Hyperreality with Tentacles: David Cronenberg, Memes, and Mutations – David Faust

Abstract: This paper attempts to examine three films by director David Cronenberg, Videodrome, Naked Lunch, and  eXistenZ in an effort to understand his ideas regarding the transformative nature of information on the body and mind. As a filmmaker, Cronenberg is unique in that his major influences are writers, in particular transgressive writers like William S. Burroughs and Vladamir Nabokov rather than other filmmakers. This perspective imbues his films, especially his earlier horror and science fiction films with  ideas befitting his inspirations. In Videodrome, information passes from person to person in the form of pirated video cassettes and transmissions which results in (possible) physical deformities while raising the mind to a higher level of perception. Cronenberg’s adaptation of Burroughs’ novel Naked Lunch discards most of the novel’s (non) narrative and instead focuses on the protagonist, William Lee trapped in a world that might only exist because of a combination of language and a drug derived from centipede carcases. His 1999 film eXistenZ is a capstone that combines ideas from Videodrome and Naked Lunch where bio-mechanical video game systems interface with people’s spines and transports them into a hyperreal existence.

Introduction

The Brood (1979)

The Brood (1979)

Jorge Luis Borges, in his story Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius, first published in 1940, tells of a fictional world, Tlön, created by a group of intellectuals who disseminate bits of information about it in various books, magazines, encyclopedias, and dictionaries throughout the world so that as people begin to learn about this fictional reality, it gradually imprints itself on the real world, re-writing reality with its own paradigm. What began as a minor entry in an obscure encyclopedia becomes more and more ubiquitous, the more that people read and learn about it. The fictional world of Tlön  spreads over the earth like a virus, a virus composed of information, mutating reality (Borges 1962, 3-18). David Cronenberg has been exploring similar themes in his films since the late 1970s, beginning briefly with The Brood (1979), and then fully with Videodrome (1983), his adaptation of William Burroughs’ novel Naked Lunch (1991) and eXistenZ (1999). Cronenberg’s films show a fascination with media, information, and their power over the human body and mind. 

Cronenberg began making films in the late 1960s in his hometown of Toronto, Canada. Toronto did not have much at all in the way of a film industry, so he and other filmmakers had to create everything from scratch:

There wasn’t a film industry here, so there wasn’t even a film industry where you could plug in and say, ‘OK, if I work my way up from assistant director or third assistant director, eventually I’ll be directing.’ There wasn’t that opportunity, and so I don’t know what would have happened if it hadn’t been for the 60s and the underground film movement. I might not have become a director at all.(Cronenberg 2006, 14)

This ‘do it yourself’ approach to film making was influenced largely by underground art film directors working in New York at the time. Cronenberg says our inspiration really was more from the New York underground filmmakers: Kenneth Anger and Ed Eschwiller and Jonas Mekas and the Kuchar Brothers (Cronenberg 2006, 14). Author J.G. Ballard, whose novel Crash would later be adapted into a film by Cronenberg in 1996, says that in the 1960s, [t]here was a major change in the way the mass media began reshaping reality (Ballard 2005, 177). This change that Ballard speaks of seems to relate to the ubiquitousness of television in the homes of people all over the world and the effects that rapidly disseminating information, like the assassination of Lee Harvey Oswald and nightly reports about the war in Vietnam, had on people who were largely unaccustomed to seeing such violent images at all, and then suddenly to have these images beamed into their homes: a saturation of information. It seems as though this saturation of media influenced a lot of Cronenberg’s own ideas on film making and storytelling.

Cronenberg’s inspirations, however,  come largely from writers rather than other filmmakers. Browning says [t]he kind of literature towards which Cronenberg seems to be drawn is best known to academic or cultish circles rather than populist best-sellers (Browning 2007, 27). In fact, Cronenberg initially wanted to be a writer, but as Beard says Nabokov and Burroughs initially inspired Cronenberg to be a writer, but it was a sense that he could not escape their influence which led to a rejection of that particular ambition (Beard 1996, 827). Browning adds that although he changed mediums from the page to the screen, the influence of his literary mentors did not disappear altogether (Browning 2007, 109). Cronenberg’s films are first and foremost about ideas. Like the authors Jorge Luis Borges, Vladamir Nabokov, Philip K. Dick, William S. Burroughs, and J.G. Ballard, Cronenberg uses his chosen medium of film to explore concepts. Character development often takes a back seat to the philosophical concerns he presents in his films. Cronenberg seems to be particularly fascinated with exploring the spread of information through media and the effect this spread of information has on the human mind and body. In Cronenberg’s films, information in the form of memes has a mutating effect on the body as well as the mind. This effect in turn often causes a kind of paradigm shift regarding perceptual distortions of reality. The mutations of the body lead to a perceptual awakening to  the nature of reality.   This paper will examine in detail three films by Cronenberg, Videodrome, Naked Lunch, and eXistenZ  in an attempt to understand Cronenberg’s ideas on the impact information has on the body and how these information viruses or memes mutate the body and move the mind to a higher state of perception or consciousness.

What are Memes?

The Brood (1979)

The Brood (1979)

To begin with, it is important to understand what exactly memes are and how they work. The term meme was coined by Richard Dawkins in 1976 in his book The Selfish Gene:

Examples of memes are tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches. Just as genes propagate themselves in the gene pool by leaping from body to body via sperms or eggs, so memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain via a process which, in the broad sense canbe called imitation. If a scientist hears, or reads about, a good idea, he passes it on to his colleagues and students. He mentions it in his articles and his lectures. If the idea catches on, in can be said to propagate itself, spreading from brain to brain.(Dawkins 1976, 192)

Additionally, Blackmore says, regarding memes that: [t]he human language faculty primarily provided a selective advantage to memes, not genes. The memes then changed the environment where genes were selected, and so forced them to build better and better meme spreading apparatus. In other words, the function of language is to spread memes (Blackmore 1999, 99). Memes are ideas that spread like a virus from person to person. The fictional universe in the Borges story mentioned earlier functions like a meme that re-writes the rules of reality. Regarding the psychological aspects of memes, Brodie says: the memes in your head cause behavioral effects. Likening your mind to a computer, memes are the software part of your programming; the brain and the central nervous system. Produced by your genes is the hardware part (Brodie 1996, 7).

