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Subliminal Seduction

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I knew it.
John: What's Ozzy trying to say there?
Nicky: John, absolutely nothing. The Blizzard always came straight with his messages. But wrap your minds around this, gentlemen...
Mr. Beefy: Oh, no... [chuckles]
Nicky: Chicago... [plays the record normally, up to a certain point, where he starts spinning the record backwards]
Demonic Voice: I command you in the name of Lucifer to spread the blood of the innocent!
Peter: Oh my God, Chicago kicks ass!

Back in the early days of recorded media, a scourge was alleged to be making its way through movie theaters. Researchers claimed to have proof that a visual image, spliced into the film for an undetectable fraction of a second, would nevertheless lodge itself into the viewer's mind. The victims, told for instance "You're hungry", would then be compelled to go out and buy more popcorn. This quickly expanded in the popular imagination to "compelled to do whatever they tell you to," no matter how bizarre or expensive the compulsion, viewers wouldn't be able to help themselves.

In the 1960s and 1970s, as TV sets became more prevalent, this was naturally extrapolated out to TV broadcasts, and assumed to be a routine element of commercials. Teachers on sitcoms would warn their students about the dangers of the practice; of course, the teenagers would then immediately try using it to control their classmates. Hilarity Ensues. Eventually the U.S. Congress actually proposed laws forbidding the practice, although they were never actually enacted.

Similar hooplah arose surrounding "backmasking", the practice of deliberately inserting messages into audio recordings that only make sense when the recording is played backward (a.k.a. Sdrawkcab Speech) ideal way to hide the real message of the song, it was believed. Throughout the '60s and '70s, rock bands ranging from Led Zeppelin to the Eagles to The Beatles were accused of placing subliminal audio tracks into their music in order to praise Satan, corrupt the innocent, confess the death of a bandmember, whatever. All parents and teachers knew was, it was bad.

The only problem is, subliminal advertising doesn't really work.

The initial claims have long since been discredited. Later, better-documented studies have revealed that there is a slight psychological effect, but the results are so minimal that existing preferences will completely overwhelm it. As for backmasking, it has a lot to do with the power of suggestion; the gist of it is that you're more likely to hear stuff like, say, "Here's to my sweet Satan" when you play "Stairway to Heaven" backwards, if you're looking for it. And forget about that having any subliminal effect; if you played an intentionally-hidden message backwards you'd just hear the words clearly, and if you play it forwards the mind can't decipher the gibberish. This shouldn't be surprising, seeing as how most listeners will completely miss even the more overt messages of a song.

Subliminal Seduction combines the worst aspects of a Discredited Trope and a Dead Horse Trope. The concept is to all practical purposes dead, but lives on in the creative imagination. Audiences see it so often that they still assume it must be real.

An example of Everyone Is Satan in Hell In-Universe.

The trope gets its name from the 1973 book Subliminal Seduction; Ad Media's Manipulation of a Not So Innocent America by Wilson Bryan Key. Key claimed that his research had revealed a massive conspiracy among American advertising agencies to lace both products and photographic images used in ads with subliminal references to sex, and proceeded to show every example he could find. While very popular at the time, his conclusions were controversial and have long been challenged. Key's evidence was at best questionable — he claimed that every Ritz cracker has the word "sex" embedded on it 12 times, to cite one case — and many of his photographic examples can be interpreted as wishful thinking or paraeidolia.

Subliminal Advertising is what happens when marketers try to use subliminal messages to sell products anyway, either seriously or as a parody.


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  • Tongue in cheek, the flash at the end of this Guinness ad.
  • The maker of Sprite soda has been parodying this trope on and off for many years. In one memorable example, it was suggested that anyone who saw the image of a naked woman in ice cubes probably needed a girlfriend. Then they turned around and started their "Sublymonal Advertising" campaign, with their slogan "Obey Your Thirst" reduced to the Orwellian "Obey". They also get exceedingly obvious with the campaign, such as a small sign on movie theatre floors that says "don't look up," and a larger sign above it that says "sublymonal advertising complete"
  • An ad for Tesco Compare parodied it. The ad featured Paul Daniels encouraging viewers to think of an insurance comparison site while various blatant logos for the site showed up behind him.
  • A year 2000 advertisement for the Republican party had a bunch of negative terms for the Democratic party, such as "BureaucRATS", zoomed in at varying parts of the screen. Of course, the Bureauc- part cut off. It is actually in response to this that The Simpsons did there "subliminAL messaGOREs" chalkboard gag as seen later in the page.
  • Parodied in a Comedy Central TV spot. The ad showed a series of Christmas-themed children's drawings while Penn Gilette narrated about how people exploit Christmas for commercial gain, while the message "WATCH COMEDY CENTRAL ALL THE TIME" appears for a split second. Another ad features Moral Guardians claiming that South Park spreads Satanic messages. To prove this, they play a clip of Kenny saying something that we can't hear from under his coat, and then play it backwards to reveal clear, deep voice saying "I am Satan! Love me!".
  • Many have claimed to see the figure of a man with an erection in the front leg and shoulder of the camel depicted on a pack of Camel cigarettes. Snopes analyzes this.

    Anime & Manga 
  • The first ending theme of Dragon Ball Z includes a particularly funny backwards line in the beginning of the song where a person thanks the composers for their hard work while arranging the song.
  • In Tokyo Mew Mew a la mode, the Saint Rose Crusaders use subliminal messages on TV and in random text messages to turn the public against the heroes.
  • Pokémon: The Series: In the English dub of "The Whistle Stop", there's a secret message in James' muffled shouting; played backwards, it's Eric Stuart shouting "Leo Burnett and 4Kids are the devil!" Eventually 4Kids admitted to, ironically, creating the Leo Burnett part as a jokey shout-out to his use of subliminal messaging. The 4Kids part was a more straightforward Take That!; Eric Stuart had just been cheated out of advertising royalties.
  • The original Yu-Gi-Oh! manga used this during the first Yugi-Pegasus duel (which, remember, happened through a VHS tape), with Pegasus splicing in split-second frames of monsters he wanted Yugi to play so he could "psychically predict" Yugi's moves. However, Pegasus fully expected Yugi to catch on and call it out (which he does); the real purpose was to make Yugi drop his guard, because Pegasus really does have psychic powers.note 
  • Done in the opening of Higurashi: When They Cry. The first opening reversed sounds an awful lot like the second opening. The second opening returns the favor. The repeated phrases mean "You cannot escape."
  • Used in episodes 8-10 of Dog & Scissors. Kirihime keeps getting attacked by random people, though she easily defeats them all. Hami reveals in episode 10 that she hid a subliminal message in her book to attack the long haired lady with scissors, hence why she kept getting targeted. She does note that it doesn't work on everyone, such as Sakura, or her father. Kirihime then uses this on Kazuhito for comedic effect. After reading her latest work, his front paws start moving on their own towards her, despite his attempt to resist it.
  • Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro: The Electronic Drug is an visual and audio footage released online by HAL that stimulates the brain functions of the viewer, causing them to pursues whatever they want right now, consequences be damned. It also pushes them to perform super human stunts due to their great desire to do a certain action. Like a real life drug, it also makes the viewer develop an addiction that causes them to watch the drug over and over again until they fall completely under the control of HAL.Later, Yuya Higuchi, having fallen under the control of HAL, created a stronger, faster-acting version of the drug that guaranteed mind control in a few views.

