by Mr. Lobo
(Outerspace International / Cinema Insomnia)
Some deny that there are subliminal messages anymore. THIRSTY. Supposedly it’s banned in the UK and the United States, right? THIRSTY. It really doesn’t work anyway, right? THIRSTY. They did that stuff in the 50’s and it’s banned people will assure you. THIRSTY.
Subliminal means literally “below the threshold”of conscious perception. Parts of the brain are activated without the subject being aware by very fast or masked visual and audio stimuli.
To capitalize on the topic of subliminal messages and the deep fear that the CIA wanted us to eat more popcorn, a film called TERROR IN A HAUNTED HOUSE(1958) was the first to use a technique they called PYCHORAMA followed by A DATE WITH DEATH(1959). Funny, poorly illustrated ghoul faces flashed on the screen(lingering a bit too long to be subliminal for the attentive viewer) to induce horror. There was a snake supposedly to make us hate, hearts to inspire love, and the words “blood” to creep us out.
In the film Alfred Hitchcock’s PSYCHO(1960), during a dissolve near the end of the film Norman Bates face is subtly superimposed with a skull.
The Words SCREAM and MURDER were allegedly in the original shower sequence. This film effected movie goers deeply and generations of people developed a fear of showers.
THE EXORCIST(1973) used subliminal stimuli to scare and disturb deeper than ever before. The face of Father Karras becomes a full-screen death mask for two frames, A Demon face and the word PIG are hidden throughout the movie. Squeals of slaughtered pigs and the buzzing of aggravated bees were supposedly mixed subtly into the sound track.
DISNEY came under fire for the discovery of an erect penis in the castle behind THE LITTLE MERMAID(1989) of the VHS clam-shell box art. The video was recalled but calls attention to the fact there are skulls, devil horns, and sexual innuendo hidden in many DISNEY projects. This could be chalked up to a lot of bored underpaid overworked artists with passive aggressive axes to grind.
Famously in FIGHT CLUB(1999) Tyler Durden (unnamed in the film) splices images of pornography into family movies that play at the movie theater where he works. And in the larger film we are experiencing is laden with flashes of subliminal imagery and clues. At the end of the film Tyler plants controlled explosives to implode all New York’s bank buildings to reboot the economy by cancelling all the debts. Supposedly this Symbolized the Freemason and The Illuminati plan to erase their debts with the events of 911. But let’s drop this as the first rule about FIGHT CLUB is to not talk about FIGHT CLUB.
Conspiracy Theorists can supply you endless 911 references found in pop culture leading up to the event in everything from THE SIMPSONS, to the 2001 trailer for SPIDERMAN(2002), to the X-FILES spin off THE LONE GUNMEN. I’m not here to discuss the value of subliminally warning or preparing us for that event. It obviously didn’t make a difference.
Studies suggest that subliminal messages have an effect when the messages are goal-related. Planting the “Coca-Cola” logo in your brain does not make you thirsty. But if you are thirsty you might be very well choose that brand. I always find it funny how violently righteous people are when they’re faced with a brand of sugar-water that’s not in accord with their programing. “Pepsi? Blechh! I ONLY drink COKE! C’mon, Ethyl, let’s leave!” There is less that one percent difference in the two beverages and they are identical in color and contain practically identical ingredients. Orange Rind Vs. Lime Rind is the biggest difference and subtle disparity of Sweetness Vs. Carbonation.
This may be considered evidence to support the argument that genius marketing and subliminal cues can change behavior. Quiet subtle environmental elements can bend minds and create subcultures.
A smooth bland form of commercially commissioned music called Muzak played in supermarkets, shopping malls, airports, and elevators everywhere when I was a lad and was credited with more sales and customers moving at a slower pace. I remember laughing out loud in the frozen food section as the Easy Listening version of “Whip It!” the only chart topper by my all-time favorite New Wave band DEVO wafted through the aisles of unsuspecting shoppers.
Even then I heard the urban legends about subliminal messages and tried to hear them. Sometimes I could perceive murmurs but they were so discrete that I couldn’t tell what they were trying to tell me. I didn’t feel like buying more stuff than usual???
Like many performers with dreams of entertaining the masses, I worked at a restaurant in a shopping center. When slow elevator music became passe in favor of “The Hits of the 90’s and Beyond” I discovered a huge box of Muzak Corporation labeled CDs in the trash. Without their companion sound system and on my home stereo with headphones I could finally hear those murmurs. They were obvious an ham-fisted.