Cronenberg first began to touch upon this concept of viral ideas in his film The Brood from 1979. In The Brood, a psychiatrist, Dr. Hal Raglan (Oliver Reed) has developed a method whereby a patients’ fears and psychological traumas are, upon discovery, manifested physically in the form of lesions or tumors. The patients convert this information into illnesses, sores, lesions.  Nola Carveth (Samantha Eggar)’s trauma manifests itself in an ever-increasing brood of mutant children who kill. In The Brood, information becomes an agent of mutation: [m]emes are to a human’s behavior what genes are to our bodies: internal representations of knowledge that result in outward effects on the world (Brodie 1996, 7).

Videodrome: The Video Word Made Flesh

Videodrome (1983)

Videodrome (1983)

Videodrome, released in 1983, is where Cronenberg truly begins to explore the idea of information as an agent of mutation. The story concerns the owner of a cable TV station, Max Renn (James Woods) who discovers (or as we find out later, is led to) an underground TV show called Videodrome. From the moment Max sees Videodrome, his reality begins to shift, subtly at first  with Max’s bedroom changing into a kind of temple while having sex with Nicki Brand (Deborah Harry) and then gradually increasing in intensity and frequency until Max (and we, the viewer) has no idea what is ‘real.’ The character Brian O’Blivion (Jack Creley), a so-called media prophet  provides most of the exposition regarding the nature of Videodrome and its purpose. In the film, O’Blivion appears only on television screens, his daughter Bianca (Sonja Smits) says the monologue is his preferred method of discourse.  That O’Blivion prefers monologues is significant, not because he has been dead for some years and only appears via videotape, but because he is primarily interested in the transference of information, specifically the Videodrome meme.  The origin of Videodrome is somewhat unclear. O’Blivion, in a taped message tells Max,  I had a brain tumor. And I had visions. I believe the visions caused the tumor and not the reverse. I could feel the visions coalesce and become flesh, uncontrollable flesh. But when they removed the tumor, it was called Videodrome. As for what caused Videodrome to manifest in the first place or the reasons behind it, Cronenberg does not say. That it exists is all that is important.

But what is Videodrome? Masha (Lynne Gorman), a producer and dealer of underground and soft core porn videos tells max that, it [Videodrome] has a philosophy. That’s what makes it dangerous.  Later, Max learns that Videodrome is not a show, as he first believes, but rather it is a subliminal signal, the Videodrome signal, transmitted subliminally through any television broadcast begins to alter the brain of anyone from the first moment they see it. Sperb notes that [t]he tumor [like effect] is what emanates from the Videodrome broadcasts and which then pre-personally constitutes perception [hallucination] for Max (Sperb 2006). The Videodrome meme closely resembles William Burroughs’ conception of an electronic virus, in the electronic revolution a virus is a very small unit of word and image…such units can be biologically activated to act as communicable virus strains (Burroughs 1974, 14). O’Blivion tells Max that massive doses of the Videodrome signal will ultimately create a new outgrowth of the human brain which will produce and control hallucination to the point that it will change human reality.  O’Blivion sees Videodrome as a means of altering the perceptions of humanity, of evolving human consciousness. After all, O’Blivion says, there is nothing real outside of our perception of reality.  Concerning the film itself, Harkness states that [t]he inexorable logic of Videodrome is that the illusion is the reality, and when dealing with a medium as insidious as television, it doesn’t make any difference which is which (Harkness 1983, 25). O’Blivion’s goal seems to be for everyone to eventually evolve beyond flesh and bone into a kind of electronic soul, becoming pure information, he speaks of Total Transformation. Kill the old, become the new.

Regardless of what O’Blivion’s intentions are, there is another group who seeks to co-opt Videodrome for their own purposes. This group, Spectacular Optical, is a conglomerate that makes  inexpensive glasses for the third world and missile guidance systems for NATO. Spectacular Optical seeks to use Videodrome to kill off a certain segment of the population of North America, specifically the segment who enjoys the kind of sex and violence programming Max broadcasts through his network. It is Harlan, Max’s friend, technician, secret agent for spectacular Optical, and the man who introduced Max to the Videodrome meme who explains it, saying North America is getting soft, patron. And the rest of the world is getting tough…we’re entering savage new times, and we’re gonna have to be pure and direct and strong if we’re going to survive them. Spectacular Optical uses the Videodrome signal to reprogram Max, like a computer or robot to become an assassin. He kills the other executives at his network, so that Spectacular Optical can take over and begin broadcasting the Videodrome signal, and then attempts to kill Bianca O’Blivion, but she reprograms Max again to murder Harlan and Barry Convex, the chief of special programs at Spectacular Optical. What was once a tool intended for enlightenment and evolution has now been turned into a weapon, bringing to mind military experiments with psychoactive substances like LSD.

Videodrome (1983)

Videodrome (1983)

Videodrome (1983)

Videodrome (1983)

 

The hallucinations that Max experiences throughout the film are bio-mechanical in nature. Max sees Videodrome mutating his body, which is exactly what it’s doing, except it’s also mutating his mind. The first time Max gets exposed to the Videodrome signal for an extended period of time, he sees and feels a large vaginal opening appear on his chest. Into this opening he inserts a gun, which he will use later to kill the executives. Later, when he is reprogrammed by Barry Convex, this scene is presented visually as convex inserting a videotape into Max, which is how Max perceives it. When Max attempts to kill Bianca O’Blivion, Max perceives a gun coming through a television screen, shooting him, the wounds in his chest manifesting themselves on the screen. Max is then reprogrammed, reborn as the video word made flesh. Concerning these bio-mechanical hallucinations, Cronenberg says we absorb it [technology] into our nervous systems  and into our concepts of reality and into our bodies (Porton 1999, 8). The blending of the mechanical with the biological is a theme that runs through many of Cronenberg’s films, particularly The Fly (1986) Naked Lunch, Crash (1996) and eXistenZ. In Videodrome, the hallucinations of cyberneticism seem to presage a move toward a new and higher level of consciousness. In the end, Max watches on a television screen an image of him committing suicide, the final act before becoming (perhaps) pure information, like Brian O’Blivion and Nicki Brand before him, living forever as part of Videodrome.

