Bodily transformation is one of the most important main themes in Cronenberg’s films. A parasite changes people’s minds and bodies in Shivers (1975), a brain tumour creates hallucinations and physical defects and turn people into programmable slaves in Videodrome (1984), a malfunction turns the scientist into a fly in The Fly (1986), and a virtual reality game which is connected to human body organically in eXistenZ (1999). As McGinn said “One theme that stands out plainly is the responsibility of the scientist and the unforeseen consequences of technology”(2012, p.20). These consequences can be thought as bad results of science, however Cronenberg does not show them as bad things in his films. He tells the story as a third person and doesn’t imply scenes that reflects the situation in a good or bad way.
“The story is “the view from nowhere”—that is, he is describing natural processes from a third-person position that is not from our temporal, spatial, and personal perspective” (Ludlow 2012).
This is an important aspect that makes Cronenberg and his films special, because normally horror films are told by the perspective of the good people or maybe bad but still subjective. However, an objective storytelling like Cronenberg does is unique in horror films and this style creates a different unsettling mood for audience. He likes to empathy with the creature which is uncommon for film language and audience.
“Cronenberg has said in his interview “[t]o understand it from the disease’s point of view, it’s just a matter of life… I think most diseases would be very shocked to be considered diseases at all” (Williams 1999).
So audience’s position while watching the film is unique because he force audience to think about the story and situation which do not have good or bad sides.
In his films, bodily transformation has two reasons: transformation with the help of science which is a desirable outcome, and because of diseases and anomalies. In Videodrome, although main character does not want to change, the Videodrome signal is created intentionally by Spectacular Optical. Similarly, the game in eXiztenZ is created to replace or simulate the reality. In these films, Cronenberg discusses the possible positive or negative outcomes of these technologies as well as questioning reality which is another subject in this blog. In The Fly, bodily modification happens because of a malfunction of computer which is an unwanted result. However Brundle and the film always deals with the new flesh issue. Brundle successfully transports inorganic matters but tries to transport live flesh. After some testing with meat and baboon, he tries it on himself and things go wrong. However, Brundle does not become a conventional horror movie character who wants to kill people or destroy society and so on. Instead, he stays at his house and watches his change. This is where Cronenbergian approach takes place, he creates a situation over human body and explores psychologically how a change like that could affect a person.
In Videodrome, Brian O’Blivion is thought be a human however later on Renn notices that he is dead and his daughter uses his pre-recorded videos to keep him alive in television’s reality. So Brian O’Blivion is a man who is nothing but some videotapes. It is similar that Nicki is real at first, then she disappears and Renn sees her only in tv or through a glass and so on. In the scene which Renn and Nicki are in Videodrome, Renn flogs her image on a tv screen not her body. So It can be thought that Videodrome is a film about being a machine, transferring human body and soul to electronic signals to become the new flesh. Throughout the story, Renn becomes a machine that takes tapes and these tapes programme him. As the audience understand later in the film, this is what O’Blivion have wanted at first. He saw Videodrome as “the next phase in the evolution of man as a technological animal” (Videodrome). So, this line is completely accurate with Cronenberg’s saying “technology as being an extension of the human body”(Blackwelder 1999) As can be seen, Cronenberg talks through his scripts.
These videotapes in Videodrome are not much different than phallic looking parasites in Shivers (1974). Tapes change Renn’s attitude, programme his personality and goals. Similarly parasites change people’s minds and creates sexual frenzy. As can be seen no matter how mutation occurs, the transmutation change people’s motives. Tapes and parasites are not the only things that change people’s ideas. Dna change in the Fly also have an effect like that, just like the second gamepod in eXistenZ. Interestingly, when people change they become highly sexual, much more than before. Parasite creates sex frenzy, Videodrome signal creates bdsm fantasy (Bondage, Discipline, Sadism and Masochism), Brundel-fly becomes a sex addict, also Allegra and Ted starts to have sex after connecting second gamepod which goes inside their body. They all have a similar situation: if something transforms the body, the body becomes highly sexual. Furthermore, Cronenberg’s films have sexual symbolism like the opening in Renn’s stomach in Videodrome.