Chuck Klosterman on the Best Songs, Stories, and Movies about Surveillance

Slate's Culture Blog
Oct. 10 2011 1:56 PM

Chuck Klosterman's Top Five Surveillance Stories

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Digital screens in the security center at Milano Central Station, October 11, 2010 in Milan, Italy.

Photo by Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images

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Chuck Klosterman's new novel, The Visible Man, is about a therapist—and a patient with whom she becomes obsessed. Among the book’s most prominent themes is the troubling allure of voyeurism, a subject Klosterman previously explored in "Through a Glass Blindly," an essay from his 2010 collection Eating the Dinosaur. With that in mind, Klosterman selected for Brow Beat his top five narratives about surveillance, drawing on several art forms: film, journalism, popular music, and fiction.

Body Double (1984)

Though Brian De Palma's reputation has eroded over the years (and while some might argue that his erosion actually starts with this particular film), Body Double will always be one of those movies I can't forget. The weirdness of the opening 30 minutes is as absorbing as all the Hitchcock movies he's overtly ripping off. If I could live in any apartment in the world, it would be the Hollywood Hills bachelor pad that not-so-accidentally falls into Craig Wasson's lap. 

Probably the most famous celebrity profile ever published, Gay Talese's Esquire piece defined the modern concept of writing about someone you've never actually spoken to. It essentially examines whether intangible observation is a more effective means to human understanding than tangible interaction (which, in many ways, is the central difference between criticism and journalism). 

Caché (2005)

Michael Haneke’s movie is flat-out the best film about surveillance I've ever seen.

Every Breath You Take” (1983)

I'm not a particularly big fan of this song. It's boring. But the fact that a prom song about an obsessive, controlling stalker became the #1 single in America is the most subversive thing the Police ever did.

Neighbors” (1971)

Technically, Raymond Carver’s story is not about watching other people; technically, it’s about becoming other people. But those two things are more connected that we'd like to admit. Trying to live like someone else is really just trying to watch them from the inside.

(Further reading: an excerpt from The Visible Man. The trailer for the book is below.)