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Release Date:
2002 (Canada) See more »
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Sluggish panorama of now-classic media theories advanced by a precocious visionary See more (4 total) »


Marshall McLuhan ... Himself (archive footage)

Directed by
Kevin McMahon 
David Sobelman 
Produced by
Kristina McLaughlin .... producer
Michael McMahon .... producer
Cinematography by
John M. Tran 
Film Editing by
Christopher Donaldson 
Sound Department
Justin Drury .... sound effects editor
Grant Edmonds .... sound effects editor
Russ Mackay .... sound effects editor
Sanjay Mehta .... sound recordist
Animation Department
Justin Stephenson .... animator (animation segment)

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Sluggish panorama of now-classic media theories advanced by a precocious visionary, 8 January 2016
Author: Tabarnouche from Sonar Sound

As McLuhan's rear-view-mirror analogy predicts, today's world-view of the present has been shifting from one framed by 19th-century referents to one derived from post-1945 premises. In a few years the Reagan/Thatcher/Gorbachev-Bush41/Yeltsin-Clinton/Blair era will supplant it.

The image in the mirror may indeed be closer than it appears in the convex passenger-side mirror, but our gaze is still firmly, axiomatically retrospective. Human beings have a distinct collective bias for — to paraphrase McLuhan — drawing conclusions about the present from the roiling wake behind the cruise ship rather than from the endless stretch of unknown waters between prow and horizon.

The acceptance of extreme wealth concentration, of corruption of the electoral process, of propaganda designed to ensure irremediable political polarization, of the utilitarian economic objectification of human activity, of perduring ideology-based terrorism, of impotence before human-caused climate change and unchecked population growth — this conditioned resignation is a feature of society we now take for granted. Yet it was still sinking its roots when McLuhan's Wake came out in 2002.

Does this make McLuhan's Wake irrelevant? On the contrary.

What does obscure McLuhan's brilliant synthesis, at least as portrayed in this film, is the screenplay's tortoise-like pacing. Contrary to the revelations about the nature of chaos and social upheaval that McLuhan finds in Edgar Allan Poe's maelstrom allegory, the film plods on for 93 minutes at a soporific crawl worthy of a long, mediocre Italian opera. Had McLuhan been alive when the film was made, and had he not been able to punch up the story line exponentially, he'd almost certainly have hurled himself overboard into the maelstrom — if only to feel his synapses fire again.

The cascading mass hypnosis with "virtual reality," the paranoia that attends the demise of privacy, and the impoverishment of human relations bequeathed by social media (McLuhan's "global village") — as social innovations become mutations, they illustrate McLuhan's Laws of Media: Enhancement becomes its opposite, Obsolescence, much as automobile-based mobility morphed into dysfunctional, perpetually congested urban immobility. This shift likely means that McLuhan's "the medium is the message" is due for a resurgence before finally receding into revered historical curiosity.

To dismiss this film because of stylistic shortcomings would be to blind oneself to the insights of a genius on a par with William Blake, Buckminister Fuller, Chomsky, Atwood, Jobs, Assange, Zuckerburg.

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