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The Hollow Hero: Digital Flesh and Bodily Transformation

Djoymi Baker, The University of Melbourne, Australia

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The digital morph and the digital body have often been viewed by critics with some suspicion. Vivian Sobchack, for example, has noted that the morph undergoes change with great speed and visual ease, whereas human change takes time and effort, while Scott Bukatman argues that the digital image pretends to be real but is in fact only a hollow surface. Both of these assertions are complicated by the digital imaging used for the aptly titled Hollow Man (Verhoeven 2000).

In Hollow Man, we are shown a digital representation of the human interior as lead character Dr Caine becomes invisible. Through new technology, the digital body, rather being hollow, is in fact full of layer upon layer of flesh. Diegetically this process is the cause of physical and emotional pain. However, it is visually effortless, and the body experiencing pain is merely computed. By contrast, when Dr Caine is invisible and is depicted by mere suggestions of surface, actor Kevin Bacon endured the most discomfort during filming. Paradoxically, the image of ease is accompanied by distress in real life. The digital body in Hollow Man creates an interplay between the real and computed in which effort and effortless, presence and absence, are out of sync with each other. As these categories are broken down by the advance of technology, we will need new terminology to discuss the digital body.

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