Damn it. I made the mistake of getting my wife to watch Videodrome. It was meant to be a precursor to a documentary I'm eventually going to show her: We Live in Public. My mistake was thinking that a work of fiction would be "gentler" on her than a documentary that shows some very traumatic footage.
Anyway, the whole thing didn't turn out well. The movie proved too much for her, and she ended up in tears. Not only did she find it difficult to follow, but she didn't like the ambiguous ending, nor did she enjoy all the abstract (i.e., McLuhanesque) themes. But what she really didn't like was the allusions to violence and brainwashing -- it ended up being a trigger for her.
Now, you're probably wondering why these movies mean so much to me. That's a heady topic, and one that needs a lot of explaining.
In 2004, things were going very bad for me. My ex-girlfriend (who ended up stalking me) had faked a pregnancy -- but not without provoking me to drop out of college. Then I met an an ultra-orthodox rabbit who virtually destroyed my evangelical Christian faith, and I ended up in Brooklyn, New York at a yeshiva. Quickly, things went south when I realized the "powers-that-be" were trying to get me to cut off all personal relationships I had ever established (including with my mom).
With my "real life" in shambles, I took solace in the "online world". And that's when things got worse. On a religious community, I got involved in a flame war with the wrong guy. Pretty soon, my real life identity got dragged through the mud. I was receiving harassing phone calls. I was receiving death threats.
As you can see, it was a very bad year. And as bad as my stalker girlfriend was, and as bad as the religious brainwash attempts were, I found the whole incident online to be the most traumatic.
The reason: I discovered the Internet was very real. Previously, I was under the impression it waas all fake, that it was a place people went to in order to be something they're not. And certainly that is true for many people. But that doesn't mean the Internet isn't real.
Now, getting to the point of Videodrome, the movie itself focuses on television and video. But I feel it's more relevant to the Internet. In the movie, the protagonist, Max, gets exposed to the Videodrome signal through watching videotapes.This signal in turn causes hallucinations and tumours. The end result: Max becomes "the new flesh" -- a programmed being other than human that is nonetheless the next evolutionary "thing". What triggers the evolution is the medium -- the videodrome.
The plot of this movie is very McLuhanesque. But We Live In Public is more so -- and it's not a work of fiction. The subject of the film, Josh Harris really does believe that, through the Internet, human beings will cease to be individuals, that privacy will no longer exist, that everyone will be a celebrity -- and that we'll all like it.
Because of this, in 1999, Josh Harris built Quiet, the one and only human terrarium under New York City. This terrarium was outfitted with webcams capturing every move of the participants, and the ones doing the surveillance were also the participants. Quiet was a harbinger, a social experiment that proved people will willingly trade their own privacy for a warm fuzzy connection to another human being, and fleeting recognition.
This isn't the future, this is now. It is Facebook, and Twitter, and IRC, and MySpace. We're giving corporations the keys to our identities, and we're thrilled to being doing it. It's not just teenagers doing it either. It's grandma, and Uncle Joe, and virtually everybody.
Now, why do I care so deeply? Because I'm in the center of all of this. I build the software that makes all of this work. I do the documentation, and the customer support, and the usability enhancements. I do this 8-10 hours a day, then I go home and do it on my own time. It pays my salary. It's how I find my friends. Quite literally, the Interneet and all its social implications, is my life.
I made the mistake in trying to tell my wife all this in the wrong way. I figured I'd give her to watch a piece of fiction, watch her figure it all out, and we'd discuss it. It would be so very special. But frankly, she just got really disturbed by the whole thing because the movie -- and its importance to me -- lacked context. I thought it would be so much simpler than writing this very long post.
So Cindy, I'm sorry. I should have just written this damn post to begin with.
- "Long Live the New Flesh!"