Who’s that Girl in the Max Headroom Video Pirate Hack?
One of the fascinating aspects of the 1987 incursion is the appearance of a second person in the WTTW “Dr. Who” event. Although only on camera for about 15 seconds, the woman who joins “Max” adds a scandalous dynamic to the presentation. She evolves it from a juvenile prank to something lustful and, dare I say, hot.
Clearly, this is a woman. Some have speculated that she is wearing a French Maid outfit. I classify that as “possible” because there is not enough visual evidence to completely support that conclusion. We must acknowledge the tendency to wish it to be true, if for no other reason than it makes her even hotter. Sometimes a confirmation bias can be a good thing.
One struggles to name her. Perhaps it is appropriate to call her “The Companion.”
Her appearance coincides with that unique characteristic of the Dr. Who mythos. The good Doctor’s constant traveling partners are collectively referred to by that exact designation. The incursion begins during a scene featuring only the companion and another supporting character.
Changing the Dynamic
Up to this point, “Max” was content stringing together seeming non-sequiturs and cultural reference punctuated by his constant swaying around. Suddenly, there is a jump cut, the only one in the entire two minutes of the hack.
Either by stopping and starting the camera or because of an intentional edit, unsuspecting viewers are suddenly treated to “Max” with his pants down, being spanked with a plastic flyswatter by a petite hand attached to one-fifth of a petite body.
While we get to enjoy the side view of “Max’s” exposed butt, The Companion gets the full one-eyed spectacle.
This does not seem to bother her. Her declaration of, “Bend over, bitch,” changes the dynamic from playful goofiness to one of sexual dominance. There is a brief moment when she reaches out and casual pats his naked behind, a clear indication she is completely enjoying this. There is a naughty intimacy between the two.
In the context of the culture of 1987, while certainly not unheard of, this kind of scene was something dangerous for television. If “Max” chose to do something more in line with the juvenile nature of some of the other pranks, he might have just mooned the camera. While this may have been disturbing, it was not uncommon in entertainment media at the time.
Instead, we are not only treated to playful BDSM, but also the ultimate expression of voyeurism as millions have seen the racy video, complete with a verbal dominatrix, a dildo, and spankings.
I would venture to guess that a number of Dr. Who fans who were watching at the time or saw it later on their VHS recordings, remembered this scene above all others.
Media Hyperventilation – “It’s Perverse!”
Media reports the next day were quick to call the Max Headroom Video Pirate Hack “obscene.” Some in the news media verbally flicked the saliva from their lips in describing this particular scene.
“The best the imposter could do for a laugh was dropping his drawers and getting spanked with a flyswatter.” – The Philadelphia Inquirer, 11/24/87
Headline: “Pirate brings an obscene Max Headroom to the screen” – Lodi News-Sentinel, 11/24/87
“The bizarre scene, in which the imitation of the video character Max pulled down his pants and was paddled by a fly swatter, interrupted a WTTW broadcast of the British science fiction series “Dr. Who.” – Chicago Tribune, 11/24/87
“By this time, the pirate had managed to insert audio as well, along with the display of a marital aid and a portion of his, or her, anatomy.” – WFLD Channel 32, 11/24/87
“The wacky, and sometimes perverse, TV surprise came shortly after 11:00, lasting a minute and a half.” – WBBM Channel 2, 11/24/87 (WBBM managed to show the “perverse” part of the hack, twice in the minute and a half report.)
Had Max and The Companion not staged this little electro-erotic epilogue, the words “obscene” or “perverse” were unlikely to pop up in any subsequent examinations of the complete hack.
The apparent depth of her involvement with the entire project is also interesting.
A rotating corrugated metal panel behind “Max” simulates the computer generated backgrounds of the real Max Headroom. It is actually a very simple and very clever visual in-camera simulation (Terry Gilliam would be proud). It stops moving when The Companion joins the on-camera action.
While there is no empirical evidence, one can safely say The Companion was rotating the background panel.
In another post, I examine the props and set of the incursion. To summarize, the movement of the panel is very smooth. It is attached to some kind of axle which is attached to something else able to support it. It must have been awkward and heavy. She does her job very well.
As of this writing, the artists behind this hack remain unknown, regardless of the combined efforts of the FBI and the FCC.
There is a worn-out cliché about two people being able to keep a secret if one of them is dead. Among many other accomplishments, have “Max” and The Companion managed to prove this particular cliché wrong? Or is it possible that one of them is deceased? One certainly has to consider the option.
The Facts – The Companion
Using our classification scale of Definite, Probable, Possible and Unlikely, here is what we can say about The Companion in relation to putting the clues together to try to solve this mystery of the Max Headroom Video Pirate Hack:
She is Caucasian, female.
She speaks the words, “Bend over, bitch.”
She is intimate with “Max.”
She is fully engaged with the hack.
She is turning background panel.
She’s wearing a French Maid outfit.
She is male.