David Cronenberg, “Consumed”

Consumed goes increasingly in the direction of (con)fusing reality and fantasy.  This is a major theme of the book, one that continues until the very last sentence.  Let’s focus on a single passage that will provide a nice transition into our next course unit, “Grindhouse in the Digital Age.”  We will do a close analysis of the full paragraph on page 271.  How do technology, reality, and simulation intersect in this passage?  Quote from the text in your 100-word response.

37 thoughts on “David Cronenberg, “Consumed”

  1. The book very interestingly explores these ideas of modern marriage, of pain, of technology, sex and specifically of consumerism in disturbing detail; it almost seems that in a world that endeavors so much digitalization and consumerism, Naomi and the other characters as human beings use the power of their sexuality at times to stand against the machine. In this passage, the manipulation that gets created through such a strongly influential technological world comes out to the reader as soon as Naomi realizes the photos appear theatrical in order to be deemed authentic. The notion of simulation is an underlying current particularly in this part of the novel when she begins to question what is actually her own reality over industrialization.

    • * “…they struck her as quite obviously posed and theatrical and manipulative, qualities that disturbed her even more than the content of the images itself” (Cronenberg 271). The humans’ carnal and primitive nature vs. the machine, although they both resist and give into technology.

      • “…they struck her as quite obviously posed and theatrical and manipulative, qualities that disturbed her even more than the content of the images itself.” This quote is one of countless examples of the way Cronenberg ties technology, reality, sensationalism and sex into each other to create a visually stimulating text. This passage in particular is such an in-depth discussion of technology but in a way which screams cinema of attraction, a moment to just imagine the technology and these black and white images, to see them because they are neat. The way he describes the photographs as being posed and unnatural contradict this sense of reality which Naomi’s character provides through her commentary and her understanding of the supposed murder. The photographs as the reader is meant to imagine them can in a way become pornographic in the theatrical and manipulated poses and shapes the body takes on which ties in the stimulation.

    • In this passage in particular, it is obvious that a director wrote this book. The qualities of the photos, “obviously posed and theatrical and manipulative”, are themes throughout the novel. This attempt to project a “1940’s…crime-scene” is what Naomi is most intrigued by rather than the content of the photographs. In a digital age where technology is advancing so quickly, it is almost too easy to see how she was more caught up with simulation and edits made to the reality of Celestine’s murder.

    • “[The photos] had been deliberately degraded in quality to give them a vintage feel . . . [and] it occurred to her to that the subtle linking of these images to socially historical crime photos was an attempt to authenticate them” (Cronenberg, 271). In this passage, modern technology is manipulated in order to simulate the near-artistic photos of crime scenes that Weegee shot. Because of the artistic quality of these photos, the reality of the crime takes on a staged and unrealistic feeling. Technology was tweaked in order to recreate in a real and horrific crime the casual and staged feeling of vintage crime scene shots.

  2. Throughout the book, technology is constantly blurring the boundary between reality and fantasy. New technological advancements allow for this kind of shift as it seems human lives our consumed by gadgets and the digital world. Throughout the book, and particularly in the passage, we see the way in which humans have become extremely dependent upon technology, and the way it seems to warp one’s sense of self. Additionally, technology allows for people to continuously outrun disease and death, with the rise of medical advancements, although this seemingly still does not truly make one happy. Similarly, being photographed or posted about on the Internet will all one to live forever in cyberspace, like being immortal. Technology allows a separation between body and mind. As Dunja notes on page 90, ““Why not? Send these images of me through the internet out into the universe, where I will continue my out-of-body existence.”

  3. In this passage, it is worth noting Naomi’s focus on the stylistic choices within the photographs, as she notes that “they were all black and white and had been deliberately degraded in quality to give them a vintage feel in the Hipstamatic style – very contrasty, heavy vignetting, digital grain added to mimic Kodak Professional Tri-X panchromatic 35mm film, the old high-speed standard for newspaper and documentary journalism” (271). Her fascination on the technicality of the photos as opposed to their content show that her reality lies within the photography and art word. The vintage techniques used to develop these photographs are more important to Naomi than what information, or even secrets, the pictures could hold. She is stimulated by the tech reality of her world, not in the actual reality which the pictures themselves show.

