Monday, October 20, 2008


While doing my morning net browsing, I was pleased and surprised to discover the first review of my new book VIDEODROME that I've seen on Steve Bissette's S.R. site. (Pictured on the left is a photo not included in the book, showing me interviewing actor James Woods on the set.) Go ahead and click on the review, then come back after reading it and I'll comment.

As with his earlier review of MARIO BAVA ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK, Steve is wonderfully enthusiastic and commendatory about the book itself ("a brilliant dissection of the collaborative creative process at work, hence of interest to anyone who is either a creator themselves or eager to understand the creative process") and his review is one that any writer would be pleased to receive. He also has some strong opinions on the subject of what he sees as my ratification of "pejorative terminology" -- in this case, my identification of VIDEODROME as a conceptual granddaddy of the subgenre we know today as "torture porn" -- and I'd like to take a moment to respond to this.

In the book's final chapter discussion of VIDEODROME's influence on contemporary horror trends, the phrase I actually use is "so-called 'torture porn'" and I hardly "dismiss these successors" with the "simplistic contempt" Steve mentions. In fact, my space limitations being what they were (I was contracted to deliver a 144-page book and was generously granted an extension to 160 pages), the whole discussion is limited to a single paragraph that is shared with its influence on films such as THE RING.

Steve may be needled by the fact that I've used the phrase without the "so-called" in some of my past VIDEO WATCHDOG writing, but I've always used it as a convenience, without any political bias nor, as best I can recollect, any critical bias. I see the term as analogous to one that I coined back in my 1980s writing for GOREZONE and FANGORIA -- "gornography" -- a humorous pun that, as a matter of fact, I remember Steve enjoying at the time. I suppose this is a particularly appropriate explanation of anything apropos of VIDEODROME, but Steve seems to have an entirely different subjective take on "torture porn" than I do, one that may well be more connected to reality (as most people perceive it) than my own. I've never seen it as anything but a descriptive term, poppy rather than pejorative, referring to films meant to arouse audiences with dramatizations of reductive cruelty. This probably has something to do with me finding the term "porn" more amiable and user-friendly than its more severe-sounding root word "pornography."

For all that, I've had letters on the subject in the past, which is why I took care to predicate the term with "so-called" in VIDEODROME. Even though I don't take the term as nergatively as some, I would hope this gesture shows a dawning sensitivity on my part to how other people perceive it and a resolve to use it with greater care and awareness.

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