In 2007 Apple Inc. released the first version of their eponymous iPhone. Over the years subsequent releases of the newer models became cultural events, where consumers would stand outside in lines for hours, if not days, to become one of the very first owners of the latest offering from Apple. It didn’t matter that they had done the very same thing not more than a year or so earlier for the previous model, or that that phone was certainly still a viable device. Those people became consumed by the materialistic desire to own the latest, greatest most up to date device possible. But it goes beyond technology. The desire for branded goods, simply because they carry a name has become a part of the modern world.
This crass commercialism is just one of the myriad ways in which the influence of Freudian thought has penetrated western culture. These days we take for granted the influence of the subconscious on our actions and the deep neurosis of our sexuality (even my use of the words subconscious and neurosis here betrays the unconscious influence of Freud… And again, my use of the word “unconscious”…). In fact it could be said that the success of Freud has outgrown even his attempts at curing his patients of their various psychoses. As the film “More Alive Than Dead” demonstrates, even after his death, Freud still has an influence over us. In some ways, he is still alive.
However, in spite of the enormous influence of Freudian psychoanalysis, there are still those that disagree with him. The film More Alive than Dead introduces us to some of these figures, while mostly academics, they include artists and others. For some of them, their willingness to question the almost godlike status of Freudian psychoanalysis is tantamount to a betrayal of society itself. However, it is refreshing to hear the viewpoints of those who are willing to go as far as calling Freud out as a grandstander. The reality is that the “father of Psychoanalysis” was likely just as neurotic as he made out his patients to be, at least in his desire for the limelight. Even putting aside the argument that the whole thing is a sham, that he exploited his patients for self-promotion, if we take it as proven that Freud is correct in his theories, it wasn’t the proverbial “Eureka” moment. The development of psychoanalysis was a team effort. As the film highlights, it was probably Sigmund Freud who pushed himself forward as the public face. Perhaps he was just harnessing his theories in an early form of public relations using Freudian thought to encourage the promulgation of psychoanalysis as much as himself. And in fact, public relations and advertising today, owe as much to Freud as anyone.
At the time, it was a shocking revelation coming as it did at the tail end of the Victorian age and its extreme codes of morality. To publicly say that our actions are defined by our unconscious sexual desires was scandalous. Could it have just been a cause célèbre that tickled the fancy of the public for its outrageous (at the time) revelations? There must be something to it, otherwise the theories would not have become so prevalent in our times. Psychoanalysis has found its way into virtually every aspect of modern life. Besides the above mentioned commercialist application of “desire”, it has been co-opted as a theory to explain all sorts of things. We see it in every TV show and film where we attempt to understand the reasons behind the characters’ actions (Hitchcock for instance was an early adapter and Freudian thought is all over his films). It is in every ad campaign that uses sexuality to sell the product, and in every cry of conservative morality against such use. It is virtually impossible to avoid Freud in one way or another in the modern age. As the film so succinctly puts it, Freud really is “More Alive than Dead”.