    Comic Books 
  • In Cherry Comics, Lola's plan for seducing the hot science teacher involved using a subliminal seduction tape.
  • In-universe example in Batman: Hush:
    • The reason Bruce thought of Tommy Elliot when he needed surgery, even though he hadn't seen him in years, was because of a hidden program in the Batcomputer which randomly flashed Tommy's image every time he used it.
    • As set-up for the Batman RIP Arc, the phrase "Zur-En-Arrh" shows up occasionally as background graffiti. During the arc, it turns out that Batman has been psychologically conditioned not to be able to see it, and by seeing it, is being primed for Dr. Hurt's attack on his psyche.
  • In Grendel, part of Orion Assante's scheme to get other countries to join his One World Order is subliminal messages in his propaganda broadcasts.
  • In the Donald Duck story "Paperino e la voglia irresistibile", Donald falls prey to Uncle Scrooge's prototype subliminal advertising. The advert causes him to become single-mindedly obsessed with getting a bottle of drink, with blatant disregard for any property damage he might incur on his way. Donald's nephews turn the tables on Scrooge by showing him a prepared tape which convinces him to give them a thousand dollars each, thus giving him a lesson.

    Films — Animated 
  • In the middle of the BLAM-ish hallucination sequence in Beavis and Butt-Head Do America, Beavis briefly starts talking backwards. When reversed, it turns out he's actually saying "I recommend that everyone go to college and study hard".

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Josie and the Pussycats (2001) is the best film EVER!!! (jointhearmy)
  • Penn & Teller parodied this trope in Cruel Tricks for Dear Friends segment Demon from Hell. You can find it here.
  • Fight Club:
    • Tyler Durden placed subliminal porn images into family films, strictly for his own amusement.
    • Also near the beginning of the movie, Brad Pitt's Tyler is spliced into single frames several times before he is officially introduced.
  • Staying through the credits for Cloverfield gets you a few final seconds of audio, with the main characters who survived the movie still begging for help, followed by a quick burst of backmask. Dedicated viewers managed to record the sound and play it backwards within a day of the film's release. The final message of the movie? "It's still alive!" Similarly there is a still image from the original King Kong (1933) flashed briefly during the helicopter scene. For the record, Word of God says the monster is dead.
  • Parodied in Little Nicky (quoted above), where the title character reveals a Satanic backwards message on a song by the soft-rock band Chicago. On the other hand, Ozzy Osbourne "always came straight with his messages".
  • In John Carpenter's They Live!, aliens control the world through subliminal messaging (backed by Applied Phlebotinum) hidden in billboards, magazines, and everywhere else.
  • Used as a bit of a plot point in Spy Kids. Juni's favorite show employs several characters in costume speaking gibberish, but when the tape of the show is played backwards you can clearly hear their cries for help. In this case, they're using it to hide a secret message for those inclined to look for it, rather than influence anyone subliminally.
  • Trick or Treat:
    • The horror movie takes the urban legend about Satanic messages hidden in music and runs with it. The movie is about a heavy metal star who was into black magic (and died in the middle of a magical ritual) who put a backmasked summoning spell on his next-to-be-released album. The hero, a put-upon headbanger (played by the guy who played Skippy in Family Ties), gets the only prerelease copy of the album. Playing the album backward in short bursts gives the nerd headbanger advice for defeating the jocks and preps at his school who torment him, but the album keeps wanting to be played backwards in its entirety — and when he does, the dead metal star is summoned in demon form from Skippy's stereo speakers and runs amok. The plot is a little tongue in cheek rather than pure New Media Are Evil — the radio DJ is played by Gene Simmons and Ozzy Osbourne cameos as an anti-metal evangelist.
    • The hero's radio DJ friend discourages a young heavy metal fan from trying to hear backmasked lyrics on records. Why? Because he insists that it's nothing more than a scam by record company executives to make kids ruin their albums playing them backwards, so they'll have to buy more. (This would've been a subversion of the trope, had the records in question not really contained hidden incantations invoking demonic forces.)
  • The Exorcist has short flashes of a demonic face during some scene changes.
  • In the 2002 American adaptation of The Ring, the corpses of Samara's victims are shown for a split second at two points in the movie.
  • The "Fruity Oaty Bars" scene from Serenity (2005), where River gets brainwashed by an ad on TV whose subliminal messages turn out to contain her Trigger Phrase, leading her to start a Bar Brawl and single-handedly knock out over a dozen people before her brother Simon reads off another trigger phrase to put her to sleep.

  • A Twitter joke (attributed to Dave Grohl): "If you play a Nickelback song backward, you'll hear messages from the Devil. Even worse, if you play it forward, you'll hear Nickelback."
  • Similarly, this joke regarding Windows installation disks:
    Person 1: You know, I hear if you put in a Windows disk in your drive upside-down, it plays a Satanic message.
    Person 2: That's nothing. If you put it in right-side up, it installs Windows!
  • George Carlin:
    • Parodied in the liner notes for the 1990 album Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics:
    "This recording contains no backmasking or subliminal suggestions. All messages from the Devil are recorded clearly and audibly in standard American English."
    • Joked in his disc jockey parody bits, referring to (for example) "the new John Lennon single which, if played backwards at slow speed, screws up your needle."