Naked Lunch: Exterminate all Rational Thought

Naked Lunch (1991)

Naked Lunch (1991)

In 1991, Cronenberg released his adaptation of  William S. Burroughs’ controversial novel Naked Lunch. Published in 1959, Naked Lunch is a surreal and nightmarish collection of hallucinatory  routines mostly centered around a place called Interzone, which is modeled on the city of Tangier, where Burroughs lived for a few years in the 1950s. According to Beard in the book The Artist as Monster, Cronenberg as early as 1981 expressed the desire to make a film version of Naked Lunch (277). However, as an adaptation, Naked Lunch is, to say the least, a very challenging book:

Naked Lunch has no coherent narrative or even narrative line. It is a disparate series of sketches or ‘routines’ (as Burroughs referred to them) populated by flat, stylized characters regularly modulating into modernist poetic diction, and suffused with with cruel humor and a savage satirical edge. In effect it is a collection of separate fragments…giving the impression of having been individually composed and throw together in a collage-like mannerwhich indeed was the manner of the book’s initial writing and later assembly. (Beard 2006, 277)

Because of the challenges presented by the nature of the book, as well as the amount of sex and violence within it, Cronenberg, a lifelong Burroughs fan, chose not to film Naked Lunch as an adaptation. Instead, he combined elements from the bookmostly creatures like the Mugwump and giant insects and characters like Dr. Benway and Bill Lee along with biographical elements from Burroughs’ own lifethe shooting of his wife, his friends Jack Kerouac and Allan Ginsberginto a film that blurs the line between fantasy and reality and deals with the creative and destructive power of language and information. Thus, Naked Lunch is a film about Burroughs as well as Cronenberg’s interpretation of Burroughs, in making Naked Lunch, Cronenberg rejected any notion of a direct translation and instead attempted to get himself in aesthetic sync with Burroughs (Browning 2007, 127).

Naked Lunch, the film, is the story of William Lee (Peter Weller), a failed writer who is working as an exterminator. He and his wife both become addicted to the powder used to kill insects. In an attempt to get clean from the bug powder Lee consults with the mysterious Dr. Benway (Roy Scheider) who introduces him to The Black Meat— the dried flesh of the aquatic Brazilian Centipede, which Benway mixes with the bug powder as a means of weaning the addict off the powder. Benway describes the Black Meat, saying that it will disappear completely. There’ll be no smell, no discoloration. It’s like an agent, an agent who has come to believe his own cover story, but who is in there, hiding, in a larval state just waiting for a time to hatch out. It is while under the influence of the Black Meat that Lee shoots his wife Joan (Judy Davis). Lee then hides out in a bar where he meets a reptilian creature called a Mugwump who tells him to buy a typewriter and go to a place called Interzone. There, Lee will write reports on the shooting of his wife as well as the activities he sees and the people he meets in Interzone.

Most of the film takes place in Interzone, a city modeled on Tangier where Burroughs lived and where he wrote most of the material that would become Naked Lunch. Although Interzone may be modeled on a real place, in the film, Cronenberg seems to suggest that Interzone is a hallucination or an alternate reality, not unlike the fictional country Uqbar in the Borges story. When Lee’s friends Martin and Hank come to visit him, Lee says I must be hallucinating, to which Hank replies: this is probably the first time you haven’t been hallucinating in a long time. Interzone is a kind of simulacrum, or a hyperreality, constructed by Lee. According to John Tiffin, a hyperreality creates virtual reality to be an experience in the physical reality, so that virtual reality and physical reality react with one another. Virtual reality provides virtual worlds that seem more ‘convincing’ to those who experience it. However, hyperreality, provides ‘HyperWorlds’ that blurs the line between what is ‘real’ and what is virtual and make it appear ‘natural’ (Tiffin 2001, 31). Jean Baudrillard, in his essay The Precession of Simulacra says that:

The real is produced from miniaturized units, from matrices memory banks and command modelsand with these it can be reproduced an indefinite number of times. It no longer has to be rational, since it is no longer measured against some ideal or negative instance. It is nothing more than operational. In fact, since it is no longer enveloped by an imaginary, it is no longer real at all. It is a hyperreal, the product of an irradiating synthesis of combinatory models in a hyperspace without atmosphere. (Baudrillard 1983, 3)

Interzone is a pastiche of memories, nightmares, fiction genres, and people both known and unknown, and to Lee it is very much a real place. But how was it created? In Videodrome, Max’s reality gets altered by the Videodrome meme, which is embedded within a television transmission, in other words: through media. In his book Understanding Media: The extensions of Man, Marshall McLuhan describes media as being of two types: hot and cool. The distinction between the two is one of participation, a hot medium is one where  hot media do not leave so much to be filled in or completed by the audience. Hot media are therefore, low in participation and cool media are high in participation or completion by the audience (McLuhan 1964, 23). Relevant examples of hot media that McLuhan gives are books and printing.  The typewriters in Naked Lunch could be seen as a hot medium, since throughout the film, Lee is seen writing what the Clark Nova typewriter dictates. However, McLuhan goes on to say that no medium has its meaning or existence alone, but only in constant interplay with other media (McLuhan 1964, 26). In Naked Lunch, that other medium is the Black Meat. The Black Meat is a very cool medium, very open to participation and completion by an audience,  in the case of Naked Lunch, the audience is William Lee. The combination of the hot medium of the typewriter and the cool medium of the Black Meat produces Interzone, the simulacra within which Lee finds himself trapped. Trapped, but also protected. Lee remarks that the zone takes care of its own.

Interzone acts as a kind of protective shell for Lee that both shields him from the outside world and also keeps him from confronting the truth about the murder of his wifethat he alone was responsible for her death.

Naked Lunch (1991)

Naked Lunch (1991)

The Clark Nova typewriter tells Lee that  you were programmed to shoot your wife Joan Lee, it wasn’t an act of free will on your part. Ultimately for Lee, in order to break out of the  Interzone simulacrum, he must accept responsibility for killing his wife. In attempting to escape, Lee tries to save Joan Frost (Judy Davis) who is the exact image of his late wife. But before he can cross the border into Annexia, Lee must kill Joan Frost, and he does so in the exact way that he killed his wife. Thus, Lee accepts responsibility for his actions and is able to leave Interzone.

