Manchurian Candidate Book Review


“The Manchurian Candidate” is a masterpiece of suspense and political satire. With its plot heavily rooted in the concept of mind control, it has often been used as a reference point in discussions about subliminal messaging and its implications for society. This article will dissect the film’s narrative and illustrate its connections to real-world psychological theories and phenomena.

Brief Overview of “The Manchurian Candidate”

“The Manchurian Candidate” was initially a novel by Richard Condon, which was later adapted into two films: the original in 1962 directed by John Frankenheimer and a 2004 remake directed by Jonathan Demme. The story revolves around a former Korean War POW who, upon returning to the United States, is plagued by nightmares of his captivity. Unbeknownst to him, he’s been programmed to become a political assassin through a Soviet-Chinese conspiracy. The narrative provides a chilling representation of brainwashing techniques and how they can be used to manipulate individuals and control their actions.

The Depiction of Brainwashing

1. The Art of Mind Control

In the film, Sgt. Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey in 1962 and Liev Schreiber in 2004) is captured by a communist regime during the Korean War and undergoes a process of brainwashing. This process renders him susceptible to hypnotic suggestion, with specific triggers designed to activate his conditioning and compel him to carry out assigned tasks – including assassination. The methods used to condition Shaw exemplify classic brainwashing techniques: isolation, monotony, induced exhaustion, and repeated exposure to specific stimuli or messages.

2. Subliminal Messaging and Symbolism

The Manchurian Candidate masterfully uses subliminal messaging and symbolism. The queen of diamonds playing card, for example, is the trigger that sets off Shaw’s brainwashed state. This object becomes a symbol of mind control in the film, an unseen string that manipulates the puppet. In real life, the concept of subliminal messaging posits that people can be influenced by information they’re not consciously aware of, subtly shifting their attitudes or behaviors. Although its efficacy remains debated, its theoretical similarities to the film’s brainwashing techniques are hard to ignore.

Parallels with Real-World Techniques

1. Psychological Manipulation and Propaganda

The narrative of “The Manchurian Candidate” mirrors techniques often used in propaganda, where repetitive exposure to certain ideologies aims to influence public opinion and behavior. The film offers a heightened, dramatized interpretation of this, showing the extreme results of unchecked psychological manipulation.

2. Media and Advertising

Subliminal messages have also been attributed to advertising tactics, where marketers supposedly insert hidden messages into ads to influence consumer behavior. While there’s no definitive proof of widespread use or effectiveness, the film’s concept shares a clear parallel with this alleged practice, providing a thought-provoking commentary on the power of subconscious influence.

Final Thought

“The Manchurian Candidate” uses the concept of mind control not only to drive its thrilling plot but also to pose significant questions about societal structures and the human mind. Its eerie depiction of brainwashing reflects genuine fears about the capacity for manipulation in politics, media, and beyond. While the film presents an exaggerated version of these concepts, it opens the door for critical discussions on the extent to which our thoughts and actions are truly our own.

As we continue to unravel the mysteries of the human mind, “The Manchurian Candidate” serves as a cautionary tale, urging us to remain vigilant about the information we consume and the potential influences it may bear on our subconscious. As the line between fact and fiction becomes increasingly blurred in today’s media-saturated world, the film’s message feels more relevant than ever.

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