  4. This passage epitomizes the theme of technology that overpowers the novel as a whole. Here, the reader’s find out alongside Naomi that the story and the photos that she has been pursuing throughout may have been “posed and theatrical and manipulative”. Reality starts to sink as she puts the pieces together with the quality of the photos. Interestingly enough, she was more stimulated by the fact that the photos were posed and this “disturbed her even more than the content of the images itself.” As the question mentioned, there is this evident and undeniable fusion of reality and fantasy in this passage not only with the characters in the photo but with Naomi as well.

  5. In this passage, Naomi’s “Célestine est morte” images serve as an intersection between technology, reality, and simulation. The presence of technology in this passage is obvious; it’s present in the cameras and computer program he names (“Kodak Professional Tri-X panchromatic 35mm film; Lightroom). Technology also serves as the lens which Naomi views the reality of Célestine’s death. However, this passage asserts that what is real is simulated. Technology is also used to make the photos seem realistic, however, as noted in the text, the use of filters is only “an attempt to authenticate them.” Ultimately, technology is the lens through which the reality of Célestine’s death was made into a simulation.

  6. “It occurred to her that the subtle linking of these images to socially historical crime photos was an attempt to authenticate them…”
    What I find interesting about this passage is the fact that the photos are staged in order to look authentic. Naturally, staging something would automatically render it unauthentic, so it is interesting that Naomi draws this conclusion. There is an underlying sexual fascination with death in the novel, I feel. The scene in the video Naomi watches before she looks at the pictures, for example, seems morbid and staged, as with all of the other sex scenes in the novel. Sex and death are both natural and opposite occurrences, but in the novel they seem intertwined and staged. This ultimately ends up blending reality and fantasy, or theatre.

  7. Right from the beginning of Consumed, technology distorts our understanding of reality when Naomi seemed to be involved in what was going on but was really just watching it on a screen. In this particular passage, you can really tell that a director is writing this book because of the details he includes about cameras and picture quality. In many cases, we assume that technology will bring us the most accurate answers but here, things are not what they seem. The photos that Naomi is viewing are “quite obviously posed and theatrical and manipulative.” Themes seen in this passage are continued throughout the novel.

  8. In the full paragraph on page 271, reality and simulation intersect through the use of technology. Technology is the reason for the confusing reality because at this point in the novel and more specifically in this passage, we aren’t entirely sure what is fantasy and what is reality. With technology, the characters are able to confuse and try to convince each other by using posing and lighting in the photos in an “attempt to authenticate them” because they seemed “obviously posed and theatrical and manipulative” (271). With the photos and the video, the confusion of what is real goes back and forth from clearing up the confusion to making reality even more uncertain.

  9. In this short passage, reality takes a backseat to the surreal as Naomi views the photos of Celeste. Technology and the posed sexuality of Celeste in the pictures interlace as Naomi imports the digital files into a computer. She notes the “…very contrasty, heavy vignetting, digital grain added to mimic Kodak Professional Tri-X panchromatic 35mm film…” (271) Naomi also notices upon the final upload of the photos how fake the sexuality appears under close inspection. Viewing this images through a digital omniscient eye makes Naomi feel uneasy, as she becomes hyper-aware of the attempt to make these fake death images appear as real as possible

  10. The interplay of simulation and reality in this passage is very interesting. The pictures in the “Celestine est morte” file were taken with updated, recent technology but were “deliberately degraded in quality” in order to make them seem more artistic and vintage. They were very staged and made Naomi uncomfortable with the inherent posed nature of them. Pictures of a dead women that are enhanced to make them seem even more dramatic than they naturally are, while also an attempt to “authenticate them”. It’s almost a commentary on how every aspect of media use in modern society seems to be embellished, edited to make it more dramatic while also trying to convince everyone that what they see is reality.

  11. Cronenberg often uses technology to bend reality which is exactly what he does in this passage. An example of this is “starkly lit by a harsh on-camera flash in the tradition of 1940’s Speed Graphic… an attempt to authenticate them”. By using such a descriptive use of technology in this way causes us to start questioning what the truth really is. And this in turn creates more confusion about what’s going on in the story as a whole. The detail description of the various technology used in the book also has a sexually simulating use. They show this simulation by the obsession to the details.

