The album OK Computer by Radiohead has themes such as consumerism, political stagnation, false utopia, isolation in the society, which we can also see in “Fitter Happier” The piece was written and recorded in the 90s, an era known for the yuppies and American pop culture, and the era in which there was a very prominent consumerist capitalist society (which still remains as is) The purpose of this piece is to critique the monotonousness, coldness and impassiveness of the modern consumerist, capitalist society and how a model person, and the idea of a utopia is portrayed which are actually all unrealistic and false, and that we live in a dystopia being disguised as a utopia The piece has a bullet point like structure, or a free verse structure The text is in 1st person, there is a narrator speaking out the bullet points It doesn’t have any full sentences, it doesn’t have a song structure It is more of a text with overlying music. There is no intro, no verses, and no chorus. There are phrases being listed with no punctuation Although it can’t really be considered a song, it could be considered a modern poem, as it is written in free verse, and does evoke emotions and meaning, so it could fall under that category The text doesn’t make use of ethos, pathos, or logos. There are just listed phrases, and no emotive language. There are, though stylistic devices Such as anaphoras, as we can see in these lines a patient better driver
a safer car (baby smiling in back seat)
no bad dreams
nothing so ridiculously teenage and desperate
nothing so childish, at a better pace
still cries at a good film
still kisses with saliva These anaphoras help add to the theme of monotony in the text, alongside making these certain phrases more effective The anaphoras are repetitive, just like the prefabricated and monotonous lives of the people in our consumerist capitalist society The bullet points in the piece are about what the society expects from us, and what makes up the ideal person. The first line is: Fitter, Happier, More productive Then what is expected from us is explained in bullet points such as: “Regular exercise at the gym.”
“An empowered and informed member of society.” Also, this line shows the fakeness of this kind of behaviour: “Favours for favours.” Also, the piece shows how these messages, and expectations from us also include complying, and being passive. we can see this in lines such as; “at ease.”
“concerned but powerless.” People are taught to comply, and in this society it is almost impossible to revolt, and anyway, only a few people would try and revolt, as most of the people are apathetic, if not just brain-washed and ignorant Another line:
“Pragmatism not idealism.” Contributes to the idea of being emotionless and passive, (pragmatism is belief in practical application) and we are taught not to be idealistic, that our only reality is physical material, rather than mental material, as the society values efficiency and material over morals and values The piece is like messages pumped into our heads by the society and politicians. The piece, the whole album, and even Radiohead in general seems to be Orwellian in that they look at similar themes The piece can be related to George Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language”, and the topic of how language is used to manipulate people In his essay; George Orwell talks about how politicians use and alter language to manipulate people This piece is like the subliminal messages we get from media, education, and people around us – to manipulate us and shape us to fit the systems expectations from us George Orwell states that politicians manipulate people by using language in a way that would make it vague and hard to understand for people, and by making it vague people just comply “Fitter Happier” is like the way we are manipulated by being constantly reminded and repeated what we are expected to do, and because its always repeated to us since childhood it looses its meaning, and we just comply without thinking about it There is a simile in the piece which supports the idea of being passive and complying:
“no longer empty and frantic like a cat tied to a stick.” Society expects us to even feel in a certain way, for us to comply and be passive, and not react frantically like a cat would, when being tied to a stick. The state of being tied to a stick could symbolise the oppression of the government and society, and how it aims to keeps people in their place The tone of the piece is matter-of-fact and unemotional, there are no emotional words The matter-of-fact, sterile and uninflected tone is portrayed by a computerised voice which talks very monotonously, it also shows how unemotional the society has become, and how much people have come to resemble robots, as we are conditioned to be efficient and “productive”, and forget about morals, values and emotions We have come to resemble mass-produced motorised robotic beings, shaped and designed by the system and society There is a melancholic background music as the computerised voice is speaking, even though the voice is talking about something positive, the “ideal” person, and about the modern society What is seen as a positive portrayal of the modern society is paired with this melancholic background music, which shows how false and deluded these bullet points really are The piece at first comes out to be positive, it has an encouraging mood. There is a seemingly positive description of the ideal, model person which meets all of the expectations of the society. We can see this in the first line:
“Fitter, happier, more productive.” This all changes in the last line, it becomes melancholic and depressed.
“a pig in a cage on antibiotics.” The whole piece shifts its meaning, and the mood changes from positive to negative, its depressing and disappointing. The intentions of the writer and the tone was negative from the start The last line symbolises the trapped state of someone living in this modern society, under pressure In modern farming, pigs are kept in cages, and are given medications to keep them surviving (rather than grazing freely), all to then be slaughtered This is similar to the life of the average person in the modern society. We live within the boundaries and with the expectations the society has from us, and to conform we all end up living the same dull lives, and end up being “trapped”, and we make use of distractions and consumption to keep us going What is portrayed to us is the unreal expectations of the society and the false utopia we live in.