1983: the beginning of the video wars. As home VCR players became more affordable, Sony’s Betamax and JVC’s VHS slogged it out to be the chosen format of viewers worldwide. Only one would win. But eventually both would lose.
David Cronenberg’s Videodrome (1983) is very much a product of its time. A cable network executive’s forays into disturbing late night broadcasts take a sinister turn when the dividing screen between fiction and reality begins to melt away. Unlike our wireless, invisible consumption of media today, it is the physical object of the video cassette which becomes an important trope in Videodrome. Cronenberg uses the oppressive nature of the bulky, noisy hardware to create a sense of claustrophobia. Harlan’s backroom office, for instance, is crowded with blinking screens and players restricting the space the two men physically inhabit.