Max Renn (James Wood) is looking for something to boost ratings of his local TV station. His aid “discovers” the Videodrome, supposedly by intercepting a satellite feed from the Orient. The Videodrome is ultra S/M pornography. Renn becomes fascinated, then addicted to it, and goes on a quest to get the rights to add it to his station’s programming.
But instead, he comes under control of powerful forces. Indeed, the video images actually change his body, such that the TV becomes “the retina of the mind’s eye.” As the figure Brian O’Blivion later explains, “television is reality, and reality is less than television.”
Renn’s life gradually loses all distinction between hallucination and reality. Yet a spark within still clings to the old reality, and he desperately tries to break back to it. But the question is, can he still, or is it too late?
When reality is so distorted, how do you know who is friend and who is manipulator? He entrusts himself to optometrist “Convex” at Spectacular Video (they make cheap glasses for the third world, and also weapons for NATO). But Convex informs him, “a little S&M will be necessary. Exposure to violence opens up receptors in the mind which allows the videodrome signal to enter in.”
Later, he starts intoning about the “new flesh.” But it is unclear to me what the new flesh is supposed to be. In the arc of the story, it should be the Videodrome/tumor which is the new video synthetic reality. But then, he chants, “death to Videodrome. Long live the new flesh.”
1. Is the “new flesh” an hegelian way to resolve the conflict between the videodrome organ and the old flesh? If so, how does it help? He still seems to remain under the control of the conspiracy even after dedicating self to the new flesh. So is the message then that there is no hybrid solution other than returning to the old flesh? If so, then that would be good, but it does not come out clearly.
2. The movie has the opportunity to deliver a particular moral insight, and even comes close to delivering it, but in the end fails: namely, that there is inward willful approval of the initial motions that draw one into perversion, so that when the perversion becomes bigger than what one can control, it does not remove culpability. But this theme is left undeveloped.
I found the names of some of the characters too allegorical or preachy.
On the good side is the warning that ultra-violence may open the mind to dark areas that ought not to be explored. There is good reason why in earlier more healthy eras police did not reveal the details of particularly horrific crimes to the public. On the other hand, if there is a “moral message” to the movie, is not the medium of conveying it a violation of the very message?
Michael Hoffman claims that this movie is explicitly Rosicrucian propaganda, but whether he has specific evidence of this or it is a speculative extrapolation is unclear. On that view, the movie is a revelation of the method of “the revelation of the method” [my repetition is intentional], namely, showing how certain powerful manipulators will create a new way of thinking by carefully constructed video imaging and message implantation. In that sense, the movie has affinities both with Huxley’s Brave New World, and the later Matrix. If Hoffman is right, however, it is not so much a warning a la Huxley, as a mocking last laugh (or first laugh, as the case may be). As if to say, “we’re gonna get you, and here’s how.”
There is so much disturbing, perverse, and dehumanising imagery that I cannot recommend watching this movie, except as part of research into conspiracy and occult phenomenology for those that feel led to do so.