Friday, May 8, 2009

Cronenberg and the Human Virus

When you watch David Cronenberg film, you’re watching an exhibition of the unnatural. You bear witness to grotesque conceptions, telepathy, human parasites, and violent transformations. Those involved in these actions or displaying these traits are easily deemed “Others”. The Other is the most central source of terror in the horror genre. However, what’s important to the depiction of the Other and to the magnitude of horror it elicits in the viewer is its basis in humanity. Yes, the scientists present in Cronenberg’s films are able to transform humanity into something terrible and inhuman through the use of biological alchemy, but their motives are perhaps more frightening. They are all attempting to better propagate or sustain humanity. The monsters continue with this aim towards prosperity, mimicking human nature with more expedient results. The horrors of these films are all based on the tendencies inherent in the virus of man.
Alchemy is a field that reflects the aims of mankind perfectly. We wish to transform the natural world to our advantage, so that we may be more prosperous and therefore healthier, more comfortable and longer living. However, today is an age when humanity swims against the current of its nature. We all desire love, companionship and immortality (both in life and legacy), but the world today forces us to question these desires. Sex can be hazardous due to the proliferation of STDs. Trust in others can lead to disappointment or betrayal. The methods of science to prolong life and increase fertility add to the catastrophic potential of overpopulation. It is these anxieties that make Cronenberg films so effective. The mad-scientists of his films are mad because they pursue the desires of human nature. This leads to rapid, immaculate conception and birth in The Brood, but the children are monsters. A fertility drug creates a generation of telepathic humans, who are forced to deal with the knowledge that privacy no longer exists in Scanners. They then exploit this by forcing intimacy amongst themselves and the non-telepathic world. In both Shivers and Rabid sciences created out of mankind’s sexual necessity cause mutations. These mutations lead to the unchecked spread of disease and thus a new humanity. This is a nightmare for a world that now fears excessive reproduction and the risks of sex. We fear what we can do to ourselves and our fears are magnified by the presence of modern science.
If viewed by a superior being through the lens of an otherworldly telescope, our world would appear as a Petri Dish and man would be a virus. Our population continues to grow exponentially. Mankind tears through the environment, taking what it needs to survive. Our doctors aid us in resisting death. We build up a resistance to our own maladies, so that we may be a more supreme virus. Our goal is a healthy and never ending existence, just like any form of life. These tendencies run rampant threaten our goals in the long run, that is why we have started to resist them. We are still a virus, just an evolving one. In his films, David Cronenberg presents us with a transformed humanity that embraces the other side of the spectrum. His reactionary mutations fully embrace the desires of humanity we now wish to repress, for they may destroy us all.

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