  • This is the preferred method of fraud university hired therapist Allie Parker's "psychological profiling" in Ray P.Muniz's Sci-Fi novel The Impairment. To briefly elaborate instead of assisting her patients and helping them overcome their problems, she makes them devote their every day lives to the problems by a manner of hypnosis induced both by a "trigger phrase" or words and an item of value or solace to them, all to slowly drive them to join up with her cohorts. She does this to both main protagonist Kyle Griffin and his friend Mark Rivera.
  • In Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, children are fed subliminal messages during sleep that are meant to reconcile them to their social class. Beta children, for instance, are fed messages like "I'm so glad I'm a Beta. Being an Alpha would be ever so hard, and I'm not stupid like a Gamma or a Delta."
  • Dean Koontz's horror novel Night Chills has the villains testing their subliminal-message technology on a small, isolated town.
  • In the Discworld book Moving Pictures, awkward entrepreneur Cut-me-own-Throat Dibbler figures that if people can be subtly influenced by showing an advertisement for a fraction of a second, they would be influenced a hundred times stronger if the ad was shown continuously for a full five subliminal minutes. Fortunately, his nephew Sol Dibbler not only has more common sense, but catches wind of this scheme. Unfortunately, it means the finished movie has no interruptions to prevent the mass hypnosis of viewers by the Things from the Dungeon Dimensions.
  • Sir Terry Pratchett has mused, in one of the Johnny Maxwell books, as to what might happen if you played a record by Christian star Cliff Richard backwards. If backwards masking is such a strong tool in the hands of Satan for provoking evil and loathing, then its use by a saintly Christian performer such as Sir Cliff might result in spreading the word of God, with people attending church and worshipping with no clear idea as to how they ended up there.
    • Someone on The 700 Club actually tried to prove this back in the early '80s by playing a tape of the hymn "Behold the Lamb" backwards and seemingly getting the words "Lamb of Glory".
  • The "Fnords" from the Illuminatus! trilogy. However these are somewhat different in that they're not even remotely hidden. Fnord. Instead, we've all been mentally programmed since grade school not to notice them on a conscious level, which in turn causes a general "sourceless" feeling of uneasiness and confusion, making us easier to manipulate.
  • Older Than Television: A short story from the 1930s called "Daymare" contains an example of this: a man implants a hypnotic message into a speech broadcast across an Orwellian television network to control a colony on a moon of Jupiter.
  • In Artemis Fowl: The Lost Colony, Artemis persuades his opponent to choose Taipei 101 as a meeting place by dropping words into the conversation. That it works seems far-fetched, except that the man is already intimately familiar with the location and calls it "his second home".
    Artemis: I'm going to be wearing a burgundy tie. Pay attention to that. There are a hundred and one ways this could go wrong.
  • In John Brunner's political thriller The Squares of the City, the Banana Republic routinely use this as a propaganda technique.
  • Averted in The War With Mr Wizzle. The students try to change the behaviour of an annoying teacher by playing tapes telling her to be nice while she sleeps. Unfortunately they just make her even crankier because she's not sleeping properly.
  • Parodied in Our Dumb Century, in an article discussing how a Bing Crosby record contained the backwards message "Have a swell day, ladies and gents!"
  • Wolf In White Van by John Darnielle is named after a supposed backwards message in the song "Six Sixty Six" by christian folk singer Larry Norman. At one point the main character listens to a radio program discussing subliminal messages in rock music and the Title Drop occurs in that context — the host admits he has no idea what it means, but insists that it sounds ominous and therefore must be something satanic.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Used in an episode of The IT Crowd, when Douglas Reynholm shows a video to Jen about the company... also, him being naked. Subverted in that it backfires horribly for him; Jen and everyone else who sees it see exactly what's going on and are, not surprisingly, freaked out.
  • The Babylon 5 Documentary Episode "And Now for a Word" contains a commercial for the PsiCorps; the commercial has text frames reading, "TRUST THE CORPS" and "THE CORPS IS YOUR FRIEND", inserted for just long enough not to run afoul of the laws mentioned above.
  • Shamelessly spoofed on The Young Ones where "liminal" (i.e. just long enough to be half-registered by the conscious mind) images entirely irrelevant to the plot (if there was a plot that episode) would be sneaked in, apparently just to stoke the viewers' paranoia.
  • A recurring Saturday Night Live character performed by Kevin Nealon in the 1980s featured a parody of this trope. "Mr. Subliminal," as the character came to be known, initially appeared as an advertising executive named Phil Maloney who would use subliminal cues and messages in his own speech to influence the people around him. Later Nealon would apply the device in his role as anchor on the "Weekend Update" segment, where he would lace his "official" editorials with ironic and often biting commentaries.
  • An episode of Saved by the Bell featured one teacher giving the students a lesson on subliminal messaging by playing music for a week with a hidden message for her students to bring her flowers and treats. Naturally, Zack uses this tactic to try to end Mr. Belding's interfering with his scams and to get Kelly to invite him to the upcoming "girls ask out guys" dance. Of course, people heard the tapes who weren't supposed to, Zack's scheme is exposed, and Hilarity Ensues.
  • The Doctor Who episode "The Sound of Drums" features the Master persuading the population of the United Kingdom to vote for him as Prime Minister with a subliminal message carried over a mobile phone network, and then in "Last of the Time Lords" uses it to dull any thoughts of resistance to his regime. Later, in Series 8-10, her theme actually does contain backmasked lyrics. Played forward, they sound like nonsensical chanting. Played backward, they contain spoilers, such as a mention of hearing drums.
  • Eerie, Indiana:
    • In "The ATM with a Heart of Gold", Simon punching his name in on Mr. Wilson's Dial pad becomes 7-4-6-6-6 which is supposed to be the number of the beast after 74.
    • "The Broken Record" plays with this; a young boy named Tod McNulty who is frequently put-down by his verbally abusive and overbearing father starts getting into an alt-rock band called the Pitbull Surfers who are accused of putting subliminal messages into their music. When Tod's personality starts changing to be closer to that of his heroes — including standing up to his father — his father begins to become obsessed with the subliminal messages that are seemingly corrupting his son, leading to him storming into a music shop and playing one of their records backwards to prove it to the main characters. Much to his mortification and horror, however, what is heard when the album is played backwards is a repeating litany of his bullying and verbal cruelty to Tod.
    • In "Zombies in P.J.s", the Donald, who is heavily implied to be a demon, uses subliminal advertising in television commercials to induce the Eerie townspeople into buying everything at the World O' Stuff while they are sleepwalking. In this state, the Donald has them sign contracts for their souls.
  • An episode of That '70s Show mocked this. Fez's host family demonstrated how a KISS album had backmasked "Devil love me...Devil lives! It's clear as day!". Fez noted that in his language the message said:
    "I want to sex your monkey. beat which I have never done."
  • The initial research model was the basis for a Columbo episode, in which a murderous film-maker lures his victim out into the lobby for a drink of water via strategic inserts. It's actually a really clever, well-done ep, considered among the best...once you overlook the teeny little hitch that its 'cutting-edge' science turned out to be totally made up. Columbo later uses the same technique to get the murderer to reveal where he hid the silencer he'd used.
  • Having fallen out with the Channel 4's director and never knowing how far is too far, Chris Morris inserted a single-frame image into his news-special satire Brass Eye that said "Grade is a cunt."
  • In Season 3 of Lost, some characters have to rescue a prisoner that is being forced to watch a brainwashing tape while loud music plays. The video is already eerie enough (with messages like 'God loves you as he loves Jacob'); however, fans discovered if the music in the scene is played backwards, the message "Only fools are enslaved by time and space" appears.
  • Father Ted tried to use this to convince the inexplicable Chinatown on Craggy Island that he wasn't a racist. Unfortunately, he only had a slide projector, so he just clicked back and forth as quickly as he could from a slide of himself to one with "Not a racist" written on it.
  • In 1986, evangelist Rev. Jim Brown of Ironton, Ohio convinced his flock that the theme song to Mr. Ed contained such backmasked messages as "The source is Satan" (Apparently in reference to the forward line "Go right to the source and ask the horse") and "Someone sung this song for Satan." Dr. Demento obligingly broadcast the theme both forward and backward for listeners to make up their own minds. He couldn't help but comment, though, "I suppose if you listen to the word 'horse' backwards enough times — or if you happen to be a back end of a horse — you could start hearing something sinister if you really wanted to."
  • Have I Got News for You: The BBC topical panel quiz briefly flashed up "VOTE CONSERVATIVE" just before an election. There were complaints, leading them to briefly flash up "HUMOURLESS BASTARDS" the following week.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000:
    • The subliminal popcorn ad discussed in the Snopes link at the top of the page was satirized in the episode Time Chasers when a character's face is flashed on screen very quickly during a time travel sequence:
    Servo: "Is this that subliminal advertising you hear about?"
    Crow: "I dunno but suddenly I'm hungry for a guy with glasses."
    • In another episode, during the Invention Exchange, Joel presents a more practical use for this trope: leaving reminders for yourself.
  • Parodied in A Bit of Fry and Laurie where a woman is suing a rock star for backmasking, more or less. Her lawyer explains that while "come on baby, set yourself on fire!" might seem like an innocent pop lyric, if you play it backwards it says "ryif no flesroy tes". And if you play that backwards it says "set yourself on fire". So she did. The rock star ends the trial by singing a song called 'Drop All Charges.' She does drop the charges, and also asks the judge for "permission to get out of his face" — part of the lyrics to the 'Drop All Charges' song.
  • In an episode of CHiPs a subliminal message was inserted by a band's agent without their knowledge, found by playing the album backwards at 66.6 RPM.
  • Done in a few episodes of The Chaser's War On Everything, usually mocking the viewers who would bother to watch in slow-motion and read it.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus:
    • The story writing for the historic Icelandic tome "Njorl's Saga" gets picked up halfway through by the North Malden Icelandic Saga Society. After momentarily lapsing into a P.R. film for business investment in North Malden, an action scene unfolds with "INVEST IN MALDEN" occasionally flashing on the screen (along with knights carrying signs shilling for Malden.)
    • And in another sketch, where someone is undergoing persuasion to quit the Masons, we see what he's seeing as a voice-over asks "do you want to stop being a Mason?". The image he's looking at is repeatedly replaced for brief intervals with an image of a naked woman alongside a large "YES". When the sequence is over, he of course answers "no".
  • The X-Files:
    • "Blood" implies that the people compelled to kill were sent subliminal messages, though it's possible that they had just hallucinated them because of the drugs that were used in the community.
    • "Wetwired" deals with subliminal messaging on cable television driving people to murder. Mulder finds that he is immune to this subliminal messaging because he is red/green colorblind, and the messaging is heavily reliant on that. Scully, on the other hand, is temporarily brainwashed, convinced that Mulder is one of the men who abducted her and has been lying to her from the beginning. This almost ends tragically as she pulls a gun on him in her mother's home. Scully insists that Mulder never trusted her, and Mulder replies with "You are the only one I trust." The episode is disturbing, since it is about the furthest extreme that Mulder and Scully stray from The Power of Trust in the entire series. That's how powerful Subliminal Seduction is.
  • Hustle:
    • In one episode, the gang have a lorry of empty crates, which they're selling as crates of smuggled cigarettes. One of the crates really contains cigarettes, and has a distinctive logo on it. Apparently, arranging things so that the mark continually sees this logo out of the corner of his eye while driving to the meeting subliminally conditions him to choose that crate to check.
    • In another episode they use a variation on this. Across a period of time, the crew basically stalk the mark while using items (such as coffee cups, newspapers and so on) plastered with a logo for a fake venture they want him to take interest in. When combined with some overheard conversations it works remarkably well.
  • Mr. Show parodied the Judas Priest case in the episode "The Return of the Curse of the Creature's Ghost", where Heavy Metal band Titannica are sued by a fan who attempts suicide after listening to their song "Try Suicide", so they respond by recording "Adam's Song (Try Again)", urging him to try again.
  • In the more recent series of Mission: Impossible, the team get the villains to hire one of them posing as a nightclub singer by leaving subliminal messages in her backing music.
  • The Mythbusters once tested a subliminal mind control device; it worked about as well as the bicycle helmet with a crystal screwed in.
    Touch nose. Touch nooossssseeee. Don't make me go in there. Touch nose.
  • Agent Carter. The "Black Widow" trainees are shown learning to speak English from watching Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. When Peggy Carter finds the training room, she runs a few frames through the projector and finds the words INSTALL FEAR.
  • Parodied in one episode of Raising Hope; Frank put together a slideshow of Jimmy and Sabrina for their anniversary, only for several images of him in a tanktop labeled "Sexy" to keep popping up — at first quickly, but then for several more seconds — at which point he comments "those were supposed to go by a lot faster". No one else seems to really care, though.
  • A Sliders episode involves a Corrupt Corporate Executive putting subliminal messages in ads to induce compulsive shopping behavior in mall customers, then, when they inevitably ran up a sizable debt, effectively put them in indentured servitude. Rembrandt starts to obsessively buy Christmas gifts for everyone he can think of.
  • Probe's "Quit-It": The adults in this neighborhood have been Brainwashed by their children to obey their orders by listening to music. The Strawn family has been working in advertising, including the music from the ice cream truck.When Austin checks one of his cassettes, he finds the following instructions, "This is a message for Mr Austin James. You love Mickey, Mr James. You think she's the most beautiful woman in the world. Every time you hear this music, you will think you want to marry her and have lots of kids. Bye for now." Austin considers this technique the most powerful form of mind control ever.

