Subliminal XVI: My Life in Subliminals
“When one comes to the ultra-modern profession of advertising, responded Schliemann, – the science of persuading people to buy what they do not want, – he is in the very center of the ghastly charnel-house of capitalist destructiveness, and he scarcely knows which of a dozen horrors to point out first.” (Upton Sinclair, The Jungle, 1906)
“Today’s superstars [superstar companies] are using modern science to push advertising into areas that have not been tried before, raising difficult ethical questions about what ‘free choice’ means in a capitalist economy.” (The Economist, September 17th-23rd 2016)
What these “areas that have not been tried before” are, is not to be gathered, however, from that issue of The Economist. They seem to discover advertising only today, more than a hundred years after Upton Sinclair talked of it as “the very center of the ghastly charnel-house of capitalist destructiveness.” Still, it is with this admission – by a fierce mouthpiece of capitalism – of the reality of some strange “science” at the service of advertising, “raising difficult ethical questions…in a capitalist economy,” that we are proud to introduce our new cases of subliminal junk.
Cases 103-108 are taken from Harvard Business Review, September 2016.
……………Case 103 BASF Bestiality
The model, a swarthy, scruffy, unshaven man seems to come out of a film on the Mexican Revolution. After having conquered tierra y libertad, he now enjoys the fruits of his labor on a land of his own, gazing with touching emotion at gorgeous sweet peppers he holds in his hands – his own peppers.
A table is set on the left side of the advert, with a salad bowl and a glass of what looks more like grenadine syrup than wine. After seeing this ad, for one thing BASF poisons will be associated in your mind with luxurious green goods, and poor but dignified campesinos.
Then there is a subliminal embed in the glass of grenadine, which I have outlined. A naked woman is sitting on her knees. Her head is tilting back as a big dog sniffs her pussy; she expects him to lick her genitals. As the dog wears a necklace, it is probably her own pet dog, which she acquired to satisfy her lust in this way. This is bestiality.
……………Case 104 Stanford Business School of SEX
This one for a top Ivy League university, and more specifically for its executive education department. The main character in the show, the man on the right, has a somewhat disheveled and thoroughly scruffy look about him – the very look that is abhorrent to all corporate organizations throughout the world. This, however, is good selling pitch, meaning: Take a break from the horrendous monotonousness of your dreary corporate life by enrolling to our program and be for a couple of days, or weeks, the bum you dream to be.
But the ad promises more than that. On picture 104-2 I have drawn a straight line to show what the man is looking at, namely the woman’s breast. Looking at her breast and grasping invisible objects in the air… First watch, then touch; he already has his hands in position, all it takes now is a 90-degree turn.
The woman is smiling at him, encouragingly. Besides, she could not escape his grasping if she wanted, because she is manacled. Her hands are tied together exactly like manacled hands, and her watch wrist provides the clear suggestion of manacles.
The man is thinking so hard about sexual acts with the woman that he is projecting laser penises from his brain (picture 104-2). One is just leaving his skull. A second one, very bright, is bolting toward her face. Below that one, a third penis, very fat, is about to reach her on the nose, where she will have to handle it to her mouth, I guess.
The third character is the loser you do not want to be. If you look carefully, he seems quite depressed. At first glance, you may think he is looking at and listening to the other guy, but in fact he just stares into space, brewing over the failure of his life. To the very hardcore sex action that is going to take place he will remain spectator merely; he is so much of a loser that he cannot even have enough spite to be willing to prevent it. As he sits quite close to the woman, she may be his girlfriend; but his luck with her is over. You can’t be a loser and keep your sweetheart when the Stanford boy comes in.
…………….Case 105 Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science of SEX
The copy reads: “What did one doctor discover during the Ebola crisis? Herself.” And she is looking fondly at one of the above men’s bum. You see her looking at the top of the world, at the stars, you say she is a mature woman with dreams (read greedy ambition) determined to fulfill them and to become one of the worthies of this world. Which amounts – follow the straight line I draw – to finding a man with nicely-shaped buttocks. She looks at the only one whose presence is primarily marked by his conspicuous buttocks. And if you enroll at Rosalind, this is precisely what you will find at last. They promise. If you are already married, then you will find the man with whom to cuckold your husband at last. Promised.
