Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Subliminal Steps Backwards...

Subliminal advertising, or subliminal shepherding, as it sometimes is. We've all been subjected to it when we go to the movies... you want something specific to eat or drink, you want a specific brand or style of shoes or handbag. See a movie that makes you feel good, sad, angry, and we seem to emulate the behavior.

Product placement, as well as significant methods of mass propaganda  in the entertainment industry has been around since the early days of moving picture media. Subtle, but effective. Sometimes, we wouldn't even know that these messages were being streamed into our subconscious.

While other times, we catch a glimpse of the image, a behavior, or an emotion and it truly affects our direction.

Safe to say that we are steered, guided if you will, by things we see on television and in movies. A quick reference from Wikipedia states that subliminal stimuli was introduced in 1895, the concept became controversial as "subliminal messages" in 1957 when marketing practitioners claimed its potential use in persuasion. An excerpt from a later wiki passage is a bit alarming as reference to  perception without awareness, or unconscious perception. We do things without even thinking about it or realizing the behavior.

I refer to this and start this posting with the reference to this type of stimuli that we can all relate to. But what about those stimuli that we don't recognize? Those instances of unconscious perception?

I recently witnessed the effects of this psychological effect on us as human beings, and it's not always  pretty. In fact, this instance saddened me. Saddened me to the point that I wanted to write about it here. I hope my personal observations are not offensive to any of my readers.

This past summer I saw the trailer commercials for a movie that I thought would be interesting; funny, a feel-good movie. The movie I speak of is The Help, based on a novel by Katheryn Stockett.

I called a dear friend for a long over-due lunch and movie date. We shared the latest of our lives over burgers and diet coke. Laughed and delighted in the fact that although we had not seen each other in almost two years, we picked right up where we had left off; a quality, she shared with me later, is not often found in this day and age.  Female camaraderie is a beautiful thing and is to be celebrated, cherished.

And that female camaraderie  is a strong foundation from which this movie is built. But along the journey of these culturally diverse, yet affixed women, we are re-educated on the cruel, harsh realities of what life what like prior to the Civil Rights Movement  in the early 1960's.

Women and men of color were treated like little more than property and held a lower status than that of the domesticated dog. What I thought was going to be a movie full of smart and sassy moments reminiscent of Florence from the Jefferson's turned out to be a lesson in humanity, humility, and empathy.

One of the key points driven home in this movie is the deprivation of basic human needs as simple as utilizing the restroom. People of color were not allowed to use the restrooms not only in public, but in the very establishments and homes they cleaned and cared for. Some were subjected to painful instances of not being able to relieve themselves while others were to be "thankful" that their employers or town officials built them separate restrooms that make today's port-a-potties seem luxurious.

The struggle for bathroom equality was a key point throughout the movie, as well as other atrocities of the time. Injustices, heartbreak, fear.

The movie did offer plenty of  moments of that Florence-esque humor I was expecting. Not many of us will go though life not laughing at a "Two-Slice Hilly" reference.I could see Florence doing something like that to Mr. Jefferson.

There were the touching moments that just made you yearn to reach out and hug the women on the screen.

"You is kind. You is smart. You is important." 

As well as those moments that made you think; that made you cry. All-in-all it was a wonderful movie and I was happy for the injection of empathy; appreciation for my fellow man and those who strive for equality in any form or fashion.

As the credits began to roll, my friend excused herself to the restroom. I assured her that I would catch up.  I exited the theater seating,  pleased in our progress as the human race, pleased that I walked alongside my fellow woman, white and black alike; equal.

I waited outside the restroom not wanting to get caught in the fray of jockeying for a stall with all the women  who had exited that movie. It didn't take long for me to notice a strange instance unfolding right before my very eyes.

There were two entrances into the Ladies Room.

Two separate doors. Equal. No significant signage or indication that there was a difference.
Yet as every, and I mean EVERY, woman approached those doors, they stalled and seemed to become perplexed.

I watched in sadness as one by one, the white women chose one door and the black women chose the other. They had all just left a movie educating us in the woes of human injustice and the fight to end segregation, yet they had succumbed to the unconscious perception left in their minds and had subconsciously segregated themselves.

My spirit sunk a little as I realized the sadness of this event and I could imagine those Civil Rights icons,  such as Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks, crying right along with me.

No comments:

Post a Comment