ByMatt Cannon, writer at
Film buff, musician, and occasional writer.
Matt Cannon

Videodrome's Flesh filled televisions, eroticly transforming video tapes, and 1980's entertainment culture creeps into psychological horror's most hallucinatory satire. David Cronenberg's frighteningly prophetic and visceral vision can been seen as a entertainment's subconscious merge of sex and violence onto our innate personas. However, as much as it basis it's horror to primal ventures, it really finds it's core at the deconstruction of self-identity in relationship to technology itself.

Cronenberg already had made a deadbolt name for himself since the mid sixties with a handful of shorts and scientifically experimental films. Experimental would be stressed seeing Cronenberg's omnivorous scholarly in literature and science. He would dissect sexual repression in Crimes of the Future (1971) and even earlier he would eradicate laguage in favor of innate truth of the mind in Stereo (1969). Technology and the reality would be inseparable from the narrative as it is shown in Videodromes opening. A Telivison set turns on abruptly, showing Max's secretary speaking to Max on a recorded wake up-call. It's almost a comes off dreamy or even hallucinatory. His secretary even says on the video, "It's time to slowly ease yourself back to consienceness, No I'm not a dream, but I am told to be a vision of loveliness." Even as the film starts our reality becomes the question. The communication of video and commodity almost predates the internet. Video here would rule Max's occupation. He shows up to steady hotels like a covert spy to meet filmmakers selling their video tapes like narcotics. Max knows this world well; producing softcore pornography to hardcore violence, it's no surprise Max's hallucinations appear to be in a merge of both extremes.

Cronenberg's says in an interview "My films deal with society as repression and order break down". Max begins going through transformations or mutations that lead him to a clean slate. From emotion to static, real to unreal, and from order to chaos. Max's assimilation has already taken effect as he becomes more like a robotic killer wiped of free will, only taking order from Convex's cryptic tapes to kill Bianca Oblivion and his partners, and then retaliating against his oppressor by Bianca Oblivion's messages to kill Videodrome's creators. A industrial complex stands behind Max's constant anxiety. Convex is the dirty handed right-wing politician who works in different sects of this complex." Convex is in a sense the representation of a political manipulator within entertainment. Barry describes his company Spectacular Optical, "we make designer glass, and missile guiding systems for NATO, and we make Videodrome." Bianca Oblivion uses Television as a communicating therapy for the homeless, but uses Max's impressionable new mutation to rebel against his creators. Videodrome sqewers violence and reality to be one function, just as Bianca and Convex operate as one function of the same. Max's function is the archetype of masculinity. His desire to find a "tough" show leads him to this impression of Videodrome as something speaking to unconsciously permeating sex and violence, as Brian Oblivion says, "what is real outside our perception of reality". This line ties the films distortions together as Max's reality is far from real. What is impressionable is most effecting and therefore the more real it seems. It's like people say about pornography stands to be more stimulating than reality. But what is reality from experiance as also the function of a video tape. It's pre-recorded, just as we are a pre-recorded society.

Throughout the film we are brought to the same interactions through pre-recorded videos. His wake up call, Brian oblivion's moulages, Barry Convex political introduction. Max's first flirt with Videodrome comes from his partner video technician, Harlen, stumbles onto a transmission from a distant region. The screen twitches with static showing a scene of tourture and sodomy, only it ends up to be a video, not a transmission. The impression it makes of Max feeling of sexual and profitable curiosity burning with hope of turning this into a new program for his station he produces for. There is no illusion that this hasn't effected his sexual interest. Cronenberg finds identity to be a mailable object, Max illuminates as Cronenberg's most venerable victims.

Max has his first night alone with Nickki, as she probes his video collection to find a recorded video of Videodrome; her reaction is more truthful from her impression from the video than she is in her reality. The video's image of sadistic violence open her desires to fruition as she finds true pleasure in sadomasochistic impulses. Max can't believe this woman could drive herself to this. She is a self-help radio personality with a personality bearing the idea of strength and womanhood but not without understanding her desires as she puts her lifestyle "highly stimulated". The theme of metamorphosis is almost sexual penetration with technology's influence on reality; it is a part of the pattern facing Videodrome and it's watchers. The image slips, or in this term, penetrates into Max's perception. Max is a metaphorical VCR waiting for a video to be jammed into his body (the vaginal hallucination in Max's Stomach). What is always present in a Croneberg vehicle as it is extremely present in Videodrome is psychosis, the mental break down transforms it's influence on the body's deterioration (ie, ulcers, psoriasis, and tumors). Brian oblivion claims that Videodrome has given him a tumor, a tumor that he claims is Videodrome itself. Max becomes Videodrome, to the extreme that he no long resides in the same identity, changing his hand into a tumor loaded gun, and his stomach into a VCR. Max has become the image personified.

Cronenberg has been influenced by the writing of media philosopher Marshall McLuhan, a who predicted social entanglement with technolgy's influence. "If a new technology extends one or more of our senses outside us into the social world, then new ratios among all of our senses will occur in that particular culture. It is comparable to what happens when a new note is added to a melody. And when the sense ratios alter in any culture then what had appeared lucid before may suddenly become opaque, and what had been vague or opaque will become translucent." This being said, Max's illusion becomes the reality. Consider not just what the video signal does to Max, but how it affects his personality, as he metamorphisizes with his new ability. He turns from a sexual curious individual, to a faithful user. This isn't the first time Cronenberg's archetypes ran into the same problem. Max represents a form of dependance that is most likely on of Cronenberg's most important themes. In Naked Lunch (1991), Bill has the desire to go to hell and back to find a true story even if it's blurred with hallucinations, but dependance to drugs fuels his most dreadful mishaps toward achievement only to bring his ever circling despair. In Rabid (1977) a woman is turned into a subhuman vampire, with a phallic stinger in her arm pit, from which she claims she can't stop consuming human blood. You might actually give that a defiention of maternal pahllus. Technolgy dependance is at it's cusp in Existenz (1999) a video game designer finds her life in her virtual world where she feels most safe in its metaphorical womb. It's almost striking to see the game port as a umbilical cord. Stereo (1967) opens to the protagonist cautionary description of psychic addiction among a telepathics, how if they are separated mentally from a subject, the results could be brain damage, or temporal alienation. Dependance is a pre-requisite theme in a Croneberg film.

In the whole scheme of things, Croneneberg, like Antonioni and even Bunuel, is a full blown modernist. The idea of emergence of technology isn't a revolutionary statement against it, an assimilation with it. As much as we try to free ourselves from the image, it's already predetermined. Identity changes with technology as new vices, as does Max's final showdown with his self image in the Television. It's death and rebirth. Death of the old body with limitations. Birth to full assimilation with technology. They are all in the same circle, and it does go full circle. It's statement seems doomed in this 1980's perspective, but it's almost preminisive as it's reverberation we still feel today.


Latest from our Creators