How do the events shown in the movie 2081 compare to the events in the short story "Harrison Bergeron"?

The events in the film 2081 are mostly similar to those in the short story “Harrison Bergeron.” However, there are a few differences, including the way Harrison’s parents are presented.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

There are several differences between the film and the story. The film adds more detail about Harrison as an enemy of the state. It adds a series of flashbacks of young Harrison being abducted by riot police during a raid to his home. The incident in the concert hall is handled differently as well. In the film, more attention is paid to the fact that Harrison's disruption of the ballet is televised. The film adds the part about Harrison claiming that he's planted a bomb and is holding a detonator. In the story, Glampers simply appears with a gun to kill Harrison, while in the film there is a SWAT team involved, and some time is spent building suspense by concentrating on the details of police operations.

More importantly, Harrison himself is presented differently. In the story, he is described as a kind of young superman; he explicitly proclaims himself "the emperor," and the point of his intervention is to demonstrate his superiority. There is a kind of exaggerated, almost comic tone to Harrison's dance with the ballerina and their enjoyment of their physical and sexual freedom. The tone of the film is more subdued; Harrison's dance with the ballerina is less extravagant; more importantly, unlike in the story, Harrison and the ballerina do not kiss. How Harrison acts on stage is undercut in the film, which includes many details about a subplot about defusing the bomb, which turns out to be a ruse. In the film, the point of Harrison's intervention at the ballet is to be on television and, in particular, to make sure that his murder at the hands of the state is broadcast. These details do not appear in the story.

Most significantly, in the film, Hazel goes to the kitchen and is doing the dishes during Harrison's appearance on TV, so she does not witness his death. In the story, Hazel sees everything, and it is she who cries at the end, not George.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

2081 is a 2009 film adaptation of “Harrison Bergeron,” a short story written by Kurt Vonnegut in 1961. The short film is very similar to the original story, but there are several differences. Some of these differences occur in the way Harrison’s parents, George and Hazel Bergeron, are presented.

The first noticeable difference takes place in the dialogue between George and Hazel. Both in the story and in the film, Hazel suggests to George that he remove his handicaps—heavy weights and an obnoxious blaring earpiece to interrupt his thoughts—at small intervals, just while at home. However, George’s reaction in the film differs from the story. In the film, George says he will not remove the handicaps temporarily, because then he will want to do so permanently. Hazel remarks that she would hate it if he did that. But in the story, George also cites the severe punishment he would receive as his reason for never taking off the handicaps.

“Two years in prison and two thousand dollars fine for every [lead] ball I took out,” said George. “I don’t call that a bargain.”

Another difference occurs at the end of the story. In 2081, Hazel is out of the room and does not see her son Harrison get murdered on live television. George cries at the sight but then forgets why he was sad. In “Harrison Bergeron,” George is the one who misses the murder, and Hazel is the one who cries and then forgets why.

You might think about how these differences send subtle messages about how the government in the story controls people in both direct and indirect ways.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Great question! The film 2081 closely follows the plot and dialogue of Kurt Vonnegut Jr’s short story “Harrison Bergeron,” but there are several differences.

The opening lines of the film and story are identical. In both, they are used to introduce the dystopian society, the rationale of handicapping for equality and the Handicapper General. However, in the film version, much of the dialogue between characters is condensed to be grittier and more realistic. Some of Vonnegut’s lines are flowery, such as Harrison claiming to be "Emperor of the world." Most similar lines are cut from the film 2081.

Harrison’s handicaps are also less visible. For example, he does not have the “red nose” from Vonnegut’s story, and several other handicaps are missing. Little details from the story, like the exact handicaps or description of Harrison, are modified throughout the film. These minor artistic changes were likely made to render the cinematic portrayal of the story more palatable for a modern audience.

The primary difference between 2081 and “Harrison Bergeron” is the extent of Harrison’s planning. In Vonnegut’s short story, Harrison’s storming of the dance stage and dancing with the ballerina appears to be an unplanned act of defiance after his escape from prison. In 2081, Harrison is presented as a freedom fighter with a carefully premeditated plan. For instance, Harrison orchestrates the “bomb-switch” to re-activate the live broadcast, defeating the technologically advanced censorship. This is no easy feat! Harrison's death on camera indicates a carefully calculated martyrdom with some sort of purpose motivating it.

This major change in the film’s ending impacts the interpretation of the story. Vonnegut’s tale ends with hopelessness. Harrison’s father is too distracted by his intellectual handicap to even remember why he is crying after witnessing the death of his son! In the film 2081, although the father’s response remains the same, the deliberate nature of Harrison’s act seems to have implications beyond his death. It is possible that 2081 hints that Harrison’s death will spark some sort of revolution against the dystopian system.

I hope this helps!

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team