“Bodies We Obsess Upon”: Corporality and Gender Performance in The Heart Machine (2014)

in Bodies in Flux
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Abstract

Zachary Wigon’s low-budget film The Heart Machine (2014) follows a truly 21-century Skype-based love story of Virginia and Cody. The lives of the two New Yorkers – and seemingly the lives of virtually everyone else – revolve around and are dependent on technology. Permanently logged in, hedonistic, and inseparable from their smartphones, they use Facebook, Twitter, Craigslist, OkCupid, or Blendr. The couple’s Skype encounters are carefully prepared spectacles, with the illusion of control: both “actors” may choose how much they wish to reveal, and yet Cody manages to read between the lines and uncover Virginia’s deceit while virtually stalking both her and random strangers connected to her in the social media. The audience observes Virginia’s both online and offline life, witnessing how the girl’s online image is ultimately filtered through Cody’s perspective and controlled by his desire for visual pleasure.

Drawing from gender studies, film theory and posthumanist theories, the aim of the following paper is to demonstrate how in The Heart Machine technology affects gender performance, and how stereotypical gender roles are consolidated in the protagonists’ online relationship. Female bodies in the film are rendered as almost interchangeable through specific framing and fragmenting of bodies. In the light of Heidegger’s essay “Question Concerning Technology,” Virginia’s art can be interpreted as an antidote to the dangers of technology and “enframing;” the girl’s poetic approach to posthuman reality provides a healthy distance and an individual perspective on contemporary human relations.