It’s Science Fiction Editor Ian Driscoll’s thoughts on the cultural gutter.
In Videodrome, shortly before the arrival of the least sexy waiter in the history of cinema (no link for this, you’ll just have to go rent the movie), Max Renn (James Woods, no hyperlink needed) and Masha (Lynne Gorman, IMDb listing not interesting enough to link to) share the following exchange on the nature of the phantom Videodrome signal Renn is tracking:
Videodrome is something for you to leave alone. Videodrome. What you see on that show, it’s for real. It’s not acting. It’s snuff TV.
I don’t believe it.
So, don’t believe.
Why do it for real? It’s easier and safer to fake it.
Because it has something that you don’t have, Max. It has a philosophy. And that is what makes it dangerous.
That, in a nutshell, is how I feel about the Cultural Gutter. It’s dangerous because it has a philosophy.
What are the tenets of that philosophy? I’m pretty sure it’s post-po-mo, and believes we’ve gone beyond any sort of central or authoritative narrative (and contends that’s really the central metaphor of Diary of the Dead). Yet at the same time it abhors aintitcoolnews’ (not linked on principle) onanistic abuse of the exclamation point.
The Gutter would rather watch Turner Classic Movies than AMC, even though it’s kind of creeped out by Ted Turner, because it believes movies are meant to be seen in their proper aspect ratio, and from beginning to end without commercial interruption. (It admires David Lynch for his stand on this, among other things.)
The Gutter went to shoot-along screenings of The Killer back in the 90s, and got that out of its system. Now, it makes an ominous half-turn to stare down people who talk during movies. It gets up and exits the cinema to complain if the film goes out of focus, or if the sound is bad. Insofar as this goes, the Gutter may be bit of a cranky old man. It definitely likes wearing cardigans, though part of this is in homage to Bob Newhart.
It’s still kind of angry about the replacement of unionized projectionists with pimply-faced candy-bar staff. It believes the projectionist is the last member of the film crew, and the one with the most power.
It believes that even though the seventh art is a latecomer, it’s still an art form.
And yeah, it kind of always wanted to French kiss a television.
So, why put yourself out there? Why write several hundred words a month? Why imagine your opinion matters to anyone, or that you have anything of value to contribute? Why do it for real, when it’s easier and safer to fake it? Maybe simply because stuff can’t be uncommunicated, and because a bullet in the right place can change the world, but it’s no substitute for a good meme.
Or maybe because the battle for the mind of North America will be fought in the Gutter. The Gutter is the retina of the mind’s eye. Therefore, the Gutter is part of the physical structure of the brain. Therefore, whatever appears on the Gutter emerges as raw experience for those who read it. Therefore, the Gutter is reality, and reality is less than the Gutter.
You could think on that. Or you could ignore this article entirely and watch the version of Videodrome Brian O’Blivion would watch–all the good bits–in eight minutes and 29 seconds. (Courtesy of The Cut Up).
Either way, keep tuning in to The Cultural Gutter–the one you take to bed with you.
Ian Driscoll is sure you’ll forgive him if he doesn’t stay around to watch. He just can’t cope with the freaky stuff.
i ended up watching capricorn one on TCM the other day, in its correct aspect ratio and in its entirety. it’s like an inversion of videodrome–making the fake seem real. and everyone’s dangerous because they end up with a philosophy–or lose one by the end.
so i guess i’m wondering if the gutter’s up there in a biplane with elliot gould and telly savalas, pulling culture everyone believes is dead onto its wings and then barnstorming for all it’s worth.
i hope so.
I still remember going to see a Mamet play years ago, and after shushing some rowdy teenagers, I overheard them say, “I think the old guy is mad at us!” I was, like, 27! Maybe I should have stuck to the “ominous half-turn” rather than saying anything out loud 🙂
So are you saying that the Gutter is The New Flesh? If so, long live it!