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The best movie ever made about Facebook
August 26, 2013 10:42 AM   Subscribe

Network of Blood: "Videodrome’s depiction of techno-body synthesis is, to be sure, intense; Cronenberg has the unusual talent of making violent, disgusting, and erotic things seem even more so. The technology is veiny and lubed. It breaths and moans; after watching the film, I want to cut my phone open just to see if it will bleed. Fittingly, the film was originally titled 'Network of Blood,' which is precisely how we should understand social media, as a technology not just of wires and circuits, but of bodies and politics. There’s nothing anti-human about technology: the smartphone that you rub and take to bed is a technology of flesh." Nathan Jurgenson writes about Videodrome (previously) as a way of understanding our present social media technologies for Omni Magazine (previously).
posted by codacorolla (33 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
I smell a reboot!

/clueless Hollywood drone
posted by Doleful Creature at 10:54 AM on August 26, 2013


Should be watched with eXistenZ
posted by KokuRyu at 10:55 AM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Omni is back?!??!
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:59 AM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Soon we will all have special names. Names designed to make the cathode ray tube liquid crystal display resonate.
posted by infinitewindow at 10:59 AM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hey Nate's on Mefi! Hi Nate! You're still wrong about cell phones at concerts and you're terrible at the Leonard Maltin game but it's good to see ya!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:05 AM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


In this case I think I agree with his reading of Videodrome's statements about TV vs reality and that they are relevant to the horror we feel these days about technology's influence on our lives. What I might find issue with is his dismissal of these fears for being paranoid.

"There’s nothing anti-human about technology: the smartphone that you rub and take to bed is a technology of flesh. Information penetrates the body in increasingly more intimate ways."

Whether there is something horrifying about this "increase" or rather lack of crease altogether, I leave to the reader.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:13 AM on August 26, 2013


...a technology not just of wires and circuits, but of bodies and politics. There’s nothing anti-human about technology: the smartphone that you rub and take to bed is a technology of flesh.

I don't understand this leap. Bureaucracy and slavery are technologies of flesh and blood but that doesn't make them not anti-human.
posted by DU at 11:15 AM on August 26, 2013


Omni is back?!??!

Long live the new flesh!
posted by Artw at 11:17 AM on August 26, 2013 [9 favorites]


Unless "there's nothing anti-human about technology" was supposed to be just restating the tautology that things made by humans are human things, with all the positives and negatives.
posted by DU at 11:19 AM on August 26, 2013


Unless "there's nothing anti-human about technology" was supposed to be just restating the tautology that things made by humans are human things, with all the positives and negatives.

I think the idea here is to respond to, rather than make, a particular argument about technology - that's why he namechecks Donna Harroway. He's not saying "look, it's really profound to observe that technology is made by people!!!" He's saying "there is this discourse that opposes the pure/natural/organic to the metal/plastic/mechanical/technological as a way of mobilizing people politically; that discourse is silly, vide Videodrome and Donna Harroway."

Honestly, this whole essay seems to skip the way in which Videodrome is really a pretty innocent, eighties kind of movie - a very anti-Reagan kind of movie. Videodrome isn't celebrating the new flesh; it's talking about how dangerously seductive certain kinds of TV are. Not just any old TV, though - in particular, TV that is about the body. Like, the whole hook of this is that there's basically a snuff/porn program that is addictive, right? Technology is about the body in this instance, but that's not actually a good or even neutral thing. And the intersection of capital and the body - this kind of movie seems to me anti-Reagan-era because it always emphasizes how the seemingly wholesome "Moral Majority" kind of person/body/social practice is really not only totally enmeshed with body horror stuff but enthusiastically enmeshed with it. As the network executive who wants to start pirating (stealing, even!) the snuff porn show because it will make money.

I think that Videodrome is in a way a lot like 1984 - it gets read as prophecy when it's really a very particular and time-bound social critique. I'm not saying that you can't get Commentary On Facebook out of Videodrome but when you remove it from its actual social and political context you're missing a lot of stuff.

The thing that's sort of exhilarating about all those eighties movies - Videodrome, They Live!, that one that I always think is called Country Club but isn't that's about the eeeeevvvvvilll rich people who are really protean blood-sucking aliens, etc....is that they basically operate on the idea that popular resistance is possible and meaningful. It may not always happen in the films, but the general idea is that there's an outside. And there's a basically anti-bourgeois politics - it's not just that the evil aliens are oppressing the wholesome blond family with their random evil alienness because the Other Is Dangerous And Bad and the father needs to pick up a gun or whatever, the evil aliens are fascist and right wing and horrible and that's what makes them evil.
posted by Frowner at 11:42 AM on August 26, 2013 [8 favorites]


We've all been cyborgs for a long time now, we're just in denial about it.
posted by Artw at 11:45 AM on August 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think the idea here is to respond to, rather than make, a particular argument about technology

That is true. Jurgenson writes a lot about the idea of "digital dualism", specifically as typified by Sherry Turkle's Alone Together, which is about how social technologies are reducing 'real world' social activities in favor of 'virtual' simulations of social activity which are degraded forms of the 'real thing'.

This essay goes into more detail about that particular strain of thought.