  • Judas Priest were sued over two teenage suicides claimed to be provoked by backwards messages in their music. The claim was shredded in court. After the trial, frontman Rob Halford pointed out the logical fallacy in many of the prevalent backmasking claims — if you put subliminal messages in music telling your fans to kill themselves, then nobody will buy your music, because your fans are all dead. It would be more productive to put in messages saying things like "buy more records." (Unless of course you believe that rock musicians are Always Chaotic Evil, as some Moral Guardians do).
  • A number of artists have made songs with intentional backmasking, to poke fun at the phenomenon and/or cheese off Moral Guardians and Media Watchdogs:
    • The Mindless Self Indulgence song "Backmask" is a blatant poke at subliminal messages. When played forwards, the lyrics tell the listener to "go kill yourself", "don't forget the guns — you're gonna need 'em to destroy", et cetera; played backwards, a large section consists of a pleasant female voice telling the listener to be a good person, e.g. "Don't stay out too late", "Get dressed for church".
    • After they were accused of hiding subliminal messages on their album Eldorado, Electric Light Orchestra began including deliberate backwards messages to poke fun at their accusers. The intro to "Fire On High" contains the ominous-sounding backwards message "The music is reversible, but time is not. Turn back! Turn back! Turn back!" They later released an entire album, Secret Messages, parodying the practice and the associated hype. It's said that when the band first heard allegations that their music contained "satanic" backmasking, "skcolloB" was one of the politer responses.
    • On Pink Floyd's album The Wall, the song "Empty Spaces" contains the amusingly self-referential (if kind of hard to make out since it's so buried in the mix) backwards message:
      Roger Waters: "Congratulations, you have just discovered the secret message! Please send your answer to Old Pink, care of the Funny Farm, Chalfont..."
      James Guthrienote : *interrupts* "Roger, Carolyne note  is on the phone."
      Roger Waters: "Okay."
    In the context of the album, it's a bit of Foreshadowing about Pink's mental breakdown. Also, one incredibly detailed analysis of the album points out that Waters abandoning the message to pick up the phone reinforces the entire album's theme about the importance of communication.
    • On the original release of his solo album Amused to Death, Waters includes a backwards message as a Take That! to Stanley Kubrick who wouldn't let him use a sample from 2001. The sample was eventually cleared for the 2015 remaster, and the backmasked message was replaced accordingly.
      Roger Waters: Julia, however, in the light and visions of the issues of Stanley, we changed our minds. We have decided to include a backward message. Stanley, for you, and for all the other book burners... (unintelligble screaming).
    • "Weird Al" Yankovic's song "Nature Trail to Hell" contains the backwards message "Satan eats Cheez-Whiz!" His song "I Remember Larry" has the backwards message "Wow, you must have an awful lot of free time on your hands." The video for "Foil" as a very brief flashing image of Weird Al covered in blood. "Bite Me", Which is probably the weirdest example ever. If you slow it down 800% (300% in Sound Recorder), it has a segment of a different song in it.
    • "Detour Through Your Mind" by The B-52s contains the backwards message "I buried my parakeet in the backyard. Oh no, you're playing the record backwards! Watch out, you might ruin your needle."
    • Iron Maiden's album Piece of Mind contains, between the songs "The Trooper" and "Still Life", a backwards recording of Nicko McBrain doing an impression of Idi Amin (or, technically, an impression of comedian John Bird's impression of Idi Amin): "'What ho,' said the thing with the three bonce. Don't meddle with things you don't understand." The band put this in the album on purpose to Troll the Moral Guardians who accused them of being Satanists because of "The Number of the Beast".
    • The Bedroom Philosopher placed a slowed-down, whispered backwards message on the song "I'm So Postmodern", targeted at soap actor Shane Porteous: "Shane Porteous, buy a smock". Then the last line of the song is "I'm so postmodern I prerecorded this song, and laced a message subliminally telling Shane Porteous to buy a smock". On the CD, this is followed by the song played backwards rapidly, so you can see for yourself.
    • The Aquabats!' song "Why Rock", a parody of the metal style associated with this trope (and claimed to be a cover of a band called Leather Pyrate) contains the backwards message "It's worth it to graduate; your parents have the right idea. Brush your teeth."
    • The song "Echo Side" by Dark Lotus (a Psychopathic Records supergroup featuring members of Insane Clown Posse (who were already the target of Moral Guardians and proud of it) and Twiztid) features a backmasked message which when reversed is actually an anti-Satanic message: Fuck the devil, fuck that shit, we believe in life legit. If you hearin' what we say, why you throw your soul away?.
    • Subverted in the Oingo Boingo song "Cry of the Vatos" which features drums, screaming, and full-volume backmasked lyrics... which when played in reverse, say things like "Accept Jesus into your heart and you will be saved. You will receive everlasting life."
    • The song "Heavy Metal Poisoning" from Styx's message-heavy 1983 album Kilroy Was Here includes a heavily-distorted voice reciting the Latin slogans from the dollar bill. And if that weren't enough, the second side of the album begins with a short clip of reversed speech all by itself.
    • They Might Be Giants do this all the time, most noticeably in the song simply called "Subliminal", which ends with a clip of the vocal and drum track played backwards.
      • If you play "On Earth, My Nina" backwards, you'll actually hear "Thunderbird", another song of theirs. They Might Be Giants being They Might Be Giants, they released the "reversed" song half a decade before the forwards one.
      • The demo version of "Which Describes How You're Feeling" has a bridge that, when played backwards, gives the message "They Might Be Giants wanted to include a verse about the suffering people in the world, but we couldn't figure out where to put it into the song".
      • "Hide Away Folk Family" ends with fake back-masking: It's actually just John Flansburgh singing a string of backwards-sounding nonsense.
      • They use phonetic reversal in the song "Dinner Bell". They take a string of spoken parts of the body (ex. shoulder, bicep, elbow, arm), reverse the line, sing what they heard of the reversed line, and then reverse the reversed lines that they sung, and put those lines into the song.
      • Perhaps their most ambitious experiment in backmasking is "Stilloob", a song they started incorporating into live sets in 2020: Listened to normally, it seems like a song with an odd structure and nonsensical scatting for lyrics... Until you play it backwards and it becomes recognizable as one of their other songs, "Sapphire Bullets Of Pure Love". That is, the whole band studied a backwards recording of "Sapphire Bullets" and learned to play the music and sing the lyrics backwards.
    • The ending of Soul Coughing's "The Bug" features a just barely audible loop of Mike Doughty repeating "George Clooney is Satan!" Not only is it a parody of the supposed message "I buried Paul" hidden in "Strawberry Fields" by the Beatles, it's also something of a Take That! to the very film it was written for... Batman & Robin, starring George Clooney.
    • "P5hng Me A*wy", a song from Linkin Park's remix album Reanimation, plays two of the song's verses backwards at several points.
    • Inverted with Linkin Park's "Announcement Service Public." YOU SHOULD BRUSH YOUR TEETH! AND! YOU SHOULD WASH YOUR FACE!
    • "The Poet And The Pendulum," the first track on Nightwish's Dark Passion Play, opens with backmasked verses from the end of the song.
    • Soundgarden attempted to cash in on this satanic messages thing on the song 665, but a bout of dyslexia lead them to leave a message to Santa.
    • "Please Don't Release This Song", Mitch Benn's parody of "new" Beatles songs "Free as a Bird" and "Real Love" on the album Too Late To Cancel, ends with a backmasked section that turns out to actually be the chorus of "We Haven't Got A Clue", the first song on the album.
    • The Franz Ferdinand song Michael has "She worries about you, call your mother" backmasked into it.
    • The intro to Bone Thugs-n-Harmony's album East 1999 Eternal has an entire rap verse done backwards, appropriately by Bizzy, the Cloud Cuckoo Lander of the group.
    • "Subliminal" by Floetry includes a backmasked line at the end to add to the song's flavor. Turns out Natalie's saying, "Do you feel clever? No, forget what everyone else has to say. Do you feel clever?" the same line that opens the song.
    • Brazilian rock band Engenheiros do Hawaii did this in their song "Ilusão de Ótica" ("Auditive Illusion"note ) from their 1990 album O Papa é Pop (The Pope Is Pop). At a certain point in the song, when the record is played backwards, vocalist Humberto Gessinger says, "Por que é que cê tá ouvindo isto ao contrário? O que é que cê tá procurando? Hein?" ("Why are you hearing this backwards? What are you looking for? Huh?"). Toward the end of the song, there's some more backmasked messages, like "Jesus salva, salve as baleias, leia livros" ("Jesus saves, save the whales, read books") and "safe sex, relax".
    • Even Christian Rock band Petra got in on this. After being falsely accused of planting real backmasked Satanic messages in their songs (this was the early '80s), they deliberately placed a conspicuous backwards message in the space between two songs on their 1981 album Never Say Die: The message? "What are you looking for the Devil for, when you oughtta be looking for the Lord?" Later they openly lambasted the critics with their song "Witch Hunt", which contained, in the bridge, backwards versions of spoken lines that also appeared forwards in the same song.
  • The infamously "pornographic" song "Darling Nikki" from Purple Rain by Prince has a backward-masked sequence that, when played forwards, says "Hello, how are you? I'm fine, 'cause I know the Lord is coming soon. Coming, coming soon."
