They cured obesity in 1987 and you fools missed it. I’m, of course, talking about Lose Weight Now: VIDEO HYPNOSIS WITH SUBLIMINALS, a VHS tape from the series Dick Sutphen’s Life-Changing VIDEO HYPNOSIS. For $19.95, viewers could allow Dick into their brain to reprogram them to be thinner in a half hour. It was never harder than that, yet here we are 33 years later inventing larger and larger sizes of pizza to satisfy you. Giant? Screaming Cowboy Giant? Life Raft Party Pie? We Let You Eat The Delivery Car? Come the fuck on, people. Let Dick Sutphen’s bewitching video cassette into your mind so he can help you replace these pizza names with Dick.
The cover Dick chose seems to be a human butt floating in a dream. I like this because it seems like something a sarcastic person would say if someone asked, “Does anyone have any ideas for the cover of this hypnosis weight loss tape?”
The copy on the box is less elegant. The back has 400 words about what hypnosis is, what subliminal messages are, a full transcription of the video itself, and a description of weight loss. Its stated goal is reprogramming your mind to lose weight which sounds unlikely, so the most important thing to establish to your audience is that you’re not fucking crazy. This does not do that. I’m not even sure what the title of this goddamn thing is. Going by AP Stylebook, Dick technically named this: “VIDEO HYPNOSIS Plus Audio & Video Subliminal Suggestions Lose Weight Now Generates an Eyes-Open Altered State of Consciousness. Two Kinds of Hypnosis and Two Kinds of Subliminal Programming Make This The Most Powerful Self-Help Programming In The World.” If it takes you that long to name and 40 times longer to explain an idea no more complicated than “weight loss hypnosis,” my first instinct is to not trust you to rewire my brain.
According to the sprawling wall of text on the back, the viewer will be hypnotized two different ways. One is with mesmerizing instructions and swirling colors. The other is with quick flashes of text commands. And even assuming these techniques are a real thing, I worry Dick doesn’t have the brevity required for subliminal commands. For instance, if he wanted you to “KIDNAP THE MAYOR” he would flash the words “My Trusted Love Companion Has Betrayed Me and Left Me for the Corrupt Mayor, Three Psychic Curses Upon His Penis, Which is to Say I’d Appreciate It if By Force You Brought Him to Me Using Ropes, Alive (Ropes are Like Rocks But Softer and Longer).” Jesus, am I still talking about just the box? I think Dick might already be in my head.
Nothing has ever been as exactly as you expect it as this VHS tape. It is some spiraling stars and shapes with Dick, an untalented voice actor, doing a bland take on psychotherapist cliches. And in true Dick fashion, he opens with several minutes of unnecessary explanation of how the fuck to watch TV. Want to hear his helpful tips! Look at the screen and “feel as you normally do when watching television.” It seems like there can’t possibly be more, but there is. He explains how TV watchers have clear minds fully open to alpha waves and subliminal messages, which is absurd because in 1987 TV watchers had frantic minds wondering what trouble Alf would find himself in next.
I suppose there’s no way to get around this since hypnosis is an exact science, but the first ten minutes of VIDEO HYPNOSIS Plus Audio & Video Subliminal Suggestions Lose Weight Now Generates an Eyes-Open Altered State of Consciousness. Two Kinds of Hypnosis and Two Kinds of Subliminal Programming Make This The Most Powerful Self-Help Programming In The World., which I’ll abbreviate to VHPA&VSSLWNGAE-OASOC.TKOHATKOSPMTTMPS-HPITW. from now on, is nothing more than “relaxing” breathing instructions. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen too many Super Friends fall prey to this, but when I hear a very slow, affected voice commanding me to obey, my first instinct is to attack before they can raise their psychic shields. It’s why I’ve never woken up in the middle of a bank robbery holding bags of cash while my eleven partners whisper, “One of us has left the hive. Find him.”
After 10 minutes of this, I’m starting to worry the pounds might come off too fast. I can’t wait to tell people the secret to weight loss was right there in front of us for 33 years– telling your TV to moan about relaxing until your brain is stupid enough to learn the dangers of food. It makes me wonder if Dick ever got bitter after he saw our sloshing avalanche into a national obesity crisis. Or did he feel responsible? Did he think, “This is all my fault. I should have made the tape that could have fixed all this a more inviting $14.95 (Higher in Canada).”
Thanks to the power of technology and my immunity to, kidnap the mayor, hypnotism, I was able to capture one of the video’s subliminal messages. In VCR Settings font it says “YOU EAT SMALLER PORTIONS AT MEALS” That’s it? Why not hypnotize me into hating ham? Or liking the taste of amphetamines? This is such a waste of unlikely sorcery. One other message is “YOU NOW CONTROL YOUR WEIGHT,” which seems like the only one I’d need. It also commands “YOU QUIT ALL SNACKING,” but you don’t need a degree in monkey paw studies to see how reprogramming a brain to be incapable of a common, ill-defined thing could lead to danger. If I’m on a hike do I have to bring candles and place settings to eat a granola bar? If it’s 3pm do I need a psychic notary to declare a sandwich a “late lunch?” Is anyone else’s mind screaming? Excuse me, is anyone else’s mind screaming, mind screaming?
Most of the messages are basic diet advice reconditioned for hypnotic commands, and when I say basic it seems virtually impossible to say anything dumber about dieting. If you grunted angrily at a plate of nachos any nutrition scientist would say, “That is the exact level of fitness expertise demonstrated in the hit hypnosis film, VHPA&VSSLWNGAE-OASOC.TKOHATKOSPMTTMPS-HPITW..
Despite owning probably more books and tapes on hypnotic suggestion than any living person, I wouldn’t say it’s my area of expertise. That being said, I don’t think this is good hypnosis. Dick jumps between first and second person a lot, which seem like big differences when your subconscious is planning a mayor kidnapping, excuse me, weight loss, snackless weight loss. He also seems to have no care for keeping a steady pace or tone. He’ll often stop and say, “That’s right!” as if he just blew the viewer’s mind with his idea of wishing really hard to be thin. And one of his subliminal commands is “THIN IS YOUR KEY WORD FOR CONDITIONED RESPONSE.” What the shit does that mean, Dick? That is merely the promise of future menace. What is going to happen to me when I am commanded to “thin,” Dick? And don’t say kidnap the mayor because, how did I get here, the mayor is already in my trunk! I am very thin and the mayor is in my trunk!