This review is an extension of that concept, contrasting the way that Videodrome imagines technologies of simulation (human products which are as natural as any other technology we've ever made) versus how The Matrix imagines technologies of simulation (an insidious force which sets out to blind humanity with an unnatural fantasy that hides the Real).
posted by codacorolla at 11:56 AM on August 26, 2013


I'm the slime oozing out from your Internet
posted by thelonius at 12:11 PM on August 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


This whole discussion reminds me of how much I profoundly disliked Amusing Ourselves to Death, which was required reading freshman year. And that was pre-internet too.
posted by emjaybee at 12:26 PM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


I used to watch Videodrome, Altered States, and Excalibur over and over again when I was a teenager and I turned out fine.
posted by cjorgensen at 12:27 PM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is there a tl;dr? I tried scanning the article, but my head nearly exploded.
posted by orme at 12:33 PM on August 26, 2013


I tend to think of Videodrome, Naked Lunch and eXistenZ as Cronenberg's "media trilogy"--television/proto-internet, print/literature and simulated reality/games, respectively.

Anyway, the reason why the Cronenbergian smudging of boundaries is far less common than the Matrix's dualism is because media is always a sub-world; it's dependent upon the physical world. The experiences one can have with a book or a film or an online community are equally valid (but different in quality) as experiences exclusive to the "real world," but the new flesh has an awfully short battery life once the plug gets pulled. If your world-in-a-bottle metaphor (regardless of medium) is too literal, you're stuck with clear lines between a wider and more limited reality. Cronenberg's brand of horror in those movies is more like the Dickian switch between "real" and "unreal" (or "animate" and "inanimate") than your standard cyberpunk fare. Lain does much the same thing, where Eri's ultimate goal is not to increase connectivity and have more people using the Wired, but to make the Wired a new and dominant part of physical reality. A new flesh/new nature.
posted by byanyothername at 12:48 PM on August 26, 2013


For an interesting biological/mythological take on Cyberpunk tropes I thoroughly recommend Jeff Noon's Vurt. The squishy take on the technology means it's held up a lot better than some of it's contemporaries.
posted by Artw at 12:51 PM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is there a tl;dr?

Videodrome good.
posted by thelonius at 12:51 PM on August 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


also death to the demonness allegra geller, long live the new flesh and exterminate all rational thought
posted by byanyothername at 12:53 PM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'll have the special.
posted by Artw at 1:16 PM on August 26, 2013


As usual Frowner offers awesome insights.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:40 PM on August 26, 2013


I was about to observe insightfully how very Ballardian this all sounded, then I remembered that it was Cronenberg who made Crash and, oh did I feel like a silly.
posted by comealongpole at 1:46 PM on August 26, 2013


I was about to observe insightfully how very Ballardian this all sounded, then I remembered that it was Cronenberg who made Crash and, oh did I feel like a silly.

A quote from Ballard is also used in the article:

Sex times technology equals the future. The uneasy and sinister marriage between ourselves and technology is going to change all our values.
—J.G. Ballard.
posted by codacorolla at 2:10 PM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


That article was very well written.

This logic—that the Web is some other place we visit, a “cyber” space, something “virtual” and hence unreal—is what I call “digital dualism” and I think it’s dead wrong.

He apparently has not heard that on the internet nobody knows that I am a dog. I will check back with you all later after I pause for some real life and some real bacon.
posted by bukvich at 2:28 PM on August 26, 2013


that one that I always think is called Country Club but isn't that's about the eeeeevvvvvilll rich people who are really protean blood-sucking aliens, etc

Society? MetaFilter is directly responsible for my familiarity with that one, actually!
posted by byanyothername at 2:29 PM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


The thing that's sort of exhilarating about all those eighties movies - Videodrome, They Live!, that one that I always think is called Country Club but isn't that's about the eeeeevvvvvilll rich people who are really protean blood-sucking aliens, etc....is that they basically operate on the idea that popular resistance is possible and meaningful. It may not always happen in the films, but the general idea is that there's an outside.

I thought the conclusion of Videodrome was that there is no outside, although I guess it had a measure of critical distance to have the concept of 'outside' to even be able say that...

But, I think replacing "television" with "facebook" is kind of shallow. the question is how does culture reproduce itself in post-industrial capitalism and the touchstone is really debord's SoS rather than the pop-crit of mcluhan or harroway, and the conclusion that the "internet" is the mode of cultural production that television represented metastasized.

in fact, with the way that advertising is all situationist, you can think of Videodrome as a sort of meta-biography of Debord... including the conclusion.

Long live the new flesh!
posted by ennui.bz at 3:17 PM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Doleful Creature: /clueless Hollywood drone

Speaking of drones, it seems like the movie Sleep Dealer has some bearing on this discussion. It may be that I've forgotten aspects of it that would complicate my reading, but it seems like it falls into the digital dualist camp, arguing that virtual reality reproduces the asymmetries of privilege and access to resources that we already find in the "real world".
posted by cobra libre at 8:42 PM on August 26, 2013


It breaths and moans;

the fuck it does! it BREATHES. Hire a fucking copyeditor, OmniRevenant.
posted by mwhybark at 10:10 PM on August 26, 2013


See it in 35mm at the Grand Illusion in Seattle this weekend!
posted by altersego at 10:19 PM on August 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Videodrome was one of those films, that in the UK, got caught up the post video nasty panic... I don't think I saw an uncut version until it was shown (ironically) as one of the Moviedrome films. It was of course way less violent than what had grown in my imagination from reading descriptions of the cut scenes.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 5:39 AM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


"the smartphone that you rub and take to bed is a technology of flesh."

It isn't in you, it is you (nsfw)
posted by homunculus at 4:28 PM on August 27, 2013




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