The Century of the Self

This is one of my favorite documentaries by Adam Curtis of the BBC. It tells the story of how the nephew of Sigmund Freud introduced principles of psychology and psychotherapy into the world of business and marketing in the early 20th century. That man’s name was Edward Bernays, the grandfather of public relations. When I watched this documentary for the first time, I started to see myself differently, because I began to realize how suggestible and malleable my own mind was. To this day, I can’t look at advertisments (or any corporate product) the same. One amazing segment is about how cake mix wasn’t selling in the 1950’s to homemakers because to them, it was cheating to make a cake with a pre-mixed powder. Instead, Bernays suggested to leave out the powdered milk and eggs from the formula, and allow these women to add their own milk and eggs, a symbolic act that affirms their femininity and motherhood. After this policy was enacted, the cake mix flew off the shelves. This is the power of the subconscious.

There are four parts to this series on Google Video, and while a little long, it is a fantastic work by Adam Curtis. Here’s Part 1 of 4.

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