……………Case 106 Harvard Business School of Hot SEX
“Great leaders never stop evolving.” I would never have imagined that great leaders look like that. The man on the left is just ridiculous, with half-cooked Chinese noodles dangling from his hand. The man in the middle is a juggler: there is a small cake in equilibrium on top of his coffee cup. Jugglery is the specialty of circus clowns and was formerly that of court jesters and buffoons. The lady is actually running: only the tip of her right foot touches the ground, perhaps it does not even touch it – a movement she could not make if she were walking (the other foot has been cropped out of the picture so you can imagine it does not touch the ground either). Her overcoat almost seems to have fallen from her right shoulder (you need to look at it with attention to find out that both her shoulders are still covered), it does not cover the right side of her chest, and anyway she looks quite unkempt. Her right hand lies on a jacket button, which she may be opening, in the process of taking off the jacket. Her eyes are closed and she smiles, her face turned in the men’s direction. She is in a state of sexual arousal or even in an act of solitary sex. Expecting more (in her never-ending evolving), she is running in her haste to reach the place of the three’s sexual rendezvous, and such is her lustful haste that she is undressing while running. Harvard Business School: last chance of hot sex for desperate cases.
……………Case 107 Laugh & Suck
A funny cartoon, and it is signed SUCK.
……………Case 108 Bottega Veneta SEX
& a nice SEX embed for good measure. (You don’t even have to enlarge the pics to see it perfectly.)
……………Complements: My Life in Subliminals
Subliminals have been a major influence on my musical tastes. The first cassette tape I bought in my life was an album by band INXS, after seeing their clip Need You Tonight (1987) a couple of times on TV. Then, the first laser disc I bought was an album by band Simply Red, after seeing a couple of times on TV their clip Something Got Me Started (1991). Both were successful bands in my teens. Retrieving their clips on YouTube recently, I found the following.
Need You Tonight
The singer’s leather jacket, near the zipper, on the chest, sports the letters SEX, in chrome or something like that, vertically. The “embed” is not particularly hard to detect, and if I remember well I had detected it before buying the album. Even though, among the various subliminal techniques used in the film The Exorcist (1973), exposed by Wilson Bryan Key in Media Sexploitation (1976), there are flash images of a ghastly face; as the filmmakers themselves explained, some people see these images consciously, others do not (in this way they intended to dismiss the idea that the technique is subliminal). It could be the same with the SEX here. If you’re not really watching the clip but rather listening to it while doing something else (as occurs with TV viewing, which is often done together with another activity), the letters on the jacket may escape your conscious attention. Be that as it may, let’s say the SEX on the jacket is not subliminal at all but obvious. This is still a case of using the written word as a way to “sex up” the show. As it seems, it is hot to sport the word SEX on one’s jacket. (Or is it cool, rather?)
To see if that would elicit reaction, I dropped a comment on YouTube in the form of a question: “Is it the word SEX I read on his jacket?” No reaction so far. I hope I haven’t spoilt the fans’ pleasure with an indiscreet remark.
Something Got Me Started
From 2:20 to 2:34 (instrumental part) one hears a faint female voice speaking in the background. However, what that voice says is not to be got at all. Here is the best example I have found so far of a subliminal technique in music/on TV: the voice can be heard, by attentive listeners, but the words never. And I bought the disc. The sequence occurs after a female voice has whispered “I really love you,” to which the singer reacts with an “Ooooh” of arousal. Both songs, by the way, make supraliminal use of whispers (“Come over here” at the beginning of Need You Tonight) – already the conscious content is highly eroticized in both cases.
Here as well I left a comment on YouTube: “From 2:20 to 2:34 one hears a faint female voice speaking, if you listen carefully. Can someone tell me what she says?” No answer so far. If you’re a sound engineer and intrigued by this too, please contact me because I am ready to pay for having these occult words deciphered.