Cronenberg uses Burroughs’ novel as a starting point for exploring his own ideas about media, reality and control. William Lee lives in a simulated reality that he has inadvertently created. Within this reality is a scenario revolving around secret agents, double agents, reports made to shadowy organizations, and seductions and assassinations. Like Max in Videodrome, Lee sees himself as an agent of Interzone. This espionage fantasy exists as a means of controlling Lee and keeping him bound to the simulacrum he has created. Like Max in Videodrome, information has altered Lee’s mind and it has created a prison.

eXistenZ: Death to Realism

EXistenZ

eXistenZ (1999)

In 1999, Cronenberg released eXistenZ, a film that, as de Laurentis says is a reflection on the new technologies of postmodernityinformation, communication, and biotechnologies and new interactive mediaa reflection in the twofold sense of speculation (theory) and specularization (techne) of the effects they produce in human reality, the social imagery, and individual fantasies (de Laurentis 2003, 547). eXistenZ is the story of a game designer, Allegra Geller (Jennifer Jason Leigh) whose games are so lifelike that and addictive that underground organizations (called Realists) have targeted her for assassination. During a test run of her newest game, eXistenZ, Geller and her security guard Ted Pikul (Jude Law) find themselves on the run and surrounded by people they cannot trust. While hiding out, Geller and Pikul both port into the eXistenZ game to see if it has been damaged in all of the chaos, and find themselves enmeshed in another reality, again surrounded by people they cannot trust and on the run, unsure as to whether they are agents working for or against the Realists. A series of twists and turns in the storyline follow that threaten to spiral out of control, with the film descending into chaos until the end, when it is shown that the world of eXistenZ is itself, a game and Pikul, Geller and all of the other people encountered throughout the film are players testing out a new game called TransCendenZ, which, unlike eXistenZ does not plug into the body, but instead rests upon the head and is spider-like in appearance.

eXistenZ presents three distinct levels of reality: the story world (level 1), the world inside TransCendenZ inside that story world (level 2), and the world of eXistenZ inside TransCendenZ (level 3) (Mathijs 206). These levels bleed into each other, producing a kind of hyperreality,  much the same way that the Black Meat together with the typewriters create the simulacrum of Interzone in Naked Lunch.  The world of TransCendenZ has within it a whole other level of reality, the world of eXistenZ. Much of the film takes place within in the world of eXistenZ, yet a significant portion of the film takes place within the world that exists within the eXistenZ game. With eXistenZ, Cronenberg presents a simulacrum within a simulacrum and a complete distortion of reality. The last words spoken in the film by the man who played the character of the Chinese waiter, are we still in the game? reflect this distortion. At one point in the film, Pikul wants to pause the game and go back to his ‘real’ life. Once out of the game, Geller asks How does it feel, your real life? To which Pikul replies, it feels completely unreal. Of course Pikul’s ‘real’ life is not real at all, it is his life in the TransCendenZ game. With eXistenZ, Cronenberg presents an idea very similar to the idea of eternal life separate from the body, the mind becoming in a sense, pure information, existing within machines.

For Videodrome, the machines are televisions and video equipment. In eXistenZ, the machines are game pods. One of the players comments at the end that if you could stay your whole life in the game world, you could live for about 500 years. Regardless of the kind of machine, the idea is still the same: the mind becomes pure information, a meme that can be transmitted through mechanical devices and spread to anyone who watches a video or plays a game. When Allegra is trying to coax Pikul into playing the eXistenZ game, she says, referring to his physical form, this is the cage of your own making which keeps you trapped and pacing about in the smallest possible space forever.

Like the simulacrum of Interzone in Naked Lunch, the world of  eXistenZ, or rather TransCendenZ,  is one of paranoia, espionage, and duplicitousness.  Everyone is an agent, either with the Realiststhose who see the hyperreality escape provided by the games as a detriment to society, or the competing game companies Antenna Research and Cortical Systematics, who have a vested interest in developing newer and better escapes from reality.  The espionage elements in Naked Lunch seem reminiscent of Cold War-era thrillers befitting both the years in which the original novel was written as well as the setting of the film. In eXistenZ, the paranoia comes from elements of both corporate espionage and religious fundamentalism, which reflects the events like the ongoing turmoil in the Middle-East as well as the Dot-Com bubble, all taking place in the years leading up to the film’s release. Similar themes are also present in Videodrome as well. Although Videodrome was released in 1983eight years before Naked Lunch and sixteen years before eXistenZit has within it the elements of both cold war and corporate paranoia. Unlike Naked Lunch, where the spy scenarios function as a kind of trap for Lee, the espionage elements in eXistenZ exist simply as part of the game, but at the same time, they point to real concerns outside of the game.

At the climax of the film, when it is revealed that everyone has been playing the TransCendenZ game, the game’s designer,  Yevgeny Nourish (Don McKellar) remarks that the game they all just played was very disturbing, that it had a very strong, very real anti-game theme. It began with the attempted assassination of a designer. Nourish’s assistant Merle (Sarah Polley) asks, do you think this must’ve come from one of our game players? At the end it is revealed that both Pikul and Geller are agents for the Realist movement, and assassinate Nourish, with guns that they have concealed on their dog. This is hinted at, earlier in the game where several times a dog is seen carrying one of the bone guns used in the eXistenZ world to get around metal detection devices.  The game takes information from the people playing and weaves it into their collective hyperreality, creating what Tiffin refers to as a HyperWorld.  A HyperWorld, according to Tiffin, is not only one where what is real and what is virtual interact, it is where human intelligence meets artificial intelligence (Tiffin 2001, 33). Within the reality that exists inside of eXistenZ, there is a plot by the Realists to infect all game pods with black spores, killing them. The game pods in the eXistenZ world are bio-mechanical in nature and the spores work like a virus on them. When the spores are released, Geller and Pikul port out of the game, only to discover that the spores followed them back into the next level of reality, infecting and killing Allegra’s game pod. Cronenberg says, regarding this bleed into realities that,  I had an idea…of doing a movie…that would connect somewhat to Naked Lunch and the Burroughsian concept of the things that you create becoming living things that can come back to hurt you, or haunt you, or things you have to deal with (Cronenberg 2006, 163). Concerning the realist movement, not very much is known. At the climax of the film, when Pikul and Allegra confront  Yevgeny Nourish and reveal themselves to be Realists, Pikul says,  don’t you think the world’s greatest game artist ought to be punished for the most effective deforming of reality? Earlier, when Pikul and Allegra are in the TransCendenZ game, they take refuge in a ski lodge where some game-developer friends of Allegra live and work. Pikul, whose character has supposedly never played games and seems oblivious to their impact asks, what happens if someone comes here and really wants to ski? to which Allegra replies, nobody actually physically skis anymore. It appears that the games have become so life-like, indeed much more than life-like to the point that people prefer to do traditionally physical activities through the games. Baudrillard says that [i]t is always a question of proving the real by the imaginary (Baudrillard 1983, 36), and if that is the case then in the world of TransCendenZ, reality is being tossed-out in favor of hyperreality.

eXistenZ (1999)

eXistenZ (1999)

Like Videodrome, eXistenZ examines the use of memes by corporations as a means of control. The opening scenes of eXistenZ show a group of people gathered together as a kind of focus group or test audience for a new game system. Throughout the presentation, the group leader (Christopher Eccleston) constantly pairs the name of the game, eXistenZ with the name of the company that makes it, Antenna Research. This same pairing of product with company also occurs at the end of the film, once it has been revealed that eXistenZ was actually part of another game called TransCendenZ, the seminar leader, Merle always carefully pairs the name of the game with its company, PilgrImage. This using the rhetoric of advertising with carefully weighted repetition, according to Browning, emphasizes the commercialization of language and the commodification of the spiritual (Browning 2007, 168).  Brodie goes on to say, concerning repetition that, [r]epeating a meme until it becomes familiar and  part of your programming is one method of mind-virus penetration (Brodie 1996, 143). Whether machine code housed in a bio-mechanical game pod or an advertising slogan, Cronenberg uses eXistenZ as a means of  exploring the impact of information upon the human psyche. The information from the games creates a separate and often preferable reality in the minds of the players while the near-constant pairing of product with company inspires loyalty among the people who have become addicted to these hyperrealities.