  • "Sucker" by Self ends in an Affectionate Parody of the above example: It has a backmasked sequence that sounds nearly identical to the one in "Darling Nikki", but changes the message to "Hello, how are you? I'm fine, 'cause I know that breakfast is coming soon" (It's from an album called Breakfast With Girls, and the next song on the album is the title track).
  • You can find "backwards message" videos on YouTube for hundreds, possibly even thousands of songs, for everything from Led Zeppelin to the theme song to Spongebob Squarepants.
  • A few songs by The Beatles (most famously "Rain") contain reversed vocals, mainly for Rule of Cool (with recreational drug use also likely being a factor). Completely unintentionally, the genuine reversals helped spawn rumors that Paul died and was replaced by a lookalike, with the band hiding clues about it in their music via reversed speech (and again, recreational drug use was likely a factor in the spread of the rumor). And let's not get into how a certain California guru also claimed to have found hidden clues in their music, leading him and his followers to commit some tragic murders.
  • Parodied here, revealing the hidden meanings behind Daft Punk 's Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger.
  • The outtro of Information Society's cover of Gary Numan's "Are Friends Electric?" has the backmasked message "Obey your parents. Do your homework. Winners don't do drugs," in a voice similar to a broken-down robot accompanied by a whirring mechanical noise.
  • In Trip Theory's "Times Up(The Bomb Remix)", there's apparently a timestretched and backmasked(?) vocal sample in the transition to the third break.
  • The end of the title track of the first Overkill album, on original pressings, has the message "There's no message here, you're going to ruin your needle, asshole!"
  • Semi-similarly, the end of Vicious Rumors' album "Digital Dictator" contains a very obvious backwards message which reverses to play "Be nice to your mom and dad. Don't abuse. Don't blow your brains out on drugs. Rock your brains out. By the way, you're ruining your needle."
  • Caparezza included a backmasked message in one of the tracks of his latest CD. You can read more about it here (in Italian). The message means more or less: "I know how religion makes slaves out of you... but darkness will make its light". One of the album tracks (not the one where the message is) indeed talks about conspiracies and secrets.
  • Five Iron Frenzy:
    • They mentioned backmasking in "So Far, So Bad". The song describes the band's fictional Magnum Opus (which we'll never hear because "The Man" is suppressing it), and among its other features, "If you ever tried to play it backwards, it told the kids to stay in school."
    • FIF also used backmasking themselves to hide nonsensical messages. On Quantity is Job 1, the space between "Riot Gear" and "The Untimely Death of Brad" includes Reese saying "Brad is dead. Let's kill Brad." On The End is Here, "That's How the Story Ends" starts with Reese saying "Sandwiches make the best friends."
  • KMFDM:
    • "Sucks", among other fun claims, has:
    KMFDM forward the ultimate sound
    and a message from Satan
    if you turn it around.
    • "The Smell" from their first album also has a backmasked voice at the beginning and end.
  • Ministry:
    • The beginning of Just One Fix contains a particularly stunning example (based on the sample from the film Sid & Nancy) which makes sense played both forwards and backwards. Forwards: "Never trust a junkie." Backwards: "Christ is so stupid…".
    • "Walrus", the Hidden Track from Houses of the Molé includes a loop of backwards speech that translates to "Paul is no longer with us". Aside from a possible reference to supposed Beatles backmasking, they were referring to former member Paul Barker: Houses of the Molé was the first album the band released after he left. As a whole, the song is designed to be a sort of audio palindrome - halfway through, it starts playing in reverse, so that it sounds the same played backwards or forwards.
  • The song "Defy the Ailments" by The Faint, from their album Media, contains a message that says "Think [unintelligible]'ll talk backwards... Sometimes I amaze myself."
  • Fiery Furnaces:
    • The single version of "Tropical Iceland" adds an extra verse where the first and last lines are reversed. Playing the song backwards reveals that the full contents of that verse are:
      And if you ever need some hash or weed
      You won't be gettin' it here
      Just take off into the bumpy sea
      Go to Denmark, man, oh it's so near
    • At certain points in the song "Nevers!" they do the Twin Peaks trick of imitating a recording of the vocals as played backwards and then reversing that.
  • The Bloodhound Gang's "Lift Your Head Up High (And Blow Your Brains Out)" references the Judas Priest controversy with the lines "Rewind and let me reverse / Backwards like Judas Priest first did" followed by a bit of slowed down, evil-sounding backwards speech. The message is "Devil child, wake up and eat Chef Boyardee Beefaroni"
  • "What Can't Be Seen" by Everything Else features the first verse played backwards during the solo.
  • Missy Elliot's 'Work It' did this, too, obviously only for artistic effect. In the chorus, it goes "I put my thing down, flip it, and reverse it", and then the next line is that line reversed. There's also another line in the song that goes, "Watch the way Missy like to take it backwards!".
  • Parodied by Finnish Industrial Metal band, Turmion Kätilöt, in a couple of their songs.
    You dim-witted coyote, turn that music right way around, that sounds pretty shitty! Did you think that there would even be some infernal message here? Are you the Ari Vatanen of love, Nancy Drew of hidden messages? Are you still standing on your head? HALLELUJAH!
    • Another one in "U.S.C.H!":
    I want to play a game. Search the alternative ends for your U.S.C.H, and the prize will be yours. Let the hunt begin.
    • Played straight in "Kirosana": (translated from Finnish) "Let us rape this hellish heaven on earth. There's a meaning of life for you."
  • According to Blue Stahli himself, his music contains messages telling you to do inappropriate things with cowboy hats.
  • Bloodrock was one of the first to poke fun at the concept; in "Gotta Find A Way" a backwards message has one of the band members saying "Anyone who is stupid enough to play this record backwards deserves what he is about to hear", followed by a quote from Jabberwocky.
  • At the end of the Incubus track "Azwethinkweiz" is a backwards message that can be reversed to play, "Thursday night we smoked indica, and Azwethinkweizm was BORN!"
  • One of the old chestnuts for Moral Guardians going on about backwards messages in songs is the title phrase in Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust" reversing to a not-very-convincing "It's fun to smoke marijuana" (or, alternately, the oddly-phrased "decide to smoke marijuana"). But it's been pointed out that it also sounds like "it's hard to smoke marijuana".
  • Frank Zappa parodied the idea of Satanic messages in rock by recording a track called "Ya Hozna" on Them or Us, which is completely performed backwards with backwards lyrics.
  • The trope is referenced in the lyrics of Joan Baez' 1992 song Play Me Backwards (with respect to the alleged Satanic backmasking of songs — but it's not actually talking about that, more some form of ritual abuse or abuse in a religious setting: the point is you don't have to play the song backwards to get its meaning.)
  • Parodied by Sabaton with "7734" with numerology and backwards lyrics so obvious a child could get them. For one, the title itself: it's "hELL" if turned upside down. Then there's this: "the last two united and two became one" (3+4=7, so 777) "one hundred eleven / they perished in flame" (777-111=666), and also the line "Do Glatem Live", which backwards is "Evil Metal God."
  • For how cryptic they are, (DOLCH) did this: On their release III: Songs of Happiness...Words of Praise, the "Opening Speech" track mentions for the listener to check the sixth track once they get to it. "Track Six" is scary, but by reversing the audio, you get the band saying "Congratulations, You've played a track backwards." Followed by audience clapping. Parodied At it's finest from a mysterious band.
  • Playing a part of the Carpenters song "Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft" that is about sending a message in reverse supposedly yields a message that chastises the listener for playing it in reverse: "That's not the way and video sends the message".
  • Eminem, as one of the most moral-panicked-about musicians ever during the backmasking panic, of course made fun of this a couple of times:
    • In "Stimulate", a song in which Eminem says he's not actually trying to bury evil influence in his lyrics and just wants to make people happy, the outro is Eminem softly singing backwards. Flipped, he sings, "I'm not here to save you — I'm only here for the ride. So let me entertain you, and everything will be fine."
    • Reversing "Slow Your Roll" reveals some clips of Eminem singing along to "Magic Stick" by Lil' Kim feat. 50 Cent in a rather tuneless manner.
    • In "Evil Twin", he says he puts in evil messages both forwards and backwards in his songs so parents don't know which way to play them to get mad at them. He then inserts a bunch of lyrics in which he flips back and forward with Anti-Role Model behaviour and backmasked swearing — "!rekcufrehtoM (Kill your parents!)"
    • Some have noted that reversing the hook from "My Name Is" sounds like Eminem is saying "It is Slim! (chk-chk) It's Eminem, (wow!) it's Eminem (ha!) it's Eminem (yeah!)" While it's amusing to imagine the idea of a young Eminem crafting a song that has the same meaning regardless of whether it's played backwards or forwards, this is a coincidence.
  • Klaus Schulze's debut album Irrlicht features a heavily filtered recording of an orchestra rehearsal played in reverse. In turn, the entire B-side track, "Exil Sils Maria", was transferred to the record backwards.
  • Played with by the S3RL song "Back Track". The entire song is backwards. Reversing it turns up the song talking about how you backmasked it, and the techno segments turn out to be the breakdown of "Little Kandi Raver".
    Can't believe that you did that
    Not supposed to play it back
    Unlocked with a key
    There's a message here to see

