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Century of Self; there is a Policeman inside all our heads: he must be destroyed by Curtis, Adam

This documentary is part three of the BBC documentary series The century of the self and explores how in the 1960s, a radical group of psychotherapists challenged the influence of Freudian theories on the unconscious in America. They were inspired by Wilhelm Reich, a former pupil of Freud, who believed that the inner-self should not be repressed but encouraged to express itself. The resulting socio-political movement sought to create a new kind of citizen free of psychological conformity.

Historical background
By the late 1950s, psychoanalysts had become deeply involved in driving consumerism in America. Influenced by the radical ideas of Reich, self-help movements gave rise to the expressive self of the 1960s: the Me Generation. American corporations soon realized that this new self was not a threat but their greatest opportunity. It was in their interest to encourage people to feel they were unique individuals and then sell them ways to express that individuality. Once again they turned to techniques developed by Freudian psychoanalysts.

Social interest
Before the 1960s, most people defined themselves in the way the belonged to a certain group of individuals with whom their shared common values. After various social and cultural developments in the 1960s, many individuals would define themselves in the way they differed from others. These differences in lifestyle went across boundaries of age and political affiliation, but shared a common sense of perceived individual uniqueness which would eventually be incorporated in advertising and political campaigning.

The documentary points out how the values of social transformation of the self-help movements in the 1960s were eventually encapsulated in commercial exploitation and political manipulation. The generation who had once rebelled against the conformity imposed by consumerism and politics, now embraced it because it helped them to be themselves.

The century of the self
The century of the self is a four part BBC television documentary series written and produced by British television producer and documentary filmmaker Adam Curtis. The series covers the different ways in which Sigmund Freud's theories and those of his critics about the unconscious part of human psyche have been used to further both commercial and political goals, focusing on the United States and Great Britain.

About the filmmaker
Adam Curtis is a renowned British television producer and documentary filmmaker noted for making programmes which often make far reaching claims on grand subjects. The extent of his subject matter and his claims to the undisputable truth of his opinion often give rise to controversy. However, his documentaries always expound clear views on the subject which are structurally well argued. Curtis is known for his extensive use of archival footage and the narration his own documentaries.

Best documentary series, Broadcast awards. Historical film of the year, Longman/History today awards. Nominated for: Best documentary, Royal television society. Best documentary, Indie awards. Best documentary, Grierson documentary awards. Best documentary, William Coupan Memorial award.

Curtis, Adam
Copyright Holder
58 min.
Year of release

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