“Don’t Steal. Stealing Is Wrong. People Won’t Like You.”
Tears of laughter streamed down my face. This was somehow both–far less AND far more insidious than I could imagine or create.
This effected me. This wasn’t an attack. It was defense. Like blaring classical music in front of inner city gas stations to keep hoodlums away…which they did at the downtown ARCO for years.
There was also a freeway underpass that was a pedestrian walkway from the downtown parking garages to a local tourist area that had a problem with vagrants and graffiti artists. They employed the same sonic warfare. Blaring orchestral strings at alarming decibels to keep everyone moving.
Alex’s futuristic gang of Beethoven loving DROOGS from Stanley Kubrick’s A CLOCKWORK ORANGE(1971) must have evovled in from these environmental tactics.
Is this ethical? What about free will? Don’t we have a right to steal produce if we’re so inclined? Wasn’t this the cental theme to A CLOCKWORK ORANGE? Is is BAD to try to force someone to be GOOD.
Kubrick explores a teenage serial rapist and murderer who is reprogrammed by the government using a technique of showing him films of violence and using drugs as negative reinforcement to make him sick. Much like hypnotherapists would make you associate a sour taste with cigarette smoking. A woman Alex murders has a painting on her wall depicting a woman with the breasts cut out of her clothing–suggesting a larger cultural trend which Alex is conforming and responding to. Society seems to be influencing him to do both bad and good. First he was getting positive reinforcement for doing wrong. Then he was getting negative reinforcement for doing wrong. But perhaps the fact that Alex was frighteningly suggestible in an ultra-violent culture made him commit crimes in the first place.
Ultimately, I think, you have to be receptive to what’s being offered to you as information…even if it’s suggested to you subliminally.
Some people are more susceptible to suggestion…but it doesn’t always work the way you might think. My wife and I sat in a restaurant. The TV was chattering on the other side of the room-ESPN, I think. My wife and I are not sports fans we’re film buffs. Even though, The conspiracy theorist in me always believed sports were designed to distract and pacify the masses–a point of view nurtured by the fact that I have no physical coordination and was picked on by jocks all through school–But I found my self glancing over at the TV screen occasionally as we munched on Pizza Buffet. My wife had her back to the TV. The sportscaster boldly stated that a certain quarterback was a “powerhouse”. My wife started humming on cue…”Boom Da-Dum B-dada-da-da-dat! Boom Da-Dum B-dada-da-da-dat! Boom Da-Dum B-dada-da-da-dat! B-dada-da-da-dat daaa-dum!” Cartoon pistons from Warner Brothers “Looney Tunes” whirled in my head as I recalled the theme. I imagined Sylvester the Pussycat being tortured in an infernal machine–then made the connection. I laughed at my wife’s absurdist joke. “A lot of people don’t know that song is called Powerhouse.”, I said with a mouth full of pasta salad. She stared. Oh, really. I just know it from the cartoons. Then I explained that the man on the TV said Powerhouse just before she started humming Raymond Scott’s Powerhouse. “Really? I was trying to ignore the TV.” She said.
This wasn’t the first time I had witnessed Dixie’s almost spooky ability to subliminally pick up on things. We joked about it and I had a unsettling thought. As Spectral Narrator for my TV series CINEMA INSOMNIA…I say in my best daddy voice, at the opening of every show “You are under My Power”. I wondered if my marriage to Dixie was somehow influenced or ensured by my choice of words as a TV MOVIE HOST. If so I must be careful not to break the spell.
Working as a media professional, I studied marketing and commercial art. Artists and entertainers are manipulators as much as politicians or cult leaders…However, the subject…just like in Hypnosis must be receptive to the message or it doesn’t work. Our instructors showed us the ice cubes in the scotch glass from the magazine ads that had naked orgies hidden in them, The Crystal Light ad with the pipework and gym equipment along the back wall spelling out the word SEX, and the movie theater announcements with the words “thirsty” and “popcorn” flashing in a 1/24th of a second. Advertisers use subliminal messages to trick you into spending money but can these techniques be used to manipulate people for their own benifit? And is that ethical?
