JUMP CUT
A REVIEW OF CONTEMPORARY MEDIA

 

Notes

The author would like to thank Ellis Hanson, Amy Villarejo, Eric Cheyfitz, Masha Raskolnikov, Nick Davis, and Sarah Silbert for their unflagging support and inspiring criticism.

1. If you really want to know, a folder in her mother’s file at Eola Psychiatric Hospital reveals that Samara is capable of an extreme form of “projected thermography,” or burning images directly from her mind onto film.

2. This reading of reproduction in The Ring is not a critique of maternity, motherhood, or womanhood but rather one attempt to unpack a peculiar thematic anxiety in one horror film that may elucidate a larger, cultural discomfort with VHS technology. I do not mean to imply that pregnancy is actually a monstrous condition, merely that culturally produced, patriarchal metaphors can and sometimes do influence our relationships with technology and film spectatorship.

3. Again, I do not mean to imply that real women give birth to real zombies, only that American horror films have made a habit of associating women’s genitals and pregnancy with evil and its production. The Ring is one film in this tradition that, through its videocassette, uncovers a cultural fear of reproduction that film and gender and technology studies need to unpack.

4. In both The Ring and Ringu, it is Samara’s look that frightens her victims to death, although Ringu wisely shows its viewers no more of that look than one inhuman eye, whereas The Ring unfortunately reveals Samara’s entire face during her final attack on Noah.

5. Poltergeist goes out of its way to establish that the Freelings keep their TVs on almost all the time (during breakfast, during foreplay, while drying their hair), and so it is through their lack of viewing control that little Carol Ann first meets the “TV people” (after her parents fall asleep in front of the TV).

6. This is not to say that videocassettes did not always have videodisc rivals; within a year of Sony’s initial VCR demonstration, Teldec introduced the first videodisc system (Klopfenstein 23). RCA began marketing a home videodisc player in 1981, but by 1983 it had sold only 300,000 units (as compared to over 3,000,00 VCRs), so RCA discontinued its production in 1984 (Klopfenstein 24, 26).

7. This prediction was no doubt bolstered by Blockbuster’s support of the new medium, since Blockbuster controls forty percent of the home video market and “about 60 percent of U.S. households live within a three-mile drive of a Blockbuster store” (“National Rollout”).

8. I realize that this metaphor does not offer any insight into recent digital distribution systems like Video on Demand, and so I refer instead to Vivian Sobchack’s reading of digital transmission as a disavowal of the film body:

"Digital electronic technologies atomize and abstractly schematize the analogic quality of the photographic and cinematic into discrete pixels and bits of information that are transmitted serially, each bit discontinuous, discontiguous, and absolute — each bit “being in itself” even as it is part of a system. As well, unlike the cinema, the electronic is phenomenologically experienced not as a discrete, centered, intentional projection but rather as a simultaneous, dispersive, and neural/ “neutral” transmission. Thus electronic “presence” as it is experienced by the spectator/user is one further remove from previous referential connections made between the body’s signification and the world’s concrete forms." (301-302)

While Sobchack does not base this reading on any specific electronic distribution system, her matrix nonetheless feels promising as one possible approach to an embodied understanding of digital downloading and its relationship to its viewer.

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