Everything is at once hideous and hilarious, from the gory apparition of the parasitic creature in the bathtub to the zombielike orgy in the swimming pool at the end. [Shivers] neither idealizes nor condemns these transgressive moments of physical violation and orgiastic excess. Rather, it slyly suggests that the bourgeois sexual ‘revolution’ in fact merely reproduces the aggressive, hysterical logic of a commodified competitive society. Transgression is not transcendence.
Cronenberg is thus equally skeptical of “left-Fruedian” visions of personal and social liberation through the lifting of repression, and of right-wing claims that desire must always be repressed because it is inherently evil and disruptive. These positions are, in fact, mirror images of one another. They both posit a soul, an originary human essence—whether good or evil—and ignore the shady complicity that always already contaminates desire with the regulation and repression of desire. Humanist visions of unlimited freedom and conservative visions of original sin (or of inevitable limits) both strive to reject monstrosity, to deny the violent ambivalence of bodily passion. Harmonious utopian projections and anxious defenses of the status quo alike betray a continuing need to idealize, a panic in face of the excesses of the flesh. Both ideologies are trying to transcend the anxiety and insecurity implicit in the state of being a body.