The entertainment industry has always used the visual arts for more than entertainment, including propaganda and other forms of subliminal messaging for the purposes of shaping perceptions and moulding opinions.
In fact, it goes way further back than Hollywood.
Thousands of years, in fact.
For example, ancient Greek art and, more specifically, their decorative pottery.
Many images painted on pots were meant to convey political or social messages. Some pots depict Greeks fighting against barbarians, or Athenians defeating their enemies in battle. These visuals were designed to inspire patriotic feelings among the Greeks and to emphasise the strength and superiority of Greek culture.
In Greek theatre, propaganda was also common.
Many of the plays written during this time period were intended to shape the opinions and beliefs of the audience.
In the modern era, nothing has changed.
Consider Fight Club, for example. This movie famously incorporates subliminal messaging as part of the plot, with single frames of Tyler Durden inserted into the movie before the character is formally introduced. There’s also a notorious single frame flash of an explicit image near the end of the film.
In The Exorcist, director William Friedkin used subliminal images to increase the terror of certain scenes. In some moments of intense fear or demonic presence, images of a white-faced demon (known as Captain Howdy) flash for fractions of a second.
Jay Dyer is one of my favourite pop culture critics.
His deep analysis of Hollywood, via his website and books, seamlessly intertwines psychological warfare with geopolitics and culture.
Entertainment is integral to living a happy life, but it can also be dangerous in that our thoughts can be manipulated and our opinions can be shaped subconsciously.