  12. The blending of fantasy and reality in David Cronenberg’s Consumed is evident in this passage in the use of modern technology to simulate a vintage style in order to create a staged reality. The “deliberately degraded” photos that strike Naomi as “obviously posed and theatrical and manipulative” are reflective of society’s obsession with creating the perfect digital persona that is far from an accurate depiction of reality. Cronenberg seems to be critiquing this tendency, evident in the rapid expansion of modern social media usage, by saying that the manipulative and theatrical quality of the pictures is more disturbing than “the content of the images itself.” Cronenberg is suggesting that the process of simulating a fantastical reality is more damaging than the product of that process.

  13. Naomi is both fascinated and disturbed by the photographs of a dead woman, described in great technical detail as “all black and white and had been deliberately degraded in quality to give them a vintage feel in the Hipstamatic style – very contrasty, heavy vignetting, digital grain added to mimic Kodak Professional Tri-X panchromatic 35mm film….” Not even mentioning the disturbing nature of the content of the photographs themselves, Naomi notes how the photographs were clearly heavily manipulated to appear older, instantly rendering the images “fake” or unnatural. I’m reminded of a theoretical concept from Visual Rhetoric, in which digital natives are thought to be an inherently “distrustful” generation towards photos and other digital media, because they know how easily they can be manipulated. If Naomi was an older character, perhaps in her 40s or 50s, her initial reaction towards the photos might have been shock and repulsion at the disturbing content itself, and not a curiosity surrounding the image’s authenticity.

  14. Technology, reality, and simulation are interwoven in this passage. It is through technology that Naomi is able to view and comprehend reality which in this case is just artificiality masquerading as reality. Cronenberg writes, “…it occurred to her that the subtle linking of these images to socially historical crime photos was an attempt to authenticate them… they struck her as quite obviously posed and theatrical and manipulative…” This quote is interesting in that it highlights just how distorted reality is within this novel. Naomi is more disturbed by the photos being staged than she is by the actual content. The image, the technology, and the simulation are more important and effective than the reality.

  15. In the technical advancement of society, reality is commonly distorted and confused with the fantastical. In this particular passage, it is clear that to Naomi that the images she is seeing are clearly faked. The inauthentic nature of these photos “disturbed her even more than the content of the images itself.” What this demonstrates is the common inability to determine if something is authentic and how the idea that someone would fake such images is more disturbing than the gruesome display depicted in these images. We can see certain technical aspects such as how the photos were “very contrasty, heavy vignetting, , digital grain added to mimic Kodak Professional Tri-X panchromatic 35mm film…” It is aspects such as these that allow for the line between reality and fantasy to be blurred and the continual advancement of technology will blur said line even more.

  16. In this passage, as well as countless others, reality and “fantasy” are confused. What I find most interesting about this is that when the images are uploaded, Naomi is able to see them more clearly and realize that they are fake, almost as if technology was able to give her more knowledge of some sort and make her more powerful. She notes that the images are “obviously posed and theatrical and manipulative”. Here Cronberg may be commenting on how technology allows one to manipulate the way that he or she is viewed in reality, giving him or her more power than those without access to technology.

  17. This passage shows Naomi looking at the images of Célestine’s corpse and analyzing the editing done to them, beyond the point of restoring the image (typically the nature of a JPEG). The subject that Naomi can see is the reality, the filters and editing represent the technology, and the overall artistic appeal represents the simulation. The passage states “[the pictures] struck her as quite obviously posed and theatrical and manipulative, qualities that disturbed her even more than the content of the images itself.” What she can see and how the pictures are portrayed are conflicting, where the simulation is disturbing her more than the reality of the corpse, using technology as a vehicle. And because Naomi is so consumed by technology, she is riding that vehicle, becoming more engrossed in the simulated ‘40s crime scene style than the reality that is clearly before her.

  18. Technology consistently complicates the events of this novel, adding another level to the narrative in much the same way that the camera lens adds complexity to the voyeuristic nature of film. As it has been seen throughout the novel, the characters communicate through screens and speakers, with images and messages transmitted through the web. The characters rely heavily on present day technology, but in this passage Naomi becomes aware of the dangerous possibilities that lie within this reliance. After reviewing the heavily altered photos in the “Célestine est morte” file, she notes that it is the “quite obviously posed and theatrical and manipulative, qualities that disturbed her even more than the content of the images itself” (271). This realization is important because it is necessary to acknowledge the malignant potential of technological advancement. While there is the clear ability for technology to improve the overall quality of human experience, there is a sinister potential, as well. This passage also causes the reader to question what is real and what is simulated, alongside the character’s experience of questioning the same thing. Cronenberg’s use of screens within the novel greatly complicates the division between reality and fantasy, blurring the line until it is almost nonexistent. In this scene, specifically, it adds another layer between Naomi’s physical reality as she views the computer screen and what is the represented reality of the projected, simulated images.

