Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Cross vs. The Circle: In Defense of Lifetime Television's "Cyber Seduction"

For those who excel and find comfort in the current cultural climate of snark, eager to be the first find humor in every subject, the immediate reaction is disbelief that this movie exists. "Cyber Seduction: His Secret Life," A made-for-television film with the issue of internet porn addiction as the impetus of its central narrative invites interest of an ironic nature. However, what gets overlooked is how the seeming ridiculousness of the lesson-oriented drama provides a valuably reductive framework for an extraordinarily well executed and morally grounded drama, comparable to the transcendent graces of Robert Bresson's cinema. It's also worth remembering that a snapshot of laughter is also a picture of cruelty.

The surprise of director Tom Mcloughlin (responsible for "Friday the 13th: Part 6", the singular and atmospheric height of that famed slasher series) a
nd his modest and powerful film is that it is not issue-specific toward the seemingly ridiculous subject of "internet porn" as much as a formally and thematically disciplined drama about addiction in its universal terms. The teen age protagonist is a perfectly cast (wide eyed and awkward overbite) picture of vulnerability and innocence. The montages of the teenage protagonist's long nights at the computer are precise evocations of the automatic circle of the whirlpool trajectory toward the drain. The brief second of bright blue that fills the screen in the addiction montages is mirrored in the baptismal high school swim meet pool chlorine that saves him. Yes, he finds religion, or "gets radical" as he says he needs to do upon realizing how his embarrassing addiction has crippled his girlfriend, family, and life.

While the baptismal conclusion opens "Cyber Seduction"up to the criticism of exchanging one extreme for another or of bit bei
ng shallow religious propaganda, its worth noting that Eastern religions espouse the endless masturbatory Circle ( indirectly adopted as the form of our secular times as Philip Reiff has observed) and Christianity has the Cross, a rising line of confluence and intersection. The subversive criticism inherent in the lingering question of Mcloughlin's film is that the circular nature of addiction leaves its victims with no other choice but seek the Cross of confluence. Additionally, in the film's relationship to larger aesthetic trends, the reductive framework of the issue-oriented moral lesson film such as this one, and other Lifetime pictures, is one that would behoove other filmmakers to follow. It would benefit all of us for filmmakers to aspire to make Lifetime pictures as opposed to the fake independent success of the well marketed nihilism in disguise, revealed in the therapeutic platitudes of films like "Little Miss Sunshine" and "Juno."