The Ludovico Technique

Taken from A Clockwork Orange, this was the name of the morally dubious "aversion therapy" undergone by the Villain Protagonist to "cure" his sadism. This procedure involved him being drugged and strapped to a chair with his eyes forced open and forced to watch hours of violent scenes while his favorite song, Ludwig van Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, played in the background. Although in the original novel and film, the end result was that Alex felt extreme discomfort whenever he thought about committing violent acts (or whenever he heard Beethoven's Ninth), the scene has been subject to much Popcultural Osmosis, often ironically as a form of Mind Rape to foster psychopathic behavior.

Unfortunately, this is very much Truth in Television: classical and operative conditioning work exactly like this.

See also Restraining Bolt.


Anime & Manga
  • A one-time character in Kinos Journey was entered into an experiment of this type after arrest for a violent crime. The researchers endeavored to remove all his greed and violent tendencies. It actually worked, surprisingly enough — but he also lost the will to work, eat, or otherwise preserve himself on a basic physical level.

  • Spoofed in Igor, where Eva is strapped down in this manner and forced to watch gory scenes in order to turn her evil, but the channel on the TV gets changed to an episode of Inside The Actors Studio, and she becomes an aspiring actress instead.
  • Similar in premise to A Clockwork Orange, the Enhanced Interrogation Techniques used on the protagonist in The Ipcress File film is pretty close to this. He is subjected to sleep deprivation and bombarded by bright lights and loud noises as part of a procedure also used to give kidnapped scientists complete amnesia of any scientific knowledge.
  • The Street Fighter film had Guile's friend Charlie transformed into the monstrous Blanka by Bison in a scene evocative of this. However, the scientist in charge, Dhalsim, snuck in good images and sounds as well, like children playing and MLK's "I Have A Dream" speech, to subvert the brainwashing.
  • Referenced in Zoolander during the brainwashing sequence.

  • The Hunger Games describes a technique called "hijacking," which involves simultaneous exposure to delirium-inducing venom and specific stimuli. In the victim's delirious mind, the stimuli come to be associated with pain and fear. And from the results we see in Peeta, if the stimuli are related to a certain person, then "hijacking" can produce a homicidal hatred of that person in the victim.

Live-Action TV
  • In an episode of Alcatraz this technique combined with electroshock therapy is used to turn a wrongly imprisoned man into a psychotic killer who keeps trying to recreate the crime he was wrongly convicted for.
  • Used in a sketch on The Armstrong and Miller Show, against someone who threatens to reveal that half-price pots aren't actually half-price because you never seem them anywhere for full-price. The images flashed up are all of pots marked "For Sale! Half Price!". He even gets to squeeze a shard of pottery in his hand until he bleeds, in reference to The Ipcress File (mentioned above), where Caine's character Harry Palmer resists a similar brain-washing session by painfully cutting his palm with a hidden object to keep himself distracted.
  • On Lost, an Other named Karl is being subjected to this kind of treatment as a punishment, in what seemed to be a direct homage, but we don't actually know what it was for.
    • It was because Ben didn't want Karl getting his daughter pregnant. Yeah... there's Overprotective Dad, and then there's Ben Linus.
      • Considering that pregnant women on the island all get sick and die, it's a bit more understandable, but still.
    • They revealed later in "A new man in charge" that the purpose of this treatment was to erase the memories of the subject, after being subjected to interrogation.
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek: The Original Series: In "Dagger of the Mind," it happens to Captain Kirk (and various other prison guinea pigs) thanks to a flashing light hypno-thingy.
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation: In "The Mind's Eye," Geordi gets captured by Romulans and brainwashed into a Manchurian Agent by being shown a series of horrifying images sent directly to his visual cortex via his VISOR neural implants.

Video Games
  • In the 2010 Back to the Future game, this happens to the alternate, Big Brother-esque Doc Brown at the hands of his wife, who's the real villain.
  • In Destroy All Humans! 2, Ponsonby threatens Crypto with this. One of the response options prompts Crypto to remind him that he has no eyelids to begin with.
  • The technique is an item in The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth. It replaces Isaac's ability to cry with a single giant tear that you can control with the arrow keys.

Western Animation
  • In Phineas and Ferb, the boys are caught by Candace for the first time ever and sentenced to this treatment. Luckily, it was All Just a Dream.
  • Happens in an episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force with Shake and Meatwad, though it's used more to teach them trivia than for brainwashing.
  • Lampshaded in Archer, where the team use a "modified Ludovico" (along with a mind-control chip) to convince Len Trexler not to marry Mallory and buy ISIS.
  • IIRC, this was used in Codename: Kids Next Door.
  • Family Guy: Brian gets sent to an obedience school in the "Once Bitten" episode and is subject to the technique with things that dogs fear, including a lady using a vacuum cleaner, a dog catcher and a picture of Michael Vick.
  • The Parent's Day episode of Invader Zim had Zim trying to do this with a wall of TVs on his robot parents so that they'd act normal. Then GIR changed the channels for the TVs...
  • This happens to the Brain in his backstory in one episode of Pinky and the Brain. It's part of the explanation for why the dark side made him forget.
  • This is what the Robot Chicken intro with the Mad Scientist placing the chicken in front of the TVs with its eyes forced open is referencing. In a later season, the chicken is doing it to the scientist instead.
  • Robotomy "Mean Green": After they find Thrasher helping out a plant, his friends and Gore-Ax use this technique to brainwash him into hating plants but since they cannot find the right video, they use one about "talking trains" instead.
    Thrasher: I'm a steam train and a really useful engine.
  • In The Simpsons episode "Dog of Death", Smithers props Santa's Little Helper's eyes open and forces him to watch a sequence of destructive scenes set to Beethoven's 9th Symphony, a la the Ludovico Technique. Santa's Little Helper transforms from playful and friendly to vicious and violent, the opposite reaction of Alex.
  • In Teen Titans, Malcolm McDowell (who portrayed Alex DeLarge in the film) voiced Mad Mod, a recurring villain who used technological illusions and brainwashing techniques. His appearances have included several nods to A Clockwork Orange, including a scene in the episode bearing his name where Starfire was attempting to resist a brainwashing that was strongly similar to the Ludovico Technique; her eyes were held open by the chair restraining her in front of a hypnotism screen.
  • In Tiny Toon Adventures, Hamton is strapped to such a machine so that he'd stop eating hamburgers. By the end of the episode he is so disgusted by the Nausea Fuel-inducing informative video about how burgers get made that he even imagines vegetables crying out to him.
  • In Heathcliff and the Catillac Cats, doctors subject Heathcliff to a nasty ride that causes him to fear all things related to fish. He then steals other foods instead, until the neighborhood demands that he be cured of this fear. (Hey, Status Quo Is God.)

Real Life
  • Psychologist John Watson (not that guy) did something similar in his Little Albert experiment. He selected a nine-month-old baby ("Little Albert") at a hospital, let him play with a white lab rat, and then made a loud sound so Albert developed a phobia of rats (and by extension, other fluffy white objects). We still don't know who "Albert" was, or whether he maintained his phobias after leaving the hospital (and if so, for how long). Today, the experiment is known as an example of classical conditioning in action - and as an example of bad scientific ethics.
  • Sadly, similar "aversive therapy" techniques are still sometimes used to "cure" homosexuality.