 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, which ranges from soldiers to a bartender to a political prisoner. Some were enlisted to work on the Death Star, some were conscripted. At a few points characters complain that they can't leave or resign and any difference they might attempt to make would be trivial and get them executed. Still, they find themselves happy and complacent working on the titular structure - for a time. As the events of A New Hope happen around them everyone who's not a named canonical character from the film finds themselves sickened by The Empire's cruelty, and the destruction of Alderaan tips them all over the edge. For most of them it becomes a powerful moral imperative to do something so that at minimum they aren't contributing to such evil anymore. Working together, thanks to the Heroic Sacrifice of several of them and a certain amount of luck, some of them manage to depart in a shuttle, and largely decide to join the Rebellion sight unseen.
  • In Coda (2013), 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.
  • The Lambsbridge Gang from Twig are a group of child spies and assassins who were created by and work for the amoral Radham Academy, which itself serves the Crown. Their job is to quietly locate and eliminate escaped experiments, criminals, and independent scholars who threaten the Academy's monopoly on scientific knowledge.
  • In The House In The Cerulean Sea, Linus works for DICOMY, the Department in Charge of Magical Youths. While it's technically social services for magical children, and Linus himself cares very much about the wellbeing of children in his caseload, it becomes apparent that DICOMY and its sister organizations focusing on adult magical people is focused on controlling the magical population as well as their employees: Linus and his colleagues are observed at all times, and people inside and outside of the organization seem to fear the Extremely Upper Management.
  • Shades of this are in Leia, Princess of Alderaan. As Leia comes of age she takes after her father Bail and joins a junior division of the Senate that works out advisements on policy and recommends things to more powerful people. Thanks to being raised on a powerful, independent Core World by moral parents, and having been Bail's intern for two years, she's aware that The Empire is evil. Initially though, she believes it's possible to moderate the Emperor's influence and change it from within, and is gradually radicalized as she learns more and tries to get involved in the nascent Rebel Alliance. Even at the start of the book she's well aware that dire consequences result if she or the people around her dare to criticize the Emperor or any Imperial officials openly or to anyone who might report them.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.
  • Colony: Jennifer monitors the Bowman's house using hidden cameras as part of her job with Homeland Security, while "Panopticon" (itself a surveillance term) reveals hundreds of more people doing the same thing. The end reveals that she is also being watched.
  • Kiera Cameron, Continuum's lead character, is a dedicated agent of the CPS, the peacekeeping force ensuring that that the corporate dystopia that is 2077 Vancouver continues operating according to the Corporate Congress' whims.
  • The entire core cast of La Femme Nikita consists of this type of character: every character works for Section One, a secret spy agency with global reach that recruits its personnel by faking their deaths, kidnapping them, and forcing them to work at gunpoint.

  • 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 do
    Is 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 down
    You're working for the clampdown
    You start wearing the blue and brown
    You're working for the clampdown
    So you got someone to boss around
    It makes you feel big now
    You drift until you brutalize
    You made your first kill now

    Tabletop RPG 
  • Paranoia. In most of the official products your Player Character is a Troubleshooter who works for Friend 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.

    Video Games 
  • Black Closet spins this with a school instead of a government, casting you as the leader of the Absurdly Powerful Student Council tasked with keeping order in a prestigious girls' academy.
  • Though set in real-world Britain, this is the basic premise of Floor 13, in which you play the head of a secret black-ops agency to protect the reputation of the Prime Minister and his party. You're a wholly deniable and expendable asset if you slip up.
  • The premise of Papers, Please is that you're a citizen of the fictional Soviet satellite of Arstotzka, working as a checkpoint inspector.
  • The premise of Beholder is that you are government-installed landlord of a small building in a totalitarian state.
  • 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.
  • Happens on occasion in Final Fantasy.
    • Cecil of Final Fantasy IV 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.
  • XCOM 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 HelicopterOr at least that's what you aspire to.
  • In Not the Robots, Solar Group spies on its own employees and keeps logs on those that seem to be dissatisfied with their job.
  • In Orwell, you play as an investigator for the titular Orwell programme, a massive, secretive surveillance system that gives users near-complete access to an individual's private data (such as their call logs, emails, bank accounts, health records and text messages). At the end of the game, you can either do exactly what you're told and keep the system in use, or you can reveal its existence to the world and get it shut down. However, both endings imply that Orwell continues to be used regardless.
  • In Manhunter you are press-ganged as a "manhunter". Your task is finding humans who commit crimes against Orbs — the aliens that conquered Earth.

    Web Original 
  • 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.
  • Cracked did an episode of After Hours where this was considered a reason to select Lex Corp or a similar Evil, Inc. if you had to be a henchman and could choose your overlord. You might as well get stock options and a retirement account. Others rejected the idea; henchmen die too young to ever cash in your 401k, after all.
  • 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.