  19. The main issue in this passage is one that is heavily seen in our culture: the extremes people go to in order to make forms of art as “authentic” as possible. As this passage demonstrates, it has become increasingly easier to manipulate photos to the point where they can seem as if they are from a different time period. Naomi’s realization that the pictures are “quite obviously posed and theatrical and manipulative, qualities that disturbed her even more than the content of the images itself” is a reflection of our society’s growing disgust with the abundance of photoshopped pictures in pop culture and the betrayal we feel when we realize that we are being lied to through these photographic manipulations.

  20. Naomi’s doubt over Célestine’s corpse “obviously posed and theatrical and manipulative”, shows how “consumed” she is with technology that she is able to see the jpgs, however what is most disturbing as some others have previously said is that Naomi was more disturbed by the picture being manipulated than the actual content of the picture itself… a gruesome crime scene. Ironically yellow journalism is the exageration if not fabrication of stories, much like a manipulated picture is fabricated, yet she has no problem in participsting in that.

  21. “She saw that they were all black and white and had been deliberately degraded in quality to give a vintage feel” She is talking about the photos as there are being loaded on to her Mac computer. Technology is what showing her these images. The reality hits when she sees them spread out in a pose with bite marks and all. She is experiencing the moment in the screen for the first time, so that simulates the murder. As if she was the person who killed them. She is more disturbed of the quality in photos than what is in the photos and that merges all of them together.

  22. “[T]hey struck her as quite obviously posed and theatrical and manipulative, qualities that disturbed her even more than the content of the images itself.” Naomi’s reality throughout the novel is tainted with technology and simulation. Naomi tends to view the world as though her eyes are a camera’s lens. It is through the photos that Naomi becomes aware of the artificialness of the situation. The images Naomi has spent time studying and formatting are displaying a simulated event. It is through the “very contrasty, heavy vignetting, digital grain” features of the photos that Naomi feels a sense of discomfort at the forgery she has taken part of. The problem with the digital era is that most images can be manipulated to look real, yet Naomi puts her faith in the truth behind the photos. She becomes lost within the technology. She confuses reality with fantasy and becomes unsettled by the idea that she could have been fooled by her own art.

  23. One element of the writing here that reflects a consistent pattern in the novel is the perpetual name-dropping of various technological software and hardware. It’s not photograph editing software – it’s “Lightroom”. It’s not old school camera’s – it’s “Kodak Professional Tri-X panchromatic 35mm film”. Not only does this kind of vernacular help characterize Naomi as someone well-versed in technology, but it’s a tongue-in-cheek nod to the audience that says “she knows more about this than you, you’re out of touch”. By distancing the reader from the character in this way, the world of the story seems more fantastic than realistic. Ironically, the hyper-realism of the specific language causes the things being described to seem even more foreign to us.

  24. The paragraph on page 271 contains an intersection of technology, reality, and simulation in the form of photographs. The pictures that Naomi downloads are retouched to seem old-fashioned and nostalgic; an untrained eye would believe them to be. But Naomi’s knowledge of editing technologies allows her to see that the retouching is a recreation, a simulation. The reality of the situation is unnerving for Naomi, as she finds the photos “posed and theatrical and manipulative.” Though the pictures are of a death scene, it is the deceitful editing that causes Naomi to become uneasy, as it reflects characteristics of the photographer.

  25. Throughout Conusmed, Cronenberg goes into great (and sometimes confusing) detail about the different types of technology that seem to “consume” the world which the main characters live in. The line “the subtle linking of these images… was an attempt to authenticate them…they struck her as quite obviously posed and theatrical and manipulative” perfectly represents the ways in which these new technologies of the “Digital Age” allow for artists to simulate any type of situation and exposes how easy it is for an artist to accomplish creating these false realities. This passage leaves the reader with the sense of “don’t always believe what you see” because lies are easy to create.

