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How a creepy 1983 cult movie got everything right about the internet

Director David ‘The Fly’ Cronenberg made some eerie predictions about the modern world, and sex…

Image: Canadian Film Development Corp./Universal via Business Insider

THERE ARE TWO types of movie fans: Those who have been freaked out by the 1983 cult classic Videodrome, and those who have never heard of it.

The movie, starring James Woods and Debbie Harry, is about a cable TV executive who becomes addicted to a secret “pirate” video channel that broadcasts a late-night torture porn show called Videodrome. The show ends up taking control of his life, through a series of hallucinations.

The movie was made by director David Cronenberg, who has spent a lifetime investigating the creepy interface between sex and technology. He later became famous for The Fly, Dead Ringers, Crash and eXistenZ.

What’s interesting about Videodrome, however, is the way it explores the idea that the virtual world is more interesting than the real world, especially as it relates to sex.

Bear in mind that Cronenberg shot this idea more than a decade before the internet existed as a household device.

It’s creepy how prescient the movie is about modern life …

How a creepy 1983 cult movie got everything right about the internet
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  • That audiences would watch torture porn

    The original shock of Videodrome in 1983 was the idea that people would actually watch someone being tortured. In 2004, the Saw franchise was born and torture-porn movies are now old hat. (Image: Canadian Film Development Corp./Universal)
  • Internet addiction

    In Videodrome, James Woods's character Max Renn becomes addicted to watching the show. The idea was ridiculous at the time but today the idea of being 'addicted' to the internet is widely accepted. (Image: Canadian Film Development Corp./Universal)
  • Light bondage in popular culture

    When Videodrome portrayed the kinky sex life of Nikkie Brand (Debbie Harry) in 1983, it was shocking. Today, BDSM is a pop culture staple. (Image: Canadian Film Development Corp./Universal)
  • Virtual sex lives

    In 1983, Harry's character desired to transfer her sex life to a TV studio. Today, the fear that virtual sex may be more interesting to many people than actual sex is a serious topic of pyschological study. (Image: Canadian Film Development Corp./Universal)
  • Digital customisation

    The addictive nature of Videodrome was that the hallucinogenic show was tailored to each individual viewer. Today, customised personal media - from Facebook news feeds to Tumble dashboards - are standard. (Image: Canadian Film Development Corp./Universal)
  • Gun control issues

    Videodrome echoes America's gun-control conflict - in the movie a gun drills itself into James Woods's hand and becomes part of his body. SPOILER! He later kills another man and then shoots himself in the head. (Image: Canadian Film Development Corp./Universal)
  • Cyber implants

    As the handgun consumes Woods in the movie, he yells, "Long live the new flesh!" Cyber implants are, today, a reality. Videodrome echoes America's gun-control conflict - in the movie a gun drills itself into James Woods's hand and becomes part of his body. SPOILER! He later kills another man and then shoots himself in the head. (Image: Canadian Film Development Corp./Universal)
  • 'Electronic media may be toxic' debate

    The movie famously contains a scene in which a video cassette slot opens in Woods's stomach so that he can ingest the show directly. It suggests that electronic media is a cesspool that will poison us once we allow it inside. We are still having that debate today. (Image: Canadian Film Development Corp./Universal)
  • Virtual reality helmet

    Woods dons a virtual reality helmet. Today, we're awaiting the Google Glass and Oculus Rift video headsets. (Image: Canadian Film Development Corp./Universal)
  • Online infiltrating real life mental health

    Videodrom explored the fear that we'd be unable to tell the difference between the real and the virtual and it would endanger our mental and physical health. Today, teenage suicide and the link to cyberbullying are of major concern. (Image: Canadian Film Development Corp./Universal)
  • Avatars

    One of the more intriguing characters in Videodrome is the academic Brian O'Blivion, who refuses to appear on TV unless it's via remote video screen. Today, having a virtual, fictional presence in real (social) media is commonplace. (Image: Canadian Film Development Corp./Universal)

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Business Insider
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