Hypnosis in popular culture

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For over a century hypnosis has been a popular theme in fiction and music; it features in film from almost their inception and more recently has been depicted in television and online media. As Harvard hypnotherapist Deirdre Barrett points out in 'Hypnosis in Popular Media,',[1] the vast majority of these depictions are negative stereotypes of either control for criminal profit and murder or as a method of seduction. Others depict hypnosis as all-powerful or even a path to supernatural powers.[2]

This article lists stories in which hypnosis is featured as an important element. Passing mentions are omitted from this list.

Written works[edit]

Film[edit]

Television[edit]

  • In the TV series Pokémon, Hypnosis is a move which causes a sleep-induced trance, causing the target to fall asleep or allowing temporary mind control or even a hallucination. Two Pokémon, Drowzee and its evolved form Hypno are known as The Hypnosis Pokémon. Drowzee's name is a reference to being tired and how its move hypnosis puts someone to sleep. Hypno always carries a pendulum, although this is more of a reference to stage hypnosis.
  • In the CBS TV series The Mentalist, the main character Patrick Jane is a former psychic and uses hypnosis on several characters. An episode of the show dealt with several hypnotists, one of whom was a murderer, who use their abilities several times during the course of the episode.
  • The Showtime Network television show Penn & Teller: Bullshit!, which features comedy duo Penn & Teller, took a skeptical look at hypnosis in one of their episodes. They took the view that the so-called hypnotic trance does not exist at all, and that all hypnosis sessions are merely voluntary shared fantasies. Penn and Teller also state that the unusual behaviors people exhibit during a hypnosis session have always been well within their reach.
  • The Paramount-syndicated television show The Montel Williams Show featured a presentation by Boris Cherniak where hypnotized subjects reacted to a variety of comical situations, while at the same time showcasing the therapeutic effects of hypnosis such as quitting smoking.
  • The popular British car show Top Gear featured one of its presenters, Richard Hammond, under the effects of hypnosis (courtesy of Paul McKenna). Once hypnotized, he underwent several mental changes. Believing he was unable to drive a car (confused when presented with an Alfa Romeo to take around the test track), and thinking that a miniature child's pedal version of a Porsche 911 was his own and a properly functional car. Even imitating its engine noise. Driving it around the studio floor, he threw a minor tantrum when Jeremy Clarkson purposely crashed into it, driving a similar pedal operated Jeep Cherokee.
  • An episode of the television series MythBusters examines hypnosis, attempting to ascertain if post-hypnotic suggestion could influence the actions of a subject against their will and/or be used to improve memory. The conclusion was that hypnosis did not alter their behaviour, but was based on unnamed author published 'self-hypnosis' CDs of indiscernible quality or expertise. However the show did in fact find hypnosis increased the ability to recall details of a staged incident during their investigation.
  • In an episode of Doug, Dr. Klotzenstein hypnotizes children into eating junk food, and Quailman must save the day.
  • In the animated TV series Futurama, a recurring character is the Hypnotoad. He is first seen in the episode The Day the Earth Stood Stupid having hypnotized the judges of a dog show, enabling him to win. In a later episode, he is shown to have his own popular television show, Everybody Loves Hypnotoad.
  • In the BBC science fiction series Doctor Who, the recurring Time Lord villain the Master will sometimes use hypnosis to bring subjects under his control. This is usually achieved by him staring the victim in the eyes and saying, "I am the Master and you will obey me!". In the 1985 story "The Mark of the Rani", the Master uses a pendulum to hypnotize a victim. The Doctor also displays proficiency in the use of hypnosis, requiring only a second glance or a mind meld like technique to put someone under his spell. Another instance is when the Silence use post-hypnotic suggestions to control the actions of the human race and coax them to launch Apollo 11, all the while hiding their own existence through those same suggestions.
  • In the anime Nodame Cantabile, a character nicknamed Nodame uses hypnosis to uncover the traumatic events Chiaki experienced on a plane when he was young, and help him overcome his fear of flying. This allows Chiaki to chase his dreams of becoming a conductor in Europe.
  • In the series X-Files, one of the main characters Fox Mulder is able to access repressed memory of his sister's abduction by aliens through regression hypnosis.
  • In the anime Bleach the main antagonist Sosuke Aizen has a sword which allows him to place anyone who looks at it into a state of perfect hypnosis, which he uses to manipulate others.
  • Derren Brown claims to use suggestion as part of his performances in Mind Control with Derren Brown. He has however stated that 'hypnotic techniques' are the result of suggestion and that in reality there is no such thing as a hypnotic trance.
  • In Ninjago a snake tribe called the Hypnobrai have the power of hypnosis.
  • Magician/mentalist The Amazing Kreskin disputes the validity of hypnosis and once offered $100,000 to anyone who could prove to his satisfaction that such a thing as "hypnotic trance" exists.[6]
  • In the television series Monk, the season 7 episode "Mr. Monk Gets Hypnotized" has a principal plot involving hypnosis. While investigating the initial disappearance of actress Sally Larkin (Dina Meyer), Adrian Monk is miserable, having not been able to enjoy a double rainbow, and his mood isn't helped when an uncharacteristically upbeat Harold Krenshaw shows up on the scene, saying that he has been cured of his OCD through hypnosis with a new therapist, named Dr. Climan (played by Richard Schiff). Monk, inspired by Harold, tries an appointment with Dr. Climan and it leaves him in a childlike mental state for most of the episode (a state that is described by Dr. Bell as being that he is living the childhood he always wanted), although it proves helpful in breaking some leads in the Sally Larkin kidnapping case. For Harold Krenshaw, however, the hypnosis backfires when it strengthens his feelings of euphoria, causing him to take off all of his clothes in public and get arrested for indecent exposure.

Online media[edit]

  • The fictional crime-fighter, The Red Panda, featured on Decoder Ring Theatre, uses a highly fictionalized form of hypnotic power.
  • The internet website YouTube has become a popular forum for learning techniques associated with both clinical hypnosis and stage hypnosis. Derren Brown, Richard Nongard, John Cerbone, Richard Bandler, Peter Powers and others have popular entertainment or instructional videos that have been seen on YouTube and this has increased the ease or popularity of learning hypnosis or viewing hypnosis as entertainment. It has also brought about the phenomena of "street" hypnosis, which is a form of impromptu hypnosis associated with busking.

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Barrett, D. L. Hypnosis in Popular Media, Chapter 5 in Barrett, D. L. (Ed.) Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy, (2 vol.): Vol. 1: History, theory and general research, Vol. 2: Hypnotherapy research and applications, NY, NY: Praeger/Greenwood, Nov. 2010.
  2. ^ Deirdre L. Barrett "Hypnosis in the Arts and Media." Presidential Address American Psychological Association Division 30 San Francisco 08/18/2007
  3. ^ Bolesław Prus, Pharaoh, p. 266.
  4. ^ Bolesław Prus, Pharaoh, pp. 577–85.
  5. ^ Bolesław Prus, Pharaoh, pp. 611–13.
  6. ^ "Kreskin Celebrates New Jersey Supreme Court Decision Re: Hypnosis". AmazingKreskin.com (archive). August 14, 2006. Archived from the original on 2006-11-06. Retrieved 2009-12-03. 

References[edit]