More Apophenia

Sun Apr 20 2003 06:53AM -0600

I am very happy that there is a word for the way my mind gloms on to the most meaningless of circumstances and tries to make patterns out of them.

I finally watched "The Ring" as well as its Japanese precursor "Ringu," and what struck me were certain motifs that I've run into elsewhere, not to mention some incidental bits of facts.

(There are spoilers that follow, but I don't think it gives away too much, since the premise is given away in the first 10 minutes of the movie.)

The McGuffin is a videotape that, when watched, kills its viewer in seven days. This is reminiscent of Chuck Palahniuk's book Lullaby, where a poem can kill people when read aloud or even thought at the intended target.

The videotape reminds me of "The Footage" described in William Gibson's Pattern Recognition (and someone else has recognized the tangential similarityâ€â€see review #2.) "The Footage" likewise serves as a McGuffin, which, due to Gibson's role in being part of the original cyberpunk movement (he essential coined the term "the Matrix" and basically prophesied what the Internet would become), takes on a particular significance, namely, that technology has allowed us to become sucked into shared non-physical experiences that take on a physicality external to the actual experience. (For example, "The Footage" may alternatively be interpreted as "just" as work of art, or as a message from a unique intelligence, or an abstract reinterpretation of a real-life occurrence, but the actual reality is irrelevant to the international Internet community that ends up obsessed over "the Footage.")

The premise that the videotape of The Ring was derived from accidentally recording an off-the-air television station is coincidentally reiterated in Gibson's discussion of apophenia (the main character's mother believes that she can hear voices of dead people on cassette tapes which have not been recorded onto yet.)

The imagery of the actual ring in "The Ring" for some reason makes me think of solar eclipses, which makes me think of "Watcher in the Woods," which is, remarkably, a Disney movie which I watched while I was in grade school, creeping me out about mirrors and reflective surfaces (which is, remarkably, also something echoed in "The Ring")

There are some rather biblical (though perhaps unintentional?) images in "The Ring," including the Burning Bush, and Jacob's Ladder (not the bizarre children's toy but the vision of a ladder extending from earth to heaven.) They are not really contextualized in the movie, but I thought it was interesting how it might tap into the latent Judeo-Christian cultural elements in Western society.

Finally, as a bit of complete apophenic randomness, not only is Daveigh Chase in "The Ring," but she is also the dubbed voice of the protagonist in "Spirited Away," which I thought had some imagery in common with "Ringu," most likely simply because they are both originally Japanese films.

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