  26. In Consumed, we often can see Naiomi’s views on subjects through the technology used. “As the thumbnails of the images loaded into the Import screen, she saw that they were all black and white and had been deliberately degraded in quality to give them a vintage feel in the Hipstamatic style” (Consumed pg. 271). This quote shows the technology interacting with the reality of what the pictures show. These pictures also depict simulation by not showing the original photo as intended, but rather a distorted version to play back in with the technology. We also see that Naiomi’s reality is distorted as the style of the images appears to be more important than the images themselves.

  27. As the digital age continues, technology has made it increasingly easier to create a “simulated” world where the lines between fantasy and reality are increasingly blurred. Consumed clearly demonstrates this concept. As Naomi is looking at the pictures taken of Celestine’s body, technology is revealed to have not only played a part in creating a “simulation” but also plays a part in helping Naomi realize the reality of the situation, “… it occurred to her that the subtle linking of these images to socially historical photos was an attempt to authenticate them…”. Technology, simulation, and reality are clearly tied together in this passage as she uses technology to establish the lines between fantasy and reality.

  28. One thing I’ve noticed about Cronenberg’s novel is the amount of mentions of technology that almost feel overwhelming. A lot of novels today seem to turn a blind eye to our heavy use of technology, but Cronenberg embraces it. Unfortunately, at times, Cronenberg’s prose can be a bit isolating in how much he references the technology in the novel. The quote that really brings together technology, reality, and simulation for me is “very contrasty, heavy vignetting, digital grain added to mimic Kodak Professional TRI-X panochromatic 35mm film”. I think this quote encapuslates the use of technology to simulate older styles of reality. It’s also encapsulates the way Cronenberg’s novel feels. The images in the passage are real, but technology has been used to alter them in a way that makes them more.

  29. Croenberg goes into very great, at some points borderline excessive detail in this passage, stating the number of photos “147 JPGs” the style “very contrasty, heavy vignetting, digital graining added to mimic Kodak Professional Tri-X panchromatic 35mm film, the old high-speed standard for newspaper and documentary journalism.” This intense detail makes it hard to distinguish the lines between reality and simulation. It also highlights the great impact technology has on the narrative, the dedication to detailing the technology used creates a very consumerist philosophy that permeates the entire novel.

  30. There is a strange fascination with sex, death and technology that all intertwines in a very interesting way throughout the entire novel. The use of technology also blurs the lines of reality and simulation as technological advancements are used today to outrun disease and sickness. The contrasting of sexuality and technology can be explained on page 271, when Naomi imports the digital files into the computer “.. very contrasty, heavy vignetting, digital grain added to mimic Kodak professional Tri-x pancromatic 35mm film..”. This scene in particular presents us with Naomi noting how the photographs were obviously heavily manipulated and she was so disturbed by this factor, not the photos themselves. This moment of reality verses simulation is so relevant to society today and is such a strong theme throughout the story.

  31. In this passage, we can see Cronenberg interrogating a fascinating element about contemporary pop culture epistemology (a philosophical field that studies the question, “How do we perceive?). The JPEG folder of Celestine’s murderer, Aristide, contains 147 photos of her corpse presented as “quite obviously posed and theatrical and manipulative, qualities that disturbed her even more than the content of the images itself.” Naomi is alarmed not only by the way the body has been posed, but also how the body was captured, if not directed, on digital ‘film’ photographs. Naomi notes the way the black and white photos have been “deliberately degraded to give them a vintage feel in the Hipstamatic style ” (presumably like the aesthetic of polaroids or now defunct disposable cameras, an aesthetic strangely in fashion in 2016). What accounts for this impulse to represent images of contemporary reality “starkly lit by a harsh on-camera flash in the tradition of the 1940s …crime scene photos…”? What accounts for this cultural impulse to look backwards into the past with unabashed nostalgia? What traumas of the present push the characters of “Consumed,” and perhaps ourselves, to find consolation in images of a recent present, now forever past, and to downplay the actual contemporary moment of OUR living present?

  32. Naomi is sucked into the technology. This deals with the art of attraction because she was enthralled by the quality and elements of the photos rather than what they are actually capturing. She is describing the photos as being “very contrasty, heavy vignetting, digital grain added to mimic Kodak Professional Tri-X panchromatic 35mm fil” she said the photos “had been deliberately degraded in quality to give them a vintage feel in the Hipstamatic style”. These quotes in particular show that she is placing her reality in technology rather than placing it in the real world things that the pictures had captured.

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