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Bloom County:
    • A strip once featured a random media watchdog badgering Milo to listen to a Billy Joel song backwards to discover its hidden "evil message." Milo does so, and promptly recounts the message, "No matter how thin you slice it, it's still baloney." ("A Satanic riddle!!")
    • In another strip, when the local rock band's DeathTongue's latest record is played backwards, the message urges the listener to attend church and tithe.
    • "Devilbunnies! I snort the nose, Lucifer! Banana, banana!"
  • One Zits arc had Jeremy purchasing a subliminal seduction tape to use on his girlfriend Sara. It of course doesn't work, but Sara, having been tipped off to the scheme by Hector, plays along in order to watch Jeremy squirm.
  • FoxTrot
    • Parodied when Jason plants 'BUY ME' messages into flipbooks he's selling for $20 each. Paige and Peter fall for them (Peter even pays TWICE for his flipbook).
    • Another time Jason put a subliminal message into a magic eye pattern. He got his father to give him money.
  • Nina Paley, creator of Fluff, wrote a comic strip for the University of Illinois student paper while in college. Arriving at a heavy metal concert, the main characters are confronted by a picket-line of protesting Satanists, up in arms over the band's rumored use of backmasked messages that advocate going to church on Sundays.
  • One Sherman's Lagoon strip features a character trying to convince Sherman to believe the Paul Is Dead conspiracy, and he points to a backwards message in a Beatles song as evidence. "It sounds like a recipe for cranberry sauce." "Maybe it's the sauce that killed Paul!"

