David Cronenberg’s cinematic commentary on the power of media and how the media eventually controls you in ways you’re never quite cognizant of still rings true today. Even though “Videodrome” was more aimed toward the idea of television and our fascination with violence and human misery, Cronenberg’s thriller is still incredibly volatile in an age where humanity does nothing but stare at glowing screens zipping through a ton of data that eventually begin to depict how we live our lives. James Woods plays Max Renn, the owner of a porn television station who also has a penchant for sadism during sex. When he’s introduced to a television frequency called “Videodrome,” he begins to form a fascination with the footage of people being tortured, victimized, and raped.
Soon Renn’s fascination transforms in to obsession and he finds himself becoming a victim to delusions and hallucinations, all of which feel too real to ignore. Before long, he begins investigating Videodrome and learns there’s a larger dimension behind the snuff footage playing on the station. “Videodrome” subscribes to the idea of the eyes being the window in to our soul and our humanity, and eventually the television begins to become a part of our consciousness and eventual reflections of who we are as people. In a world where the media still operates by the philosophy that if it bleeds it leads, Cronenberg explores the idea that perhaps a little part of us dies when we begin to desensitize ourselves to violence. What’s worse, we gain a little something extra in our body that’s ugly, but very much aware of our fascination with darkness, blood, violence, and cruelty.
Though we try to deny it, we still click on the videos where someone falls, crashes, or slams in to something violently. And the news still gains an audience thanks to its unending obsession with disasters, murder, and war. Is unleashing and watching violence, however fictional, an act of catharsis or a gateway in to something all the more sinister? Does the fascination with violence help to relieve our aggression, or does it feed in to a darker nature that wants to unleash it? The somewhat jerky make up effects work wildly in favor of “Videodrome” where the director comments on very strong themes of morbid curiosity becoming obsession. The idea of violence and blood shed eventually becomes a part of our character Max Renn to the point where his hand gun eventually attaches itself to his arm. The only cause for resolving his conflict is through murder and death, even when he decides that Videdrome will help usher in our own doom.
Even the gun attaching itself to Max’s hand is something of a bit of stark symbolism of how the media sub-consciously programs the public on how to murder. I mean, how long during our venture in to television, video and digital technology can we realize that we’re being manipulated? And can we ever really differentiate reality from fantasy, no matter how detached we are from mass media? “Videodrome” is a stark and viciously compelling polemic on mass media consumption and easily one of Cronenberg’s best.