Spine Film

Videodrome (1983)

virtual reality goggles

This film is concerned with the manipulation of individual perceptions of reality. The protagonist, Max Renn, is one of three partners who own a downmarket television station. In his search for something new to engage audiences, Renn uses broadcast technology expert Harlan to scan for content. This leads to Renn seeing Videodrome. Its images of violence capture his imagination and boost his prurient appetites.

What he does not know is that Harlan is a confederate of the reactionary Barry Convex. Videodrome is their means of attaining influence over people who watch it. Anyone so inclined will be susceptible to persuasion and instruction. This runs counter to the intention of its creator, Brian O'Blivion, who believed that televised or video programs could help the disenfranchised poor to reconnect with mainstream society. Videodrome was supposed to be neomorphic, assisting the evolution of man as a "technological being".

Once Renn is under its influence, he is instructed to kill his partners so that Convex can assume control of the television station, and use it to transmit the signal. Renn is also sent to kill O'Blivion's daughter who is carrying on her father's work, but she converts Max using the same signal, and dispatches him to eliminate Convex and Harlan.

Renn builds an audience with titillation and shock, so the alternate culture his station creates is devoid of substance. It is aimed at a visceral level. The accusation by an associate that Renn does not have a philosophy is entirely justified, and it is the reason a convincing version of the truth can be communicated to him as easily as putting a tape into a video deck.

Having a philosophy implies knowing how one is constructed, and therefore how to deconstruct competing philosophies. When the audience accepts uncritically without that advantage, the media can guide it in a particular direction, or no direction, within a few hours of broadcasting. The viewer who lacks a moral compass or political philosophy is susceptible to suggestion, and unable to make critical independent judgments. He or she will lack a cognitive framework against which to measure content and assess its value or purpose.

Whoever controls the media in modern consumer societies cannot control minds, but can ensure they never need intensive control. The television can render the audience inert, with no ability to formulate a logical response to issues. It can inhibit the development of critical faculties. Now, with streamimg, there are so many more channels for the delivery of that signal.

More insidious is that the media can decide what to report and what to remain silent about. That is why a coherent debate about Britain becoming a republic has never been broadcast.

Directed by David Cronenberg

Copyright © Spine Film 2016. All rights reserved.

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