How The Creepy 1983 Cult Movie 'Videodrome' Got Everything Right About Modern Life And The Internet


There are two types of movie fans: Those who have been freaked out by the 1983 cult classic “Videodrome,” and those who have never heard of it.

The movie, starring James Woods and Debbie Harry, is about a cable TV executive who becomes addicted to a secret “pirate” video channel that broadcasts a late-night torture porn show called “Videodrome.” The show ends up taking control of his life, through a series of hallucinations.

The movie was made by director David Cronenberg, who has spent a lifetime investigating the creepy interface between sex and technology. He later became famous for “The Fly,” “Dead Ringers,” “Crash” and “eXistenZ.”

What’s interesting about “Videodrome,” however, is the way it explores the idea that the virtual world is more interesting than the real world, especially as it relates to sex.

Bear in mind that Cronenberg shot this idea more than a decade before the internet existed as a household device.

It’s creepy how prescient the movie is about modern life …

The original shock of 'Videodrome' in 1983 was the idea that people would actually want to watch someone being tortured. In 2004, the 'Saw' franchise was born and torture-porn is now old hat.

In 'Videodrome,' James Woods' character, Max Renn, becomes addicted to watching the show. The idea was ridiculous at the time. But today the idea of being 'addicted' to the internet is widely accepted.

When 'Videodrome' portrayed the kinky sex life of Nikkie Brand (Debbie Harry) in 1983, it was shocking. Today, BDSM is a pop culture staple.

In one scene, James Woods whips a television set, which shows a bound woman reacting in pain. Later, she turns up dead in his bed (this turns out to be an hallucination). Today, the notion that the mere act of watching a crime on video also makes you a perpetrator is a commonplace in anti-child abuse laws.

In the movie, Debbie Harry travels to Pittsburgh to join the cast of the show. Today, many people believe that public life on 'reality' TV is more 'real' than private life in the flesh.

In 1983, Harry's desire to transfer her sex life to a TV studio seemed far-out. Today, the fear that virtual sex may be more interesting than actual sex is a serious topic of study for psychologists.

The addictive nature of 'Videodrome' was that the hallucinogenic show was tailored to each individual viewer. Today, customised personal media — from Facebook news feeds to Tumblr dashboards — are standard.

'Videodrome' is all about America's paranoid gun-control nightmare. In the movie, a gun drills itself into James Woods' hand and becomes part of his body. He later kills another man and then shoots himself in the head. In 2013, most American suicides and a large plurality of murders are committed with firearms.

In 1983, 'Videodrome' worried that the audience's weird, sweaty desires would fuel what gets shown on video. Today, that's basically the definition of video.

The movie famously contains a scene in which a video cassette slot opens in Woods' stomach so that he can ingest the show directly. It suggests that electronic media is a cess pool that will poison us once we allow it inside. We're still having that debate today.

In the movie, Woods dons a virtual reality helmet. Today, we're all looking forward to Google Glass and Oculus Rift video headsets.

'Videodrome' explored the fear that we'd be unable to tell the difference between the real and the virtual, and that the lack of difference would drive us fatally mad. Today, teens who commit suicide after online bullying are a major concern.

One of the more intriguing characters in 'Videodrome' is the academic Brian O'Blivion, who refuses to appear on TV unless it's via remote video screen. Today, having a virtual, fictional presence in real (social) media is unremarkable.

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