Conclusion

Considering the character-driven nature of the films Cronenberg has released since 1999, it seems that Cronenberg has, for the time being, decided to shift his focus away from technology and its impact on the human body and mind. Perhaps this is because with Videodrome, Naked Lunch, and eXistenZ, Cronenberg feels that he has taken the subject as far as it can go. After all, it is a subject he has worked on since 1979, when he first began exploring the impact of information, in the form of psychotherapy, on the body with The Brood. In the subsequent films, Cronenberg focuses his attentions on technology through media and its impact on humanity. With Videodrome he examines television and video, with Naked Lunch it is a combination of the written word and drugs, and with eXistenZ it is the world of immersive electronic games. In each of these films, Cronenberg metaphorically shows that information can cause change in the human body and mind, with the physical mutations that lead to alterations in perceptions of reality. Yet, with the way that technology is growing and the way that media is becoming more immersive, and more a part of daily (and sometimes hourly ) life, it is possible that the metaphorical worlds presented in these films by Cronenberg might soon become real. As O’Blivion says in Videodrome, you’ll have to learn to live in a very strange new world.

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—, dir. 1999. eXistenZ. Perf. Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jude Law, Ian Holm, Willem Dafoe. Dimension Films.

—, dir. 1991. Naked Lunch. Perf. Peter Weller, Judy Davis, Ian Holm, Roy Scheider. Twentieth Century Fox.

—, dir. Videodrome. 1983. Perf. James Woods, Deborah Harry, Jack Creley. Universal Studios.

Dawkins, Richard. 1976. The Selfish Gene. 1976. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

de Laurentis, Teresa. 2003. Becoming Inorganic. Critical Inquiry. 29: 547-570.

Harkness, John. 1983. The Word, the Flesh and the Films of David Cronenberg. Cinema Canada June 1983.

Mathijs, Ernest. 2008. The Cinema of David Cronenberg: From Baron of Blood to Cultural Hero. London: Wallflower.

McLuhan, Marshall. 1964. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. Massachusetts: MIT Press.

Porton, Richard. 1999. The Film Director as Philosopher: An Interview with David Cronenberg. Cineaste. 24.4: 4-9.

Sperb, Jason. 2006. “Scarring the New Flesh: Time Passing in the Simulacrum of Videodrome.”Kritikos:An International and Interdisciplinary Journal of Postmodern Cultural Sound, Text, and Image.

Tiffin, John and Nobuyoshi Terashima, eds. 2001. Hyperreality: Paradigm for the Third Millennium.       New York: Routledge.

 

Bio: David Faust is an assistant professor in the Liberal Arts Department of Dongguk University in Gyeongju, Republic of Korea. He is originally from Alabama and has lived and worked in South Korea since 1999. His primary research interests include comics, science fiction and horror films, and pop culture in general.

‘Out wiv the old ay plumma?’ The Uncanny Marginalized Wastelands of Memory and Matter in David Cronenberg’s Spider – Samantha Lindop

Abstract: The shift of economic focus from industrial production to consumption in contemporary Western Society has meant that once booming factories and their surrounding infrastructure are now redundant. Left to decay, the places and spaces of yesteryear are now derelict wastelands that intrude upon the present as a fractured semblance of the past. Hauntingly familiar yet disturbingly unfamiliar they embody the uncanny, evoking a sense of something that ought to remain secret and hidden but that has come to light. Just as unwelcome memories that exist at the core of the uncanny are repressed, confined to the margins of the mind, so too are discarded places and buildings, resonating messages of a failed past, confined to the margins of society. Both memory and matter are delegated to the status of unwanted waste, left to decompose over time. I argue that the film Spider (David Cronenberg, 2002) represents a powerful journey through the marginalized wastelands of memory and matter. Both the memories of the film’s central protagonist Spider (Ralf Fiennes) and the decomposing landscape surrounding him are inextricably bound in the uncanny, both become disjointed from the sequential structure of time, returning as a fragmented ruin of the past, imposing their disturbing presence on the present, causing the fragile web of Spider’s mind to disintegrate like the decaying wasteland around him. 

Introduction

German Intellectual Walter Benjamin famously writes: “the rags, the refuse – these I will not inventory but allow, in the only way possible, to come into their own: by making use of them” (1999, 82). Abandoned, decaying urban wastelands such as those depicted in Spider (David Cronenberg, 2002) may be rendered useless in contemporary consumer society but it does not mean that their history has ceased. The rags and the refuse that are post-industrial wastelands form an unconscious backdrop to contemporary life, they come back from the past, enforcing their presence on the present as a haunting and subversive symbol of something that ought to remain secret and hidden but has come to light. As such, urban wastelands embody Freud’s description of the uncanny in the same way that disturbing memories – buried deep in the mental wasteland of the unconsciousness embody the uncanny when they re-emerge.

I contend that not only are the derelict wastelands of Spider the physical embodiment of the uncanny, but the memories of the film’s central protagonist, Dennis “Spider” Cleg (Ralf Fiennes) also possess an uncanny quality. Memory and matter interact and amalgamate, both becoming disjointed in time; the past, now fragmented, fragile and decaying, returns to haunt the present with disastrous consequences for the future as the frail web of Spider’s mind falls apart like the dilapidated wastelands around him.

From its inception psychoanalysis has been used to explore representations in cultural texts. Whilst Freud examined art and literature from a psychoanalytic perspective, many contemporary theorists apply psychoanalytic theory to film in order to study unresolved cultural anxieties. To begin I shall explore the way deserted, obsolete remnants of a once thriving industrial age embody a powerful sense of uncanny. I will then discuss the psychological origins of the uncanny from a Freudian perspective and how this links in with contemporary Western society and the post-World War II shift from production to consumption as the primary economic activity. Finally I shall look at how marginalized, neglected places and spaces interact with the deserted, shadowy content of repressed memories in the film Spider.

