Friday, May 18, 2007

Cronenberg's battle against obesity

This entry is part of The Misunderstood Blog-a-Thon over at Culture Snob.

David Cronenberg's films have been called lots of things. Bizarre. Unnerving. Brilliant. Shocking. Grotesque. And I would like to add educational. Yes educational.

Word to the National Health Organization. Put down your signs that say "exercise more" and "eat your veggies" and don't worry about getting all those vending machines out of schools. Shut down the Weight Watchers and the Jenny Craigs and tell Kirstie Alley to shut up. If you truly want to solve the obesity problem today, buy up a shit-load of copies of eXistenZ and Videodrome and show them often.

At first blush, these two movies seem to embrace technology and its advancement. Max Renn (James Woods) and Allegra Gellar (Jennifer Jason Leigh) are striving to bring the next big thing to the masses. And at first they are successful. But as they become more entwined with the technology, it begins to reveal itself for what it really is. The TV is nothing more than a box that creates brain tumors causing hallucinations brought on by brain damage. Video games are nothing more than false realities that feed off your body and cause you to lose grip with society and will probably eventually get you shot dead.

Death to the demoness Allegra Gellar.

Death to Videodrome.

Long live the flesh.

The battles that rage in Videodrome and eXistenZ mirror the battles that rage in current society. Television and video games are bad drugs that at first seem harmless and fun but then eventually send you down a rabbit hole of self-destruction from which you will never escape. Parents deal with this reality every day with their children. And deal with it with themselves as well.

Cronenberg is not so literal as to show the body getting larger as these characters become more involved with the technology. But the bodies do change. These characters make sacrifices of the flesh. Portals are permanently drilled into the back to tap the spine. Vaginal like slits form in the belly. Brain tumors form that create false realities. Enjoyment like this comes at a price and it ain't cheap.

Consider when these movies were made. Videodrome (1983) created the multi-channeled world long before the thousand channel boxes we have today. And eXistenZ (1999) examined a parallel gaming world long before World Of Warcraft and Second Life were ever created.

These movies represent more than your average science fiction. They are forecasts for where we have already gone and where we are headed. Technology created by us for us to later sacrifice ourselves to. Cronenberg creates a future that is much darker than anything the Wachowski brothers or Ridley Scott ever dreamt up. A world that is not filled with spaceships and robots and laser guns. It's a world that is only a few years away.

A very real world we are traveling towards like a bullet train.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the provocative contribution.

I'm almost on board, but I don't think Cronenberg is actually concerned with the specific technology. I can be convinced.

A larger theme in his work is the peril of obsession/immersion, and that encompasses a larger section of his work: Dead Ringers, The Fly, Naked Lunch, Spider ... . That's why we sometimes see the melting of boundaries between the human and the inhuman: guns made out of bones, a belly VCR, the fusion of fly and human, a talking typewriter, the bio-port.

PIPER said...

Culture Snob,

You're absolutely right that most of what Cronenberg creates comes from an obsessive place. But I can't help but notice how he so accurately forecasted such trends in technology. Videodrome was such ahead of its time. As was eXistenZ. It was hard not to notice.

The Fly is about obsession, but the dangers of teleportation are not just years away. And Naked Lunch. Well, Naked Lunch.

The thing is is that the messages of Videodrome and eXistenZ are epic. They say be careful of the future. The Fly doesn't really count because because the story doesn't come from Cronenberg although it follows his trends very well.

In The Brood, bodies mutated through therapy. In Scanners, people were born with psychic powers. Videodrome and eXistenZ break away from the pack because they can be attributed to something else. And that something is technology.