So let me do a shoutout to some people that I really enjoy.
-does a lot of really horrifying, but trippy stuff. I really enjoy this Deviant's output, and I hope you'll give it a look.
-does a lot of erotic, fantastical art that looks (frankly) incredible! Check it out if you like things that are both sensual and bizarre.
Now, let's talk about Videodrome, a movie that is both fascinating and (I feel) prophetic. Many people would consider something like Naked Lunch or Scanners to be David Cronnenberg's masterpiece, but I completely disagree. There really is no movie like Videodrome, and watching it, even for the fourth time (which I recently did) still leaves me feeling mystified with just how imaginative and contemplative Videodrome remains as a film. Again, it is a piece that is experiential: it isn't made to be a logical story so much as an viewing experience that draws the viewer into another reality.....in a very explicit way, I might add. Videodrome exists in the tradition of PHilip K. Dick, Van Vogt, and Arthur Clark, a world in which technology does not exist to clarify reality, but rather to subsume it and reveal its ultimately objective nature. Modernism gives way to Post-modernism, and just as scientific certainty makes an anachronism of religion, science itself produces its own destruction in the all-consuming fire of technology and its inevitable result: the virtual.
Videodrome is the story of Max Renn, president of Channel 83, a Canadian public access network that plays hard-core violence and soft-core porn for a late-night audience. Max is dissatisfied with his job, and wants to take his network in a new direction, looking for entertainment that truly shocks and awes. With the help of his satellite pirating friend Harlan, he locks on to a mysterious TV show called Videodrome, wherein random people are murdered in a red room. Videodrome becomes Max's obsession, and soon, he sets about to tracking it down, trying to learn the show's mysterious origins. He discovers that Videodrome is the brainchild of a mysterious philosopher and techno-ontologist, media prophet Brian Oblivion, a man who appears only on video and who firmly believes that life on TV is more "real" than life outside the screen. But things get trippy (but of course!) when Max begins having violent hallucinations of his own body morphing and changing. It could be a brain tumor, the end result of watching too much Videodrome...........or it could be something else. Max finds himself embroiled in a political conspiracy, a battle for the airwaves between an evil government entity and a group of rebels, both of whom want to use Videodrome for their own purposes.
Videodrome is probably the best example of post-modernist story telling done right, a complete deconstruction of the lines between reality and fantasy. The concept is simple enough for any viewer to grasp, and its is concepts, not obscurantist symbolism, that drives Videodrome forward. Here is where Cronenberg's genius on display, the subsumption of reality through science fiction frenzy. We, the viewer, know that Videodrome is the cause of it all: yet this knowledge is a petty defense against Max's hallucinations. Everything occurs through Max's perspective, and we never know what is real, what isn't, and what the intentions of the people around him are. We grow paranoid just as Max is. We feel the inevitability of his plight. That ol' brain tumor is killing him, and those hallucinations are only getting worse, but the real questions always remain at the forefront: just what is Videodrome, and who, ultimately, will control it?
And that brings us to the two sides of this battle. On the one hand is Brian Oblivion, a cybernetic spiritualist who believes that the tumors grown courtesy of Videodrome are in fact organs, created to receive a different reality. Religious thinking is synthesized perfectly with modern technology in Oblivion's mind, and immortality as well as mystical capacities are granted through the evolution of mankind's flesh to receive new sensations. Technology is merging with the fleshy celluloid of biology. The mind of man and the illusions he creates through his machines are ultimately one. TV is nothing more than the id personified. Perception is reality, and thus television are fiction are a form of reality. It is not for naught that Oblivion states quite clearly: "Television is the retina of the soul". Indeed, Oblivion is based on one of Cronenberg's heroes, Marshal McLuhan, himself a post-modern philosopher of the airwaves. And what is it that McLuhan wants us to take away from all our time in front of the glowing boob tube?
The medium is the message.
On the other hand, we have Barry Convex, the friendly totalitarian and spokesperson for the Spectacular Optics corporation, who wants to use Videodrome as a weapon against those he deems unfit to inhabit this island called Earth. Ol' Barry could be anybody: he might be Bill O'Riley, he might be Glenn Beck, he might be Wolf Blitzer, he might be an SJW, a Republican, or Joseph Goebbels himself. But it all comes to the same: Barry is a prim and proper type, a good little boy, the kind of guy who is always on the Right Side of History, who knows what the world needs more of, at any time, you only need ask. And it just so happens that he believes the Western Hemisphere needs a little cleansing. It's a little too freaky, a little too crass, maybe just a little to UNRULY for his tastes. He has a killer smile, a dynamite suit, a charming personality, and a plan to commit mass genocide against society's "rot". He puts it all quite elegantly into one line: "Who WOULD want to watch a scum show like Videodrome?".
You could say his idea is the converse: that the message IS the medium.
And so the battle is fought, the battle for the minds of America. I can't say too much about this movie, its something better seen than described. But folks, I practically BEG you all to watch it, at least once or twice. It is a film about technology, yes. It is even a film about censorship and the inevitable conflict between chaos and control that results whenever new technology creates new platforms for speech and expression. Cronenberg hates himself some authoritarians, and hates himself some corporations, but Videodrome takes it a step farther. There is no neutral ground in this movie, and poor Max, our everyman, is really only a pawn in the war between Oblivion and Spectacular Optics. You could say that Oblivion's side represents freedom, while Convex is the personification of suppression, but even this is too simple. A better way of putting it might be that Oblivion stands for a new future, a new evolutionary phase, while Barry is nothing more than the petty dream of gentrification and political manipulation for "the greater good". This is only my interpretation, and as always, I encourage you all to watch this movie and see what you come away with. But it is very clear that Videodrome is meant to prognosticate, to send a clear message.
That technological evolution is inevitable. Our minds, modern minds, will continue to be shaped by our glowing screens, and as the screens broaden and glow ever brighter, our minds will gradually become synonymous with what they depict. We are, even now, changing internally, growing more and more into something completely different as a TVs, computer, iPhones, and all future devices become little more than an extension of our own consciousness. Sensuality, pleasure, artist expression, spiritual fulfillment: all have already began to become synonymous with our touchscreens and text messages, our web sites and tapping keyboards. The video word has been made flesh.
And to those who would try to manipulate this process for their own purposes, who would try to pervert this progression to create the world in their images, to try to suppress the "rot" and remold the mind into what THEY think it should be, the message is clear and inevitable:
Death to Videodrome. Long life the new flesh.
Here's a cool trailer:
Thank you all for reading, as always!