The Ludovico technique is a fictional aversion therapy from the novel A Clockwork Orange administered by a "Dr. Brodsky" at the Ludovico medical facility, with the approval of the UK Minister of the Interior. It involved forcing a patient to watch, through the use of specula to hold the eyes open, violent images for long periods, while under the effect of a nausea-, paralysis-, and fear-inducing drug. The aim of the therapy was to condition the patient to experience severe nausea when experiencing or even thinking about violence, thus creating an aversion to violent behaviour.
The therapy renders the protagonist of the novel, Alex, incapable of violence even in self-defense, and unable to touch a naked woman or think about having sexual intercourse. In the original novel, Alex is accidentally conditioned against all classical music due to the background score of the films. In the 1971 film, he is conditioned only against Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. "Ludovico" is the Italian equivalent of the German name "Ludwig"; it is possible the name was selected for this reason.
Film critic Thomas Nelson has compared this brainwashing technique with the recruit training in Kubrick's later film Full Metal Jacket. He notes that the latter produces a contrasting effect when one of the recruits (Leonard Lawrence) becomes conditioned, during boot camp training, to become a violent killing machine who associates his sexuality with his rifle.
In popular culture
The reference from A Clockwork Orange is shown in the Simpsons episode, "Dog of Death", when the family dog Santa's Little Helper runs away from home and is soon trained by Mr. Burns to become a vicious guard dog by being forced to watch a film featuring abuse to dogs while listening to Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.
A second reference to the Ludovico technique in The Simpsons appears in the "Treehouse of Horror XXV" episode, where Moe's eyes are forced open with specula so he could watch Fox, part of a series of jokes about the Fox network.
In the "Phineas and Ferb" episode "Phineas and Ferb Get Busted!", the 2 namesake characters are shown experiencing the technique, this version forcing them to ignore their natural creativity. Their friend Baljeet is also seen going through this, but doesn't seem to care, as he is seen eating popcorn and claiming "the book was so much better."
In the opening intro to Robot Chicken, the mad scientists uses this technique on the robotic chicken, forcing it to watch a wall of television sets showing various clips of the cartoon show.
Another reference was in the "Family Guy" episode "Once Bitten", Brian is seen experiencing this, showing things dogs would fear (including a picture of Michael Vick) to successfully force him into being more submissive.
Another reference from A Clockwork Orange is shown in the Archer episode, "A Going Concern" when Dr. Krieger, at Archer's request, uses a Modified Ludovico to brainwash Len Trexler as a measure to prevent Mallory from selling ISIS to ODIN.
Yet another reference exists in the video game The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth which contains an item called The Ludovico Technique and depicts Isaac as wearing a specula similar to the one used in the film adaptation of A Clockwork Orange.
- A Clockwork Orange. Sparknotes.
Dr. Brodsky. The psychologist in charge of conditioning Alex using Ludovico's Technique. Brodsky knows nothing about music, using it only as an ... Minister of the Interior The man who orders doctors to use Ludovico's Technique on Alex. ...
- Nelson, Thomas (2000). Kubrick, inside a Film Artist's Maze. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. p. 238. ISBN 0-253-21390-8.