The Striking Similarities Between Brave New World and Communist Gymnastics
This photo from the film “The Red Race” depicts the extreme nature of gymnastics training in certain National training facilities. In China, young girls are removed from their homes, forced to dress and act alike, and oftentimes treated as less than human. This post explores how training systems like this one show a scary connection between the dystopia of Brave New World and modern training facilities in communist countries.
Brave New World depicts a world that is often considered bleak or depressing to modern readers. For example, the brainwashing that takes place in the educational system is upsetting to readers, yet it is frightfully present to some degree in certain modern institutions. Modern gymnastics presents a culture that happens to mimic the culture in this novel in a number of different ways. I grew up as a competitive gymnast in an extremely healthy environment, but I was exposed to a number of gymnasts who didn’t have such positive experiences. Centralized national gymnastics training centers in communist countries in particular represent how the problems expressed in Brave New World are often a lot closer to reality than we would like to think.
On a broad level, gymnastics institutions show similar characteristics to the school system in Brave New World as competitive gymnasts are often treated more like robots than people. They are sometimes brainwashed in a sense to think that gymnastics is the only thing important in their lives and are given very few choices. As far as the classical conditioning is concerned, gymnasts spend much of their time “conditioning”, or doing repetitive exercises that strengthen their muscles and meticulously prepare their bodies for complex acrobatics.
The structure of many gymnastics training facilities also parallels that of the institutions in Brace New World. Just as people are born into different social classes in the novel, competitive gymnasts are divided into different “levels,” and usually train and interact solely with other people in the same level. One specific detail that stood out to me was the children in Brave New World dressed in a certain color depending on their social class. Many gyms have a similar system, outfitting different levels in different colored leotards for training so that they are easily distinguishable from one another, while simultaneously restricting the individuality and variance of the gymnasts themselves.
Brave New World illustrates a society devoid of parents. In gymnastics, coaches oftentimes become more important authority figures in a child’s life than their own parents. This is especially true for the Romanian national team, as gymnasts leave their families at extremely young ages to live and train together in a centralized location. It is hard to fathom a world without parents such as the one illustrated in the novel, yet certain modern institutions also function almost entirely without parents.
The results of these two systems are also strikingly similar. Oftentimes, competitive gymnasts have a hard time in social situations, because they are told that their success in their sport is the only thing that truly matters. Elite gymnasts are supposed to be representative of the highest level of achievement, the best of the best, yet their lives are often far from ideal, especially those coming from centralized training programs in communist countries. This represents how utopias and dystopias are complexly linked, as striving for perfection can create a world full of problems and sadness.