Pleasure and Persuasion

This is the title of my dissertation that I am to write over the Summer. A whole 6000 words of it.
*Mental note – find out when this is actually due by*

Why ´Pleasure and Persuasion´you may ask?


The whole concept of the manipulation of one´s mind has always been a fascination of mine. From the propaganda during the World Wars to the diversion tactics that magicians use. No matter where we are or what we do, there is always something that is trying to change the way we think. Walking down the street, we are bombarded with posters persuading us to buy their ever-so-desirable products. Browsing through a simple magazine, we are shepherded into having a certain image of  what we should look like in our minds – many take drastic action to be that idealist image.

I could go on and on about this. The different ways in which are manipulated. I do not want to bore you. However, I digress.

I love psychology. I have watched and read untolds of psychology websites, tutorials, and I love the work of Derren Brown. It is truly an amazing skill to be able to both read, anticipate and direct a person´s way of thinking. How powerful would it be to use such power in the advertising industry (whether its commercial, Government or otherwise)? Furthermore, how frightening is it to know that there are people in this world who possess this skill and could be manipulating our choices as we speak?

This is what I am most curious about and I semi-explored this for my Foundation degree. I thought that this is what I wanted to write about for my dissertation.

However, during a discussion about my preliminary essay with my tutor Paul Renee (who is the most intelligent person I have ever met – I sat in awe for 2 hours listening to him talk about an old-fashioned biscuit tin), it came to light that even though manipulation is a bad thing, we do enjoy it.

Let´s face it. We all take great pleasure in being advertised to or persuaded. Whether it is a certain lifestyle we wish to accomplish, that must-have gadget, the perfect body, etcetera, etcetera. It could be for self-esteem, bragging rights, health… To be honest the list is endless. Most people probably haven´t even realised how much of a hedonist* for persuasion they really are.

Therefore, for my dissertation, I will be exploring why and if we do gain pleasure from persuasion, how it is used and how it is portrayed in the arts.

I have two case studies already lined up:

Sex and the City

The protagonists take great pleasure in fashion and shoes. The audience in turn take great pleasure from the show. I have all 6 seasons plus Reading Sex and the City by Kim Akass and Janet McCabe to help me with the whys and hows.

Mad Men

I´m not well informed as to what this program is about, other than it potrays advertising agencies in the 1960´s. So I will let good ol´ Wikipedia do the talking:

Mad Men depicts parts of American society and culture of the 1960s, highlighting cigarette smoking, drinking, sexism, feminism, adultery, homophobia, racism and antisemitism.[13][39] Smoking, far more common in the United States of the 1960s than it is now, is featured throughout the series; many characters can be seen smoking several times in the course of an episode.[13] In the pilot, representatives of Lucky Strike cigarettes come to Sterling Cooper looking for a new advertising campaign in the wake of a Reader’s Digest report that smoking will lead to various health issues including lung cancer.[40] The show presents a subculture in which men who are engaged or married frequently enter sexual relationships with other women. It also observes advertising as a corporate outlet for creativity for mainstream, middle-class, young, white men. Along with each of these examples, however, there are hints of the future and the radical changes of the 1960s: Betty’s anxiety, early stirrings of the feminist movement (as seen through Peggy), the Beats (that Draper discovers through Midge), and talk of smoking being harmful to health and physical appearance, which is usually dismissed or ignored. Characters also see stirrings of change in the ad industry itself, with the Volkswagen Beetle‘s “Think Small” ad campaign mentioned and dismissed by many at Sterling Cooper, although Don Draper spots the nostalgic value and market potential of renaming the Kodak ‘wheel’ slide projector as the Kodak Carousel. Themes of alienation, social mobility and ruthlessness also underpin the tone of the show.

I have the first season ready and waiting. And a 1960´s advertising book too.

I am also considering a case study on The Rocky Horror Show. After all, it´s underlying theme is that of pleasure and undoubtedly has the biggest cult fan base in the world. Myself included. For the poor souls who have not yet witnessed this delight, here is a short trailer.

I am currently reading Sex, Drugs and Chocolate by Paul Martin which is proving to be a very interesting read. A review and that to come soon.

So, as you can see, there is a lot for me to do, so I better get cracking!!

* I only know this word due to my research.