Subliminal Advertising in The Secret: (Part 2) — Frightened Eyes and a Dollar Bill

August 14, 2012

Welcome to the second installment of this in-depth look at subliminal advertising and manipulative persuasion techniques in the first few minutes of The Secret.

Part 1, which should be read first to understand what’s going on, got us about 35 seconds into the film. The focus in this post is on a short burst of images of less than two seconds’ duration.

But first, let’s back up half a second or so, and look at an image I left out from the end of the last post.

It’s worth emphasizing that the film aims to make the viewer identify with Rhonda Byrne’s character. Later we will see Byrne wishing to “share this Secret with the world”. The viewer is tacitly instructed to do the same, and is immediately given an avenue to act this out: the complete film was initially released on You Tube, and viewers were invited to share it with their friends, “as a gift”. This concept is called viral marketing and the strategy for The Secret was developed by Dan Hollings

Anyway, that’s why I kept pointing out in the last post that they were careful to use visuals to get the viewer to see Byrne handling a what looks like a video as well as a book. (See above image.)

I also emphasized the “OXOX” (hugs & kisses) on the note from Byrne’s child as a theme which will recur. Remember that Byrne has just told us her father died, and a male face appeared behind her as she finds the “gift”. Look what happens to that OXOX as she opens the book – it now appears to spell out DADX. (I might be writing a bit much into that, but we’ll see more on this father theme soon.)

This is all quite subtle. But more crass, blatant and brutal subliminals are about to come. (*NB the focus here is on what these methods reveal about the intentions of the film makers. There’s little evidence for the effectiveness of such techniques.)

A kind of dream sequence follows, consisting of short flashes of images which have been selected from coming scenes. Kind of an advance preparation that lays the emotional ground work for the viewer to prime the viewer to have the desired response. Those who can identify with Byrne’s character are likely to be further drawn into the film by this bombardment of images. And those who have so far not identified with Byrne will most likely feel repulsed by the images and want to nail out quick —  filtering out all those who are unlikely to be of use in promoting it. It also polarizes viewers, socially isolating fans from critics.

The You Tube version (where these images are taken from) seems to run at about 20 frames per second. Each frame in this sequence has clearly been singled out for inclusion, and each has been photo-shopped or manipulated in some way.

The Dream/Nightmare Sequence

So, Byrne opens the book, and we dive into the page in an explosion of yellow light. We are transported back to ancient Egypt. 

This frantic young man works desperately on something as fires dance menacingly about him, advancing as in a dream. This continues for a mere couple of frames  and then in the next frame, the flames are suddenly gone.

The picture is overlaid with an image from a future sequence. A man’s head jerks upwards as if waking from a nightmare. The image is faint and blurred but distinctly flame colored.

In the frame that immediately follows,  we see a face looking fearfully over the shoulder. The eye is emphasized. We will be seeing lots of close-ups of eyes in the coming minutes. And the young Egyptian man’s face has been altered to look like a skull. Images of fear and death.

Next frame, next twentieth of a second. The scared man is gone and we are back with the Egyptian youth, who now looks like a haggard and scared old man.

Again, the next frame. The image of that youth from ancient Egypt is still visible in the background, and now he looks like flames are rising from his back. But the main image is of a sad man looking out from behind the bars of a window. Who is this guy? Clearly this is thousands of years later than the Egyptian story. And that isn’t fear in his eyes, but longing. He’s sadly looking out from behind the glass as if separated from something he loves. The green reflected in the window is exactly the same shade of the sky in the opening scene.

And look at the shadow at the bottom of the picture. It will be clearer when tilted on the side.

The image recalls Rhonda Byrne traipsing along in the opening shot, seen from behind. It’s as if she’s being watched over by someone. Watched over by the man at the window? We already had the suggestion of a male face watching over Byrne as she received the “gift”. Now we have a fatherly figure watching over her from a distance. And now the viewer also watches over Byrne’s lonely figure from this perspective too.

We see several frames of this image, so it’s an important part of this sequence. That shadow has been carefully redrawn, compared to the way it appears in the earlier shots — it is the shadow of the young Egyptian.

The sad father figure turns and begins to move away, and then suddenly a different man is behind the window….

…. Then the bars are gone and he outside, fleeing as if he has just escaped from a prison. He is scared and flames reflect off his face. This seems to be the same actor from the Egyptian sequence, establishing a continuity.

Next frame: a close up of his frightened eye.

Next frame: his eye overlaid with a five-pointed star in a circle. This Rosicrucian symbol should be immediately recognizable, especially as it featured in The da Vinci Code.

The subliminal of the circle and star is gone after one frame, and we see the terrified man again, with the fires getting closer.

Another burst of yellow light and another new scene. Knights who spend a couple of frames just standing there.

And then one is suddenly drinking from a chalice, the Rosicrucian symbol of the Feminine, and the act is sexually suggestive in this context. Subsequent scenes will be heavy with phallic symbolism. (These flashes of light will often be followed by sexual imagery.)

Enough of that! He’s gone and we get five frames of an old man in ancient Egypt, standing in the same room as the youth was in at the start of this sequence. Fires are flaring around him.

The walls glow red-hot as if he’s in an oven. All these flames are a chance for photoshopping in faces and other images. Notice the sideways view of a mysterious Jesus-like robed figure on the left.

The fires are gone suddenly, and the man is standing alone, looking defiant and not happy. We will see this pattern repeatedly in these sequences: fires approaching, engulfing and then suddenly disappearing as if they were only a bad dream. The effect is unsettling and confusing.

Then another flash of yellow light. This time there is a circle partly visible beneath it.

The next frame is a close up Rhonda Byrne’s eye. One single frame.

And then we get it. One single frame of classical subliminal advertising, as outlawed in many countries. Note how circle and the other lines recall an eye shape. And recall the man who was looking out of that window. All these subliminal images are stacking up.

