Propaganda is a powerful tool that can be used to control the populace and disseminate information. Legend (by Marie Lu) is set in the Republic, a future America that is at war with its neighbor, the Colonies. JumboTrons are a medium through which propaganda is fed to the minds of citizens. They are “scattered throughout downtown Los Angeles” and display commercials, anti-Colonies ideologies, broadcasts, and news (Lu 1).
June and Day – the two protagonists – are affected by the Republic’s dispersal of propaganda in different ways. Day is a high-profile criminal who has eluded capture for many years. One of the Republic’s top priorities is to track him down. Day is in trouble for disrupting the war effort and for exhausting the Republic’s military supplies. Although Day is “not the most dangerous criminal in the country”, he is – without question – “the most wanted” (Lu 2). For this reason, his criminal report is constantly displayed on the JumboTrons.
Day’s criminal report delivers a strong message to the people of the Republic. It is a reminder, a warning, that any act perceived to be a threat to the Republic is punishable by death. Day is living proof of what might happen to someone who rebels. Day, who is always on the run, must live in secrecy and be extra careful to hide his tracks.
Captured criminals are typically sentenced to death by firing squad. The entire execution takes place in Batalla Hall (a military stronghold) and is broadcasted live on the JumboTrons. Such broadcasts to the public are a form of mind control. They promote the belief that the aims of the Republic should align with the aims of the common people. Any dissent is immediately silenced. In this manner, individuality is lost, and perceptions of what is right and wrong are distorted.
While propaganda was used against Day, to incite action and turn the people against him, June – the heroine – is an example of a citizen who has been brainwashed by the propaganda itself. Having achieved full marks on her exams and been accepted to Drake University (an elite school) at a young age, June was indoctrinated from Day 1 that nothing is more important than national pride and winning the war.
Prior to meeting Day, June was someone who believed in the optimistic images on the JumboTrons, those that displayed “smiling children standing under a bright blue sky” and “tourists posing before the Golden Gate ruins” (Lu 1). Raised under the wing of the Republic, she was taught to support the anti-Colonies cause without ever questioning why. That is, June had been just another puppet of the Republic – but all that started to change when she began seeing through the propaganda she once believed in.
Lu, Marie. Legend. Penguin Books, 2011.