Subject David Cronenberg's Videodrome
Posted by Ann Yang
Posted on Sat Jun 3 11:04:21 2000
From IP  

Ann Yang
Postmodern Fiction and Film
Dr. Kate Liu and Dr. Wenchi Lin
Journal 2

The Influence of Media in Videodrome

What role does the mass media play and how does the media influence people in a postmodern world? In Videodrome (1983) David Cronenberg shows us how people are influenced by the media. The background of the film is in the 80s, which is a period that TV has already an important part in everyone・s daily life. We can perceive this point from the protagonist Max Renn (James Woods): his daily life cannot be separated from media, and he is indulgent in watching sexual and violent views. Will it have no negative effect as Max says on the television show, or will it be a danger for human beings? In this short essay, I attempt to discuss this question from two perspectives: the lack of communication among human beings and the role of the media in the postmodern world.
In this one hour and 29 minutes film, Cronenberg shows us that the effect of the media is a decrease of real communication among human beings; furthermore, the effect has transformed to focus on the relationship between man and the media. First of all, what we see at the very beginning of the film is Max Renn・s secretary in a pre-recorded video on TV telling him today・s schedule. After arriving in the office, Max, who is a producer of Civic-TV, begins his work with watching a video in which is about Oriental sex. Later, Max and a radio show host, Nicki Brand (Debbie Harry), are invited to a TV show to have a conversation with Prof. O・Blivion (Jack Creley). Interestingly, Prof. O・Blivion shows on a :TV screen; rather than on television, for Prof. O・Blivion prefers expressing his notion via television which he thinks more real than the real flesh. The scene of the interview between Prof. O・Blivion and others has given us an example of the communication between man and media. The real influence happens after Max watches :Videodrome; which is about :torture, murder, and mutilation.; He begins to have hallucination and cannot distinguish reality from illusion. His situation just proves what Prof. O・Blivion・s theory of the effect of the media transmission which makes people have tumor in their brains. Max is just like those people watching TV alone all day long in a small space in Bianca O・Blivion・s (Sonja Smits) :Cathode Ray Mission.; We do not see there is any conversation among them, or even with the waitress there. Max has also been influenced by the signal on TV or video. Gradually, his communication with people becomes less and less.
After Nicki goes to audition for :Videodrome,; the worst effect happens: Because of his hallucination, Max begins to touch the TV screen and later to play :Videodrome; with the television in which there are images of Nicki and Mash in Barry Convex・s (Les Carlson) spectacle company. Moreover, Max becomes a cyborg figure who has videotapes in his belly and has a gun hand. Ironically, Max thinks the programs of sex and violence on his Civic-TV will not have any negative effect towards the viewers; however, sex and violence in
:Videodrome; influence him the most.
There is another dominant power, Barry Convex who attempts to control people・s thoughts and minds through mass media, in this film. Convex・s goal is to destroy those people who love watching sex and violence, and then he can purify North America. His reason and ideal sounds to be good for North Americans; however, the process is crucial and violent. Convex in fact planed to seduce Max to indulge in watching :Videodrome; and then to program and control him to kill other people. Though at last Max has the power to resist Barry Convex, his destiny is death. Moreover, the death is not out of his own free will but follow Nicki・s instruction on television screen. He still does not get rid of the domination of the media. The case of Barry Convex can just convey the negative influences: the influences of man and mass media on each other. However, the media in fact is controlled by human beings. Therefore, which one is more terrible?
Though Cronenberg gives us two types of possible influences in this film, I think that Cronenberg does not prefer either Prof. O・Blivion・s or Barry Convex・s theories. If Prof. O・Blivion・s theory is to help people have :new flesh; after watching the TV shows he makes, the results we see are Max・s hallucination and those people・s lifeless in watching TV all day long. If Convex・s theory is to rescue and purify North Americans, then his action is a big irony, because the process is cruel and violent. Max・s death at the end of the film is enough to give us a big shock to show the influence of the media on everyone. If we are unconscious to be over indulgent ourselves in the mass media (in this particular case), we may have the same ending which Max hasXhallucination, torture, murder and mutilation. Moreover, we will lose the real communication with human beings. To conclude, I think the media plays an ambiguous role in Videodrome, for Cronenberg has to use media to express his idea of the influence of the media. But this ambiguity makes Cronenberg・s film perform the worst effect of the media without leaving the negative effect to us.

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