Esoteric Dissertations from a One-Track Mind

October 6, 2007

The Century of the Self Part 2: Engineering Consent

Filed under: capitalism, culture, history, media — Tags: — codesmithy @ 8:12 am

The BBC documentary “The Century of the Self” is quickly convincing me that it might be the best documentary ever made.  It connects so many ideas from different areas into an amazing narrative that helps one understand the powerful preconditions and forces that shape our lives.

One example of this was Betty Crocker cake mixes.  I have long known the story of about how they didn’t sell as well as Betty Crocker thought they should, the resulting focus group session and figuring out that women felt guilty baking cakes because they didn’t feel they were participating enough, hence the addition of the egg.  On the surface that is all well and good.  The choice of the egg comes off as arbitrary.  It could have been butter.  It could have been milk.  One might figure that somehow the egg was easier for some technical reason.   However, the choice of the egg is not arbitrary and probably not technical and works on a much deeper level because the egg turns out to be highly Freudian.

Ernest Dichter realized that women were baking these cakes for their husbands and quite intentional tries to parallel the baking of cake with a subconscious narrative of sexual reproduction.  Adding the chicken’s egg is supposed to parallel the knowledge that a women contributes an egg the reproductive process.  The oven parallels the womb.  The cooking time is the pregnancy.  The cake that comes out the other end that the family enjoys parallels the child.  The metaphor seems to abruptly end when one actually consumes the cake.  Although, possibly not, as the story of Saturn eating his children to prevent his downfall is ancient and might speak to something on a subconscious level also (Goya’s rendition of it just so happens to be my favorite painting).

How the documentary is able to connect consumerism, American foreign policy, conformity and use of shock explains some of the most powerful forces of the 20th century and even what is going on today, from the basis of current torture techniques which are results of CIA brainwashing research to how government institutions manufacture consent among the population and how corporations market products to people.  It is truly an astounding feat.

I’ll go over the next two parts this weekend.  A documentary this good deserves to be savored.


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