Released from a psychiatric institution after thirty years of incarceration Spider is sent to live in a dingy, decrepit half way house run by an officious woman called Mrs. Wilkins (Lynn Redgrave). His new home is in the same neighborhood that he grew up in and although it is now run down and derelict, all the old places of his childhood still exist. However, the return to the landscape of his youth begins to undermine the fragile stability of his psyche. Disturbing memories that have remained deeply repressed start to emerge, intruding on the present. Time becomes disjointed as he watches the past playing out before him. As memory and contemporary reality intermingle, the film reveals that Spider, an only child, and his mother have a close, loving bond but the relationship between Spider’s parents is strained. His father Bill (Gabriel Byrne) is volatile, intolerant and resentful of his familial responsibilities. Preferring to spend his time at the local pub, Bill begins an affair with Yvonne Wilkinson (Miranda Richardson), a “cheap tart” who frequents the same bar.

One night Spider’s mother (also played by Miranda Richardson) finds Bill and Yvonne having sex in the allotment shed. Bill murders Spider’s mum with a shovel and buries her in the vegetable patch while Yvonne watches on. Yvonne then moves into the family home replacing Spider’s mother, much to his disgust. Spider knows that they murdered his mother and formulates a plan to murder Yvonne. He attaches string from his bedroom down to the kitchen, affixing it to the gas oven. As Yvonne sleeps in a chair next to the stove he pulls the string that turns on the gas. However, as Bill pulls her dead body from the gas filled house she turns back into Spider’s mother whom she really had been all along.  Her transformation into Yvonne was all in Spider’s psychotic mind.

Uncanny Post-Industrial Wastelands

Around the early twentieth century there was a shift from industrial production to consumption as the central economic activity of Western society. This movement away from production meant that many factories and their surrounding infrastructure became redundant and were abandoned. With no function they transformed into decaying, derelict urban wastelands like the setting depicted in Spider. In the opening scenes of the film, Spider makes his way through the desolate urban wasteland of post-industrial East London. The streets are lined with disused, bricked up Victorian terrace houses that would have once been animate with factory employees and their families. A canal, in the past vital for the transportation of goods, now sits obsolete. Devoid of human activity, organic life comprises solely of weeds, poking up through cracks in the pavement. The only stir comes from the methodical heaving and thudding of a monolithic gas works that dominates the landscape like an enormous steel monster from the Jurassic era.

The ruined and dilapidated places and spaces of post-industrial urban wastelands generate a strangely unsettling feeling that can best be described as uncanny. For Freud the uncanny is a feeling that is “undoubtedly related to what is frightening – to what arouses dread and horror” (The Uncanny 1919, 218), but it is also unique and somehow different; a type of feeling that deserves a special conceptual term because it produces a disturbing dreamlike feeling of familiarity in what is evidently unfamiliar. The uncanny is uncanny specifically because of its familiarity being “that class of frightening which leads back to what is known of old and long familiar” (Freud , The Uncanny 1919, 218) the familiar and the unfamiliar always inhabit each other. The German word for the uncanny is “unheimlich”, which translates directly as “unhomely” in English. When Spider returns to the neighborhood that was once his home he finds that although it is the same place he grew up in it is also very different. Now a wasteland of neglected ruins it exists in the present as a haunting residue of the past. Both familiar and unfamiliar, it has become an alienating unhomely place that Spider does not quite fit into. Philosopher and academic Dylan Trigg describes the ruin as something which:

 Intrudes upon the seamless present, disordering the unmarked line of time by invoking a spatial plane of uncanniness […] It retains the shadow of its old self, but simultaneously radically destabilizes the present (Trigg 2006, 131).

For Trigg, the way that the wasteland, in a sense, returns from the past, “enforcing its presence in the present” (2006, 131) corresponds with Freud’s account of the uncanny. As Freud asserts: “Unheimlich is the name for everything that ought to have remained secret and hidden but has come to light” (1919, 227). According to Trigg:

This coming to light materializes in the untimely quality of the ruin. Having fallen from (active) time, the ruin becomes disjointed from time. The untimeliness is evident in how past, present and future conspires to converge in the ruin. Having outlawed its functional existence, the ruin’s persistence in time disproves outright extinction, so compels an unexpected return (Trigg 2006, 131).

Confined to the status of waste, obsolete structures sit suspended in time, displacing its linear continuity. As they gradually crumble and decay they retain a semblance of what they once were but grow increasingly distant from their original form. Just like Spider’s memories, the ruins of the urban wasteland embody the feeling of uncanniness, transcending time they come from the past but appear in the present as a fragmented, ghostly revelation that informs and shapes the future.

The Origins of the Uncanny

Freud argues that the psychological origins of the uncanny stem from repressed infantile anxieties that ought to remain hidden in the deep recesses of the mind but as the result of external triggers make an unexpected return (The Uncanny 1919, 227). Freud concludes that the uncanny is directly attached to the mythical figure of the Sand-Man, and to the idea of being robbed of one’s eyes. Freud refers centrally to the story of ‘The Sand-Man’ by E.T.A Hoffmann where the Sand-Man is described as:

A wicked man who comes when children won’t go to bed and throws handfuls of sand into their eyes so that they jump out of their heads bleeding. Then he puts the eyes into a sack and carries them off to the half-moon to feed his children (Freud, The Uncanny 1919, 227)

Through psychoanalytic experience, Freud has found that incidents about the eyes and fear of going blind are a substitute for the dread of being castrated which arises in the Oedipal phase of development where the male infant’s desire for his mother gives rise to an overwhelming fear that the jealous and cruel father, a bitter rival for the mother’s affections, will castrate the child as punishment for his intense cravings (The Uncanny 1919, 241). Freud argues that the self-blinding of the mythical Oedipus was simply a mitigated form of the punishment of castration and this is why the predominant characteristic of the uncanny is something that is familiar and long-established in the mind. It has become forgotten only through the process of repression, concealed in the catacombs of the unconsciousness which serves as a mental wasteland, reserved for things that we would rather pretend do not exist. According to Freud, in Hoffmann’s tale the Sand-Man always appears as a disturber of love, taking the place of the dreaded father, at whose hands castration is expected (The Uncanny 1919, 230).

