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MOVIE REVIEW: Videodrome – The Cost Of Blurring The Lines Between Reality And Representation

Posted on January 15, 2014 in Culture-Vulture

By Devanshi Tyagi:

Modernism and Postmodernism give great prominence to fragmentation as a feature of 20th century art and culture, but they do so in very different moods. Modernism laments fragmentation and Post-Modernism celebrates it.


In the movie that I have examined, Videodrome (1983), directed by David Cronenberg, pornography is the new knowledge, over which the state, or the dominant ideology has no control. The movie revolves around Max Renn, who is the president of Civic T.V, Channel 83 (a channel which airs porn all night). The tagline of the channel is — “The Channel you take to bed with you”. It is a channel with a niche audience and therefore these people are not part of the dominant ideology. Thus, this channel can be seen as a mini-narrative. There is not one grand narrative here. There is no unity. This is because no one philosophy or political theory or narrative can be totalizing. For example, an absolute truth could be believed to be that all human beings are averse to harm. But we have masochists amongst us, don’t we?

Max Renan is also taken up by his queer quest for knowledge. He wants “knowledge which will break through”. And he is not alone. His quest for more and more grotesque porn is followed by a whole audience. And it is not pleasure at work here, but this maddening rush towards knowledge. Any kind of knowledge, that might attract an individual. This, again, is an aspect of the Post-Modern. Knowledge in this time becomes a commodity, whose acquisition leads to power. Thus, in the movie, the competition is so intense that people are ready to kill each other to get the rights of a T.V. Show.

The next feature of Post-Modernism is that it lays a great emphasis on language. Post-Modernism overlaps with Post-Structuralism in its emphasis on language and the idea that meaning is not finalizable. It calls for a greater attention to strategies of representation rather than the final meaning of representation. So, in the movie, there is a lot of emphasis on what is virtual. So, the focus has shifted from what is real to representation. This is seen in the movie when the protagonist, Max Renn, is exposed to this new genre of porn; he is not concerned with the truth behind it. He is unaware of where it is being shot and whether it’s real violence or portrayed. In fact, he says it is much easier to fake porn hence it won’t probably be real. The irony is of course that what Max is witnessing is real. Those people are actually being tortured and it is not mere representation. Thus, in the Post-Modern world, there is a fascination with strategies of representation. The interest of everybody is only till the surface and nobody cares about the truth.

But, in the movie, this porn show “Videodrome” is for real. It is a show where people are tortured and murdered for real. But the viewer will not realize this. The viewer, like Max Renan, will realize too late that the effects of the porn are destructible for anyone who views it. Watching the porn, leads to a situation where one’s life is at risk. How? The movie will shock you with its answer.