  • Parodied in a "Smashie and Nicey" sketch by Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse. The two DJs are playing a record that has been accused of having backwards messages:
    Nicey: "We've played this record backwards, forwards and sideways and can't find any satanic messages."
    [They play the record] Voice: "Kill yourself. Worship Satan. Take drugs."
    Smashie: "Maybe you should play it at the right speed, mate."
  • Parodied in a Bob & Ray skit as far back as 1960: An enterprising ad man thinks hard into the microphone while the B&R show is on the air and asks listeners to call in if they received any messages. One guy does call in to say that he's getting a message to come for dinner... which turns out to be from his very impatient wife.
  • In the days of pirate radio ships off the UK in the mid 1960s, DJ Kenny Everett of Radio London produced a promo containing an "old Chinese proverb" — actually his own voice backwards. Any fans who taped the promo and played it backwards would have heard him say "I love [Radio] Caroline" — a plug for their rival station. Many years later, Kenny did something similar while working on London's Capital Radio; in this case the backmasked speech said "Up [rival DJ] Tony Blackburn's kilt with a blowlamp".

    Tabletop RPG 
  • In the GURPS horror setting The Madness Dossier, human language itself has been implanted with subliminal cues and commands that predate the current version of history. Someone who knows the secret can trigger these cues to elicit specific actions and reactions from a person. The idea that subliminals don’t work is largely a lie spread by the heroes of the piece, Project SANDMAN, to reduce the risks involved in messing with this stuff.
  • In Mage: The Awakening, one of the Free Council grimoires is a metal album that implants knowledge of a few rotes, along with a spell that causes the subject to defy authority.