In traditional Freudian expression the traumatic threat of castration forces the boy to give up his mother as a love object and instead identify with the castrating father who plays a role in the formation of the superego. The task of the superego is to repress aggressive impulses that stem from the infant’s Oedipal desires to take the place of the father. In order to render hostile impulses towards the father innocuous, the child internalizes its violence, sending it back to where it came from in the outset – one’s own ego. There it is taken over by a portion of the ego, which sets itself up against the rest of the ego as the superego. Retaining the castigatory character of the cruel and jealous father the superego functions as an overwhelmingly cruel agency that torments the ego with guilt (Freud, Civilization and its Discontents 1930, 132-135). Feminist theorist Christina Wieland contends that while the successful working through of the Oedipal stage of development involves the elevation of the father to the superego the deep trauma resulting from the essential rejection of the child’s mother as an object of affection and desire necessitates her banishment into the unconscious (2002, 36).

Just as Freud draws on the ancient Greek drama of Oedipus by Sophocles in order to contextualize this particular stage of psychical development, Wieland refers to the Greek tragedy of Agamemnon form the trilogy The Oresteia to provide a schema for the distressing removal of the revered mother from the consciousness. According to the legend, Agamemnon, commander of the Greek fleet had been in Troy fighting the Trojan War for many years. Upon his eventual return he bought with him a mistress named Cassandra whom he had captured in Troy. Agamemnon’s wife Clytemnestra, angry that he had acquired a mistress and wanting revenge for his earlier sacrifice of their daughter Iphigenia, murders both Agamemnon and Cassandra. Clytemnestra and her lover Aegisthus rule the kingdom until Clytemnestra’s son Orestes, prompted by the God Apollo, avenges his father’s death by murdering his mother and her lover. However, Orestes is immediately hounded by the Furies; ancient maternal Goddesses who seek revenge for matricide. Orestes is punished for his dreadful deed with insanity. Just as Orestes commits a physical act of matricide, the total repression of the mother is tantamount to psychical matricide (Wieland 2002, 36-38).

The young Spider is undoubtedly in the midst of Oedipal conflict. He clearly adores his loving, gentle mother, cherishing the time they spend alone together. His brooding, ill-tempered father functions as a disturber of love, an unwelcome intrusion who appears to have very little tolerance or regard for his young son. When Spider observes his parent’s being physically affectionate towards each other he becomes enraged, an emotion that is intensified when a moment of blissful admiration for his mother as she models some new lingerie is shattered when she asks Spider if he thinks his father will like it. However, just as Orestes is mentally unable to deal with the horror of his matricidal actions so too is young Spider unable to cope with the reality that he has murdered his beloved mother, his punishment, like the ancient Greek character before him is insanity. Wieland identifies that the manic solution to intense distress is to deny reality. She argues that the manic responds to the act of matricide by constructing a false belief that the mother is not their true parent (Wieland 2002, 39-40). Thus, Spider’s psychotic reaction is to deny reality by instead constructing an alternative where it is not his mother that he has murdered but Yvonne.

Another example of the expression of matricide in the creative medium of film is the Australian black comedy Bad Boy Bubby (Rolf de Heer, 1993). Bad Boy Bubby is set in a derelict post-industrial wasteland that not entirely dissimilar to the mise-en-scene of Spider. Mentally retarded Bubby (Nicolas Hope) has lived in complete isolation in a dark, filthy, windowless, cockroach ridden concrete box with his abusive, dominating mother Flo (Claire Benito) for thirty five years. His mother uses him for sex and tricks him into believing that the outside air is poisonous. To back up the lie she wears a gas mask whenever she leaves their squalid home. The unexpected arrival of Bubby’s Pop (Ralph Cotterill) triggers a jealous Oedipal response in Bubby as well as leading him to question if the outside air really is poisonous. He murders both his mother and pop, asphyxiating them with cling wrap before venturing out into a strange, inhospitable world where his experiences with other people are complicated by the fact that he cannot communicate on any level other than mimicry.

Memory and Matter in a Changing World

Social theorists Ken Gelder and Jane Jacobs identify that whilst Freud’s primary concern was certainly with the psyche, his exploration of the uncanny is also about one’s sense of place in the modern, changing environment and it attends to anxieties which are symptomatic of an ongoing process or realignment in post-war society (Gelder and Jacobs 1995, 174). Sociologist John Carroll explains that the shift away from industrialization towards consumption has had a destabilizing effect on traditional societal structures in both the private and public sphere, particularly in relation to patriarchal hegemony. Consumer culture meant that for the first time the wife/mother became psychologically central to the family, taking the lead role in spending decisions (Carroll 1985, 173).

Additionally, active challenges to the time-honored order of female subordination and male domination initiated by the rise of feminism, the entrance of women into the labor market, the collapse of the nuclear family and gradual elevation of women to positions of real power within government and industry over the decades has led to the popular presumption that masculinity is in crisis; that there is a general feeling among men that they are no longer capable of fully controlling the world, and that their power and authority can no longer be taken for granted (Brittan 1989, 183).  As famous psychoanalytical theorist Jacques Lacan states:

Whatever its future this decline [of the paternal imago] constitutes a psychological crisis. It may even be that the emergence of psychoanalysis itself is linked to this very crisis (Lacan 1938, 45).

Not all contemporary thinkers agree that the psychological crisis referred to by Lacan is entirely inclusive, for example, sociologist Tim Edwards argues that whilst there is conceptual and theoretical support for the argument of a crisis of masculinity, the actual effects of this crisis undoubtedly vary according to class, ethnicity, age, geography, and sexuality, constituting what Edwards refers to as a “partial crisis” as opposed to an overall catastrophe (Edwards 2006, 16). Similarly, academic Arthur Brittan argues “it is problematic to assume that all men are in crisis given that not all men have the same interests, nor do they share the same collective identities” (1989, 183). However, whilst the extent of a crisis of masculinity is a debated topic, there is some consensus that the male identity has been destabilized by cultural shifts creating a profound effect on the psyche by triggering deep feelings of anxiety that originate in the Oedipal phase of development.

These anxieties reveal themselves in the form of the uncanny in the sense that the derelict wastelands of former factory sites serve as a catalyst, as remnants of the past when gender roles were clearly defined. Similarly, the exclusively masculine domain of the factory serves as an emblem for patriarchal hegemony. Just as unwelcome memories are repressed and confined to the margins of the mind, so too are discarded places that resonate with troubling messages of failure, confined to the margins of society. Both memory and matter are delegated the status of unwanted waste, left to gradually decompose over time.

