I just finished watching Videodrome (for the third time), and it is one of my favourite movies. Max Renn is an executive at a small cable television station. While attempting to find new material to titillate his viewers, he encounters a show called ‘Videodrome’ And as the movie poster says, “First it controls your mind. Then it destroys your body.”
“The television screen is the retina of the mind’s eye. Therefore the television screen is part of the physical structure of the brain. Therefore whatever appears on the television screen emerges as raw experience for those who watch it. Therefore television is reality, and reality is less than television.” – Prof Brian O’Blivion
This is pretty much sums up Videodrome. O’Blivion’s daughter, Bianca, runs the Cathode Ray Mission, which allows the homeless to have a hot meal and watch some television to “patch them back into the world’s mixing board”. Bianca plays High Priestess or Sibyl to a new mystery religion. Her father, represents a prophet, who speaks like a ghost through the screen. He has hundreds of tapes, pre-prepared after his death, for interviews and communicating to others. The question it seems, is whether Brian had the prescience to predict every conversation he will have after his death, or simply guessed at everything people might ask of him? In an interview at the start of the film, Brian is televised through television, but looks directly at the hostess of the late night talk show. And the hostess looks back.
Television represents the collective, higher consciousness, a new kind of demiurge that shapes the world to suit the desires of its viewers, and the viewers, in turn are shaped by Television. Throughout the film, the main character Max Renn is advised and communicated to (or at) through television screens. Likewise he is programmed through videotapes, first to suit the desires of Barry Convex, and then as “the Video Word Made Flesh” by Bianca. Our bodies are simply VCRs and the essence of who we are, are simply programs to be played out and ejected. Reincarnation, possibly, the “Be Kind, Rewind” sticker.
The O’Blivions explain that Videodrome is not a show, but it is a new kind of signal. Bianca explains that it causes a brain tumour to form. Brian in his video claims he had visions, which in turn created his tumour and this tumour was then used to create Videodrome. “With our thoughts we make the world” says the Buddha.
The Televisual Higher Consciousness is benign, but the Videodrome signal is a means of tapping into that, commanding it to come down from it’s high frequency. Barry Convex, represents a group that want to use Videodrome to control and shape human destiny. They program Max to kill his associates at his office, and then attempt to kill Bianca O’Blivion. Max’s gun becomes connected to his hand through piping and wires, further fusing later in the film. Bianca has teeth though, knowing that Team Convex would one day make an attempt on her life. She counter programs Max to be her champion, a zealot for the Video Word Made Flesh. And so Max in turn kills Convex. Max’s meat gun no longer simply delivers bullets. It delivers transfiguration. Barry Convex drops on the stage of the convention centre, his microphone hits the floor nearby. As the cancerous growths split open his body, churning and convulsing and growing, Barry Convex is still gurgling, looping in a never-ending death rattle. Death to Videodrome. Long Live the New Flesh.
The film was made during an era of interlacing and analog. This was a pre-digital time. Computers were clunky machines engineered for single purposes only, hardwired, made to spec. The internet was a state secret. You could have watched hours of snow and dead air and listened to the echo of the big bang, so they say. Those days are pretty much gone now. Not sure if you can find an old CRT now.
It’ll be a sad day when they remake this film. Instead of being the physiological manifestation of the psyche, it will be yet another action film. People with meat guns everywhere, shooting mutations at each other in a rinse/repeat of the scenes from the first. In between the shooting/running/yelling drama, we will be spoon fed the full explanation. It won’t have clues and red herrings. It won’t make you look for the break when the main character slips beyond terrifying point of no return towards permanent psychosis. There will be no surprises or easter eggs. No mindfucks. And no need for a repeat.
Death to Videodrome
Long Live the New Flesh.