Work Title: Videodrome
Medium: Film
Episode Title:
Year: 1983
Writer(s): David Cronenberg
"Original" Writer: Yes Own work?: No


Editorial Reviews, essential video" "Love it or loathe it, David Cronenberg's 1983 horror film Videodrome is a movie to be reckoned with. Inviting extremes of response from disdain (critic Roger Ebert called it "one of the least entertaining films ever made") to academic euphoria, it's the kind of film that is simultaneously sickening and seemingly devoid of humanity, but also blessed with provocative ideas and a compelling subtext of social commentary. Giving yet another powerful and disturbing performance, James Woods stars as the operator of a low-budget cable-TV station who accidentally intercepts a mysterious cable transmission that features the apparent torture and death of women in its programming. He traces the show to its source and discovers a mysterious plot to broadcast a subliminally influential signal into the homes of millions, masterminded by a quasi-religious character named Brian O'Blivion and his overly reverent daughter. Meanwhile Woods is falling under the spell, becoming a victim of video, and losing his grip--both physically and psychologically--on the distinction between reality and television. A potent treatise on the effects of total immersion into our mass-media culture, Videodrome is also (to the delight of Cronenberg's loyal fans) a showcase for obsessions manifested in the tangible world of the flesh. It's a hallucinogenic world in which a television set seems to breathe with a life of its own, and where the body itself can become a VCR repository for disturbing imagery. Featuring bizarre makeup effects by Rick Baker and a daring performance by Deborah Harry (of Blondie fame) as Wood's sadomasochistic girlfriend, Videodrome is pure Cronenberg--unsettling, intelligent, and decidedly not for every taste." --Jeff Shannon

  • Self-Written?:
  • Source Name: Amazon
  • Source URL:

Era/Year of Portrayal: near_future

Distinctive characteristics of the world in portrayal:

Looks exactly like 1983 except that soft core porn is available on broadcast TV and cable is still secondary.


  • Name of portrayed presence-evoking technology: Videodrome
  • Description of the technology: Videodrome is a broadcast signal that alters the brain of viewers so that they begin to hallucinate a different reality, which the movie implies manifests physically in the real world. The signal itself can be transmitted either via boradcast or videotape, and a portable, personal viewers is shown as a prototype to the technology. Basically, the viewer watches a TV program, often sexual sadomasochism to heighten the effect, and the Videodrome signal begins its work altering the viewer's brain. Eventually, the hallucinations manifest as communication and direct interaction with those in the program. Later in the film, it is revealed that those with longterm exposure to Videodrome can be "programmed" by those in control of the actual TV programs.
  • Nature of task or activity: First, the viewers begins to enter the world depicted on the TV screen, temporarily. Eventually, the viewer begins interacting with those seen in the program. Specifically, Max Renn hallucinates interacting with his Lover Nicki Brand after they watch Videodrome together. He is sent a videotape of Nicki appearing in an S&M Videodrome scenario (it is implied she is killed in that film). Max then begins hallucinating he is intercating with Nicki, first slapping her, then eventually speaking to her both "in-person" and on a TV screen.
  • Performance of the Technology: Videodrome works fine, until max, with the help of Bianca O'Blivion, breaks the programming and turns on his programmers.
  • Description of creator(s): white, males, forties, intent on world domination; Max O'Blivion may have created it; Barry Convex represents a group currently in control of the technology.
  • Major goal(s) of creator(s): to control the American "rabble" addicted to sex and violent television programming
  • Description of users of technology: in this film, Max Renn appears to be the primary user on Videodrome. He is a single, white, male, late 30s or early 40s, owner of a TV station specializing in soft core pornography.
  • Type(s) of presence experience in the portrayal: both
  • Description of presence experience: Under the influence of Videodrome, Max experiences spatial presence by imagining himself on the set of an S&M show he and Nicki watched before they had sex. Max later sees Videodrome video cassettes pulse with life, TV sets pulse with life, and see himself beating his lover, talkling with her, and otherwise engaging in social presence. Eventually, his imagining of Nicki becomes as if she is speaking to him via a TV set. By the end of the film, Max appears to able to alter reality in such a way that he can hide a gun in his abdomen and physically attach it to his hand with some organic growth.
  • User awareness of technology during experience: Videodrome users think they are watching a normal broadcast or taped program. They do not know the signal is in any way different than normal. max eventually begins hallucinating but does not know Videodrome is to blame until someone tells him (although he suspects it).
  • Valence of experience: Videodrome is enjoyable at first, frightening once the hallucinatiosn start, but in the end Max embraced the experience (until he commited suicide).
  • Specific responses: Max experiences heightened aggression and sexuality while under the effects of Videodrome. He starts becoming disoriented as the hallucinations increase. In the end he appears to able to bend reality to his imagining (it is never revealed if the viewer is simply seeing Max's hallucination or if he really can create changes; the latter is implied though).
Long-term consequences:

Most Videodrome users go insane. Max was a test subject and he was able to be "programmed" by Barry Convex, perhaps the 1st successful attempt at brainwashing via Videodrome. I think the implication is that, in the end, the effects of Videodrome are bad for users.


There is a secondary use of parasocial interaction in this movie that is noteworthy: max's secretary makes a sort of "videotape day planner" for him to wake up to everyday. She speaks directly to Max, looking straight at the camera to address him directly. This is the first scene in the movie, and only later does the viewer find out these are taped messages.

Coder name: Tom Polcari
Coder email:
Coder affiliation: Temple University, Philadelphia, PA, USA