David Cronenberg’s Videodrome
With the recent centenary of Marshall McLuhan’s birth, it’s worth noting his presence in popular culture, a sustained example of which is David Cronenberg’s Videodrome. Brian O’Blivion, the film’s mad guru of physical transformation by way of electronic media, was inspired by McLuhan.
Brian O’Blivion styles himself as a media prophet, and it is with the introduction of him, his Cathode Ray Mission, and rival outfit Spectacular Optical, that the other main message of the movie is conveyed: what is the role of television in society? Brian O’Blivion (styled after real-life media prophet Marshall McLuhan) believes that television is the “retina of the mind’s eye” and that all the homeless or otherwise indigent members of society need is a good dose of television.
Videodrome TV scene: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8IxeroqZSuo
Videodrome 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vqCYvoJv_Vo
Videodrome 4: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a2roGCaX8RA
Videodrome 5: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QKbIxXmur1k
Videodrome 10: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j1ckiKF5DMA&feature=related
The quintessential example … comes from his original manifesto on alternate realities, Videodrome. In it, a media prophet not unlike Marshall McLuhan, Brian O’Blivion, equates our perception of reality through sensual experience and its representation on television: “the television screen has become the retina of the mind’s eye”. He even goes on to say that life on television is more real than life in the flesh, breaking down the barrier between two apparently different realities. This barrier is further broken by the apparition of a living VCR (mirrored by the human VCR that Renn becomes) and the fact that the protagonist receives live messages from Bianca and Nicky through the television screen, the retina of the mind’s eye, because of its ability to showcase Max’s hallucinations. Moreover, the invasion of life by technology is also rooted in its implantation in rural areas. Cronenberg’s praise of the United Kingdom’s F1 industry, as a technological asset associated with the countryside, and as an inspiration for eXistenZ’ gamepod farm (within an interview to Positif) confirms what he believes: evolution will not be achieved by de-humanizing the world, but rather by hyper-humanizing it. His subsequent rejection of the megalopolis imagery at the profit of the purely organic (organic game system, organic gun.) when it comes to science-fiction is a further example of this. After all, Cronenberg often reasserts that humanity is not what it was 100 years ago4. In short, it would seem that it had to adapt to an increasingly technological world (especially when addressing the last 100 years4) in which the role of man resembles that of the machine more and more. The physical “revolution” of Cronenberg’s films might seem extremist, but its radicalism is as strong as it needs to be, given the strength of the progress of reason. The body is indeed revolutionary: it is Nick Tudor who kills Rollo Linsky, Max’s grenade-hand detonates Harlan, Allegra’s pods are a reaction against transCendenZ. http://tinyurl.com/3puz48t
Filed under: Art, Articles, Commentary, Walter Ong | 2 Comments
Tags: art, centenary, communication, culture, video
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