And the next frame subliminally inserts the registered trade logo of The Secret. The red seal; the circle on the dollar, and Rhonda Byrne’s eye (vision/viewpoint), subliminally connected.

The stamp is lifted off, and Byrne’s eye is edited into the shot.

And now Byrne’s eye has the sun shining out of it for one frame. The last six frames shown here have all been single frames following each other in this exact sequence — barely a quarter of a second in length.

Then we see several frames of Byrne’s eyes widening as she reads.

And here we are going to have to stop this post because it’s getting too long. We didn’t even fully get through the two seconds I was hoping to manage. But this is probably a good place to cut it off for the moment anyway.  The next part of the sequence gets more intense.

Part 3 is now up.

* Text updated — H/T Bronze Dog in comments below.



  1. […] is No Excuse « Stealing Hope: James Ray’s Deadly Legacy The Secrets of The Secret: Subliminal Impact (Part 2) — Frightened Eyes and a Dollar Bill » The Secrets of The Secret: Subliminal Impact (Part 1) August 12, […]

  2. You’re right, spirituality is no excuse!

  3. By the way, I think it’s awesome that you take the time to go over this frame by frame. Gosh, I wonder if Esther Hucks knew that she was part of something so sneaky?

    Even that $20 dollar bill is creepy.

  4. Esther HICKS, that is.

  5. Hucks is a much better name for her!

    I’m sure many of them would have been interested to find out what the film makers and marketeers were up to. I recall seeing a pic of James Ray standing in front of an image of swirling flames. It was a PR shot from one of his seminars. For a while his public talks turned into big production numbers with giant screen and fancy graphics. People who knew him before he was in The Secret, said that he changed after it, quite drastically. He was always a toad, but looking more closely this horrible film, especially the images in the coming post, I can’t help but wonder if it pushed him over the edge.

    Whatever the case, this film is much worse than I ever thought it was.

  6. Subliminal messages in general are kind of a funny topic for me. Everything I’ve seen says they either don’t work, or are very weak and undirected. You could maybe make a moviegoer hungry, but you couldn’t convince him to specifically buy popcorn. They’re effectively useless but their discovery can be revealing about the sinister intents of the people behind them, assuming they’re not obvious comedy.

    Of course, they’re outlawed in places because fear of subliminal messages far exceeds their actual effectiveness. There seem to be a lot of people who need to believe that they (or at last other humans) can be easily and profoundly influenced by simple stimuli. Some want to blame outside forces for their own bad behavior and others want an excuse as to why us “sheeple” don’t see the obvious truth of their wild conspiracy theories.

  7. Thanks, Bronze Dog. I’ve added a much better link about its ineffectiveness, and added some text from it to the first post (plus an acknowledgment of your comment!)

    I should have addressed that question more fully in the first place, but finished up side stepping it for reasons of space. I was trying to focus primarily on what it reveals about the film makers. But I should have pointed out from the start that these techniques were probably only effective in making the stars of the film say a few conspiratorial oohs and aaahhhs when they heard about it.

    They also use subliminal sounds too, which is only noticeable at quarter speed — like voices whispering “the secret the secret” at certain moments.

  8. Great post, Yakaru. Is this the first time anyone’s analysed these images like that, do you think? It’s pretty neat. I think there’s a couple of Masonic compasses in there too (the book and plinth form one that the young man is pouring over, and the covers of the book in front of the older man).

    If these were just random images, you could be accused of pareidolia, the shapes-in-clouds phenomenon, but if they are deliberately crafted to have a subliminal effect, which seems very likely, the symbolism is going to be intended for the most part. It’s just possible (though unlikely) that the props department lost a sticky note, for instance, and quickly scribbled another that just happened to look like DADX rather than OXOX, but there’s no argument about a faint but geometrically perfect pentangle!

    Good point by Bronze Dog. Kind of makes the authors look twice as sucky…and nice to know I can watch it without my tin hat on.

  9. I couldn’t find anything on the internet that really looks at it at all, which surprised me. I was expecting to see some NLP freaks or marketeers crowing about how effective and magickal all these effects are, but either no one thought to look, or they looked and didn’t think they’d win any friends by exposing the ugly truth.

    As I’ve mentioned, the coming scenes turn quite nasty. I can’t imagine anyone crowing about it.

    I probably should have added a few qualifiers in there about the DADX.

    [Update: In fact, I will add an extra sentence…Done!]

    But in coming frames we’ll the Emerald Tablet from ancient Egypt, presented in a way that emphasizes a couple of X’s, and an yellow rectangle in a book which has X X a couple of times, which then turns green and becomes the Emerald Tablet. So I know they’re fooling around with this stuff.

    Thanks for reminding me of the da Vinci Code in your previous comment too. I’d forgotten that they made a sequel called, imaginatively, The Moses Code, which sunk into oblivion. They even finished up selling the domain name to an online casino.

    I’ll have to check up on some of the symbols a bit more too.

    [Comment edited 16.8.2012]

  10. For the next post, what is the the secret about “The secret about The Secret”. ? Not having seen “The Secret”, I can guess or anticipate that “The Secret” is not a secret at all. Or perhaps “The Secret” is that there is no secret.

    I possibly did not express that very well, if you are confused I apologise.

    As Donald Rumsfeld once put it, there are known unknowns and there are unknown unknowns (he was talking about the second Iraq war and WMD etc).

  11. You’re on the right track, Donald! Add in Colin Powell waving glass vials at the UN and we’re almost there.

  12. […] is No Excuse « Subliminal Advertising in The Secret: (Part 2) — Frightened Eyes and a Dollar Bill Subliminal Advertising in The Secret (Part 3) — Be positive & get burned alive […]

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