They were not only equal before God and the law. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else." This is a short, but powerful excerpt from the short story Harrison Bergeron. Not only does it make you wonder why everyone is equal, but as well makes you wonder how did everyone become equal? In the short story and the movie, Kurt Vonnegut presents a scary view of human society in the United States in the future, in which United States citizens are all uniform. This then leads to their loss of individuality, and therefore to the absolute deformity of humanness. Both the movie and the short story share these themes; they also have a multitude of other similarities, but also have just as many differences. These differences, irony and the symbolism between the two, are what I will be attempting to explore.
The first apparent difference between the movie and the short story is that the short story takes place in 2081. In the story the government regulates everything, not just intelligence, but strength and beauty as well, and handicap people appropriately. The strong are forced to wear bags filled with lead balls; beautiful people are forced to wear masks so others would not feel unequal to them in looks. The overly intelligent are forced to wear radio transmitters in their ears, which are tuned to a government station that constantly bombards them with horrible sounds to scramble their thoughts. In the movie, the year is 2053 and everyone is forced to wear mind-altering headbands that rest on their temples. These headbands electronically modify intelligence, effectively decreasing everyone's IQ to the desired "average" point. Unlike the story, in the movie, no one wears masks to conceal their looks and some are better looking than other making them unequal in appearance to everyone else. Also the only "weight bags" that are worn, is by one dancer on the television that wore a small ankle weight with no resemblance to the enormous weight bags that are described in the story.