Memory, Matter and the Wastelands of Spider

The marginalized wastelands of memory and matter form a powerful alliance in Spider, embodying the uncanny. Both become disjointed from time, disrupting its continuity, both generate a lurking feeling of unease as something that ought to remain secret and hidden reveals itself. The places from Spider’s past; the streets, the canal, the allotment, Spider’s childhood home, the local pub, and the gas works, all conspire to exhume Spider’s interred memories. The vegetable garden at the allotment is where his mother was buried after being brutally murdered, under the bridge alongside the canal Spider’s father received sexual favors from Yvonne, the local pub is where Bill preferred to spend his free time and also where he met Yvonne, Spider’s old home is where his mother lovingly indulged his obsession with spiders (as well as being the place where she met her real death). All these places still exist, but like the ruin they are shadows of past that threaten to subvert the present.

As Spider explores the landscape of his youth the past, present and future conspire to converge in his mind just as they do in the ruin. His childhood memories resurface from history, imposing their uncanny presence on the present. Spider becomes lost in time as his surroundings return to their original manifestation and the events of the past play out before his eyes. But as Trigg describes, when we encounter objects from our background a change takes place when we recall their origin:

They return to their original spontaneity, and yet are wholly decaying, rotting, and fragile to the touch. The return of the “thing” thus instills a warped time scale. What remains in the ruin is the trace of a past, fragmented and unable to be situated in an overarching narrative, fusing with the ruin’s decay in the present (Trigg 2006, 31).

As the narrative of Spider’s childhood comes to life cracks begin to appear, revealing the fragility of its construction and the fragility of Spider’s mind. Things are not quite right; Yvonne looks disturbingly like Spider’s mother, although she behaves very differently. No one else seems to notice that Spider’s mother is missing and when Spider accuses Bill and Yvonne of murdering his mother Bill, appearing shocked and concerned, asks him if he is daft.

Just as the fragmented traces of the past fuse with the ruin’s decay in the present, the repressed memories from Spider’s past emerge and combine with the present; as the prologue for the movie articulates: “The only thing worse than losing your mind is finding it again” (http://www.spiderthemovie.com). Spider is no longer able to contain the fact that it was he who murdered his beloved mother; that she was actually Yvonne all along. As Trigg asserts: “In spite of the temporal closure of the past, the same past reconfigures and reappears, circumventing the attempt to rationalize it into submission” (2006, 31).

Spider’s psychotic attempt to rationalize his act of matricide “into submission” by denying that it is his mother that he has murdered, instead displacing culpability for his mother’s death onto his father is thwarted by the return of the truth, which, in response to the external triggers of the post-industrial wasteland around him, has reconfigured and reappeared. Like the string that connects the oven door to the murder’s hand, the memory connects the past to the present. Spider’s recollections reactivate his psychosis, which returns with all the vigor and intensity of its original manifestation.  Mrs. Wilkins morphs into Yvonne Wilkinson, looking and behaving exactly as she did when Spider was a young child. The past and the present become trapped in the tangled web of Spider’s mind, just like living become ensnared in the sticky tendrils of the web of his namesake taking their place alongside decaying corpses that linger as a ghoulish testimony of past consumption. In an uncanny act of repetition he sets about murdering Yvonne again (only this time he fails to complete the deed) and is taken away to the asylum, just as he was thirty years ago, as much a fragmented ruin from the past, conflated with the present as the decaying wasteland around him.

Conclusion

No longer of material value, waste is the stuff we discard, the rags and the refuse that is confined to the outskirts of society, forming an unconscious backdrop that despite its marginalization defies outright extinction. Wasted places and spaces, remnant from another era become disjointed from time, transcending its sequential structure. They retain a semblance of their past life but, now distant from their original form, take on a disturbing, haunting quality that embodies the uncanny; a dream like feeling of familiarity in what is evidently unfamiliar. In David Cronenberg’s Spider the wasted debris of the landscape forms a powerful coalition with disturbing memories that have been impounded in the mental wasteland of Spider’s unconsciousness, each providing the other with substance and epistemological value. Like a hurriedly covered corpse in a shallow grave, memory and matter do not remain buried for long, instead they reemerge, tainting the present with their fetid presence, a presence that in turn contaminates the future. Thus, whether it is in the form of disturbing and traumatic memories or architectural constructions that resonate with outmoded ideologies waste becomes a pseudonym for the things we would prefer to forget; the objects and events that are stifled in the shadow recesses of the unconscious. However, as Walter Benjamin succinctly asserts “by their waste shall you know them” (1999, 82), hence, the unconscious is also a place where narratives of truth, unmediated by the ego reside. As a form of cultural expression Spider provides a compelling commentary on the powerful interaction between matter and memory and the hidden anxieties that embody them both.

References

Bad Boy Bubby. 1993. Directed by Rolf de Heer. Australia. South Australian Film Corporation.

Benjamin, Walter. 1999. The Arcades Project. Translated by Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin. Edited by Rolf Tiedemann. Cambridge Massachusetts: Belknap Press.

Brittan, Arthur. 1989. Masculinity and Power. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Carroll, John. 1985. Guilt: The Grey Eminence Behind Character, History, and Culture. London: Routledge.

Edwards, Tim. 2006. Cultures and Masculinity. London: Routledge.

Freud, Sigmund. 1919. The Uncanny. In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud Vol. XVII: An Infantile Neurosis and Other Works. London: Vintage, 2001, 217-256.

__________. 1930. Civilization and its Discontents. In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud Vol. XXI: The Future of an Illusion, Civilization and its Discontents and Other Works. London: Vintage, 2001, 59-148.

Gelder, Ken and Jane Jacobs. 1995. Uncanny Australia. Cultural Geographies 2: 171-183.

Lacan, Jacques. 1938. Family Complexes and the Individual. Translated by Cormac Gallagher.  London: Anthony Rowe.

Spider. 2002. Directed by David Cronenberg. Canada/England. Capitol Films.

Spider the Movie Official Web Site. 2003. http://spiderthemovie.com (Accessed October 3rd 2010).

Trigg, Dylan. 2006. The Aesthetics of Decay: Nothingness, Nostalgia and the Absence of Reason. New York: Peter Lang.

Vider, Anthony. 1994. The Architectural Uncanny: Essays in the Modern Unhomely. London and New York: MIT Press.

Wieland, Christina. 2002. The Undead Mother: Psychoanalytic Explorations of Masculinity, Femininity, and Matricide. London: Rebus Press.

 

Bio

Samantha Lindop holds a Masters degree in Psychoanalytic Studies from Deakin University and is currently a PhD candidate at The University of Queensland, School of English, Media Studies, and Art History. She is researching the fatale figure in postmillennial neo-noir North American cinema.  Email: slindop1@bigpond.com