I read about my favorite band DEVO. They supposedly came from a background of Advertising and were very visual. Their Student film…THE BEGINING WAS THE END: THE TRUTH ABOUT DE-EVOLUTION(1976) using the “Popcorn”, “Thirsty”, technique had the words “Submit” and “Obey” hidden in it and supposedly won honors at every film festival it was screened.
The band’s co-founder, Mark Mothersbaugh, whom I met at his studio in 1995, scored hundred of TV commercials for big corporate clients including the soft drink KOOL AID. He joked that he included comments just below the noise floor like “KIDS, DON’T EAT SUGAR”. The ad execs could hear them but laughed it off and allowed him to include this subversion into the final ads broadcast on TV.
A master of experimental electronic music–He also said he has spent decades trying to discover what he calls “the brown noise”…a low frequency tone that make an entrie audience of concert goers defecate in their collective pants simultaneously. Lucky for us he hasn’t found it as my wife and I have seen them in concert and maintained dry seats throughout.
However, we are true fans of this band. Fanatics. Blindly devoted. Constantly bring DEVO and their work up in conversation…even here in this article. Are we both under the spell of this musical Svengali and his pogo-inducing psychotronic music? If we are being manipulated–we are receptive to this manipulation.
Armed with the inspiring influence of a fellow artist I considered the potential of subliminal suggestion and it is a corner stone of my work.
The Intro of CINEMA INSOMNIA is one continuous take with no cutaways that pulls you in…you go into a hypnotic eyeball, enter a wormhole and are deposited in deep space floating through a vortex of floating cartoon icons. My voice is commanding but reassuring…the movie clips are flying at you in gaudy cartoon picture frames like high art…as we pass through each frame a “bullwhip” sound is heard spanking the credo home “They’re not bad movies…Just Misunderstood”. The last sound is a Halloween dungeon victim stretched on the rack as the logo swings in and out of frame. Submit. Obey. Enjoy these terrible movies.
Mr. Lobo isn’t trying to bully you into like my show. I’m just trying to intimidate you into bullying yourself into liking my show. People create barriers that prevent them from doing things they truly want for themselves. People need permission to like things and sometimes they deny themselves that permission. I can’t make you like my show unless deep down you want to. Is a little bit of brain bullying a bad thing?
I believe most Hypnotism is the art of tricking your own mind with subconscious bullying.
Hypnotism is a reoccurring theme of CINEMA INSOMNIA. With the “Insomniac Oath” viewers look into my unblinking eyes and promise to watch “The Movie, The Whole Movie, and Nothing But The Movie” as an hypnotic spiral spins.
When the spiral comes out–even though, it’s a joke–some viewers get scared. Many still believe that hypnosis represents a threat to the subconscious mental security of the individual. These people are not in a sub-conscious state but a self-conscious state…and if you are feeling self-conscious, I want you to mentally put one foot into your cradled hands, put your other foot on your shoulder, and try to get over yourself.
Mark Mothersbaugh said that revolution is obsolete. That subversion is the new method to change peoples behavior. You can bet that governments, corporations, and marketing executives are subtly trying to manipulate you all the time. Even your Mother-In-Law is probably dropping sublte cues that burrow in your brain and that you’re passive aggressively resisting.
In my new spoken word project, HYPNOSIS FOR HIPSTERS, Mr. Lobo shows you how others are bullying your brain all the time and how to use the power of positive brain bullying on yourself.
This can be done through a kind of self-hypnosis and harnessing what Mr. Lobo calls your “mega mental energy for better thinksmarts”. In my humorous take-off on self help programs I use satire to break down the manipulative malarkey of other supposed self-help programs…but also show you how to sidestep the traps of manipulators.
Everyone is trying to manipulate you…Doctors, Parents, Teachers, Artists…everyone. Some of us are trying to manipulate the masses for the positive other than the negative. “Kids, Don’t Eat Sugar”. “Don’t Steal. Stealing is Wrong–People Won’t Like You”. “They’re not Bad Movies–Just Misunderstood.”
Your best defense? Assert you own feelings. Think for yourself. Know what you want. No one can make you do what you don’t want to. But if you don’t know what you want, you may allow yourself be taken over by default. The music you listen to, the clothes you wear, and what you surround yourself with is how you program yourself…and protect yourself from ideas that aren’t in accord with what you believe are your best interests. Viddy Well, my Droogies! Viddy Well!