  • The Reduced Shakespeare Company usually ends their The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) act with repeated runs of their abridged Hamlet, under increasingly bizarre conditions. As a finale they do it backwards, warning the audience to look for the satanic messages — and promptly declaring "Frank Sinatra is God!" (As seen here) They change that one every show — another time it was "George Bush is a genius!". In the book of the official script, the line is written as "Judas Priest is God!" instead. Their radio show asserts that subliminal food messages can be found in Hamlet, demonstrating by playing a recording of the "rogue and peasant slave" speech backwards to reveal the hidden message, "Mmmm... creamy and delicious!" Later, a disclaimer saying that the BBC in no way condones worship of Satan is interrupted by an unreversed message giving (hilariously inoffensive) orders from the Dark Lord.
  • Twisted: The Untold Story of a Royal Vizier has a scene where Aladdin tries to subliminally seduce the Princess by whispering "take off your clothes" (something he supposedly did in the movie the play is parodying) after all of his sentences, and asking her to look at a phallic-looking tower. Then he sings a song called "Take Off Your Clothes", which references various instances of Disney using (or being accused of using) this trope in their movies, such as the phallic tower and priest with an erection from The Little Mermaid (1989), the "SFX" dust cloud from The Lion King (1994).

    Video Games 
  • The theme songs to Kingdom Hearts and its sequel are both supposed to have backwards messages, but only the second song, "Sanctuary", does it intentionally. The lyrics say "I need more affection than you know, I need true emotions, I need more affection than you know, so many ups and downs." The reference, at least, to "true emotions" probably refers to the antagonists of the game. See here for reference. Notably, the forward line, "My heart's a battleground," when played backward is "I hate emotion," demonstrating the internal conflict with "I need true emotions."
  • The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind created its growling sounds for its fictional creatures by backmasking a cat yowling. Also, in the game's data files, there's a sound not used in the game, called "funny.wav." Played forwards, it's just the game's normal "Critical Damage" sound, but played backwards, you get "Sam has no pit hair."
  • Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening: Those "whispering voices" that you hear in the background music of the Mission Start screen? Some fans have found out that playing said music in reverse brings out lyrics from "Devils Never Cry" and "Divine Hate".
    Life of vengeance, a passive test, Until the grave I will rest, Engage the pressure until it crumbles
    The existence of the lifeless black souls, Onward to the sacred battlefield, Where justification and limits are revealed
    Hail to a father of divine, To the son the light will shine, From the angst of lost memories, A just revenge to cure misery.
  • Doom II: Play the demonic gurgles made by the Final Boss backwards and you'll hear "To win the game, you must kill me, John Romero." The part of the boss that must be hit to kill it is John's head on a stake as can be seen with the no clipping cheat. This was also done in the Id/Ravensoft collaboration Heretic; the vocalisations of the Disciples of D'Sparil, and of D'Sparil himself, are all reversed English phrases such as "Destroy the Heretic".
  • A reversed line in relation to the final boss of Half-Life: Opposing Force that was cut out references this as well, replacing that name with the name of Gearbox's Randy Pitchford.
  • The Kerbal language from Kerbal Space Program was created by taking random Spanishnote  clips recorded by various employees, and playing them backward and slightly sped up.
  • Approximately 10 seconds into the title screen music of the Amiga game Lotus Turbo Challenge 2, someone says "you will not copy this game" too quiet to hear. According to the composer, there was originally a message saying "You must kill mommy and daddy," but they "didn't have the balls to leave that in the game," though the same composer, Barry Leitch, later included it in text form in Harlequin.
  • In Prince of Persia: Warrior Within, the Dahaka of Time occasionally yells backmasked phrases at you while chasing you. If you use the game's built-in "reverse time" feature during these phrases, you can actually hear what he's saying.
  • The ghosts of Thief speak like this. The backmasked words are bits of Victoria's speech in a cinematic where one of the hero's eyes is forcibly removed.
  • WarioWare: Touched! is famous for containing a (supposed) subliminal message. Selecting gothic character Ashley's theme in the jukebox and running the record faster than normal distorts the words, which supposedly forms phrases like "I have granted kids to hell" and "I work in a kitchen". Both are probably coincidence. A backwards message video for Ashley's theme he saw that interpreted one part as "Ear! Shut up!"
  • The Nightmares in the Milkman Conspiracy level in Psychonauts sometimes shout things that sound like gibberish while you're battling them. In reality, they're actually saying things like "Death, I'll get you" backwards, possibly to play with the whole conspiracy theme of the level. (For comparison, the Nightmares that appear in other minds like Milla's speak normally.)
  • Halo:
    • The original trilogy music tracks "Mausoleum Suite", "Dread Intrusion", "Black Tower", and "Gravemind" all contain backmasked speech, as collected here. Not all of the speech is decipherable, though. eg. in the third part of "Mausoleum Suite", the voices are just backmasked gibberish.
    • This is also how they got the Elite language in the first game (most subsequent games have them speaking English instead thanks to Translator Microbes). The Elites' phrases are Johnson's phrases played backwards. For example, the famous "Wort wort wort" said by the Elites is "Go go go" played backwards and a couple octaves lower in pitch.
    • In Halo 2, the music heard at the entrance to the control center on "The Great Journey" is a reversed version of "High Charity".
  • Half-Life 2: If you play the noises that the headcrab zombies make backwards, you can hear muffled voices screaming "Oh God!" and "Help me!".
  • Diablo contains the satanic message (at least in the game files): Eat your vegetables, and brush after every meal. (backwards, of course)
  • The irritating squawk made by the Doozers from Creatures 2 turns into a crowd shouting "HELL NO WE WON'T GO!" when played backwards and slowed down. The voices are employees from Creatures Labs.
  • Fiddle around on the menu screen of Manhunt after beating it on the hardest difficulty and a voice says something backwards. Turned around, the voice says, "Daddy didn't see what would happen if she left me. Mommy would've cared, but she was never there." Then the voice recites a series of buttons. Input that sequence in reverse and you get God Mode.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
  • In Deus Ex, in the VersaLife offices on the Hong Kong level, over the programmers heads are screens that repeatedly flash single words in black and white, such as, "OBEY", "TRUST", and "LOYALTY."
  • In Mass Effect:
    • The battle theme for the first battle against Saren whispers the words "listen to Sovereign" while you are fighting.
    • Subliminal communications (including infrasound and other, more discreet methods) are among the tools the Reapers use to Indoctrinate individuals, often without the victims being consciously aware until it's far too late. (As the example above indicates, they're not above using soundtracks, either.) It's implied that the Foghorn from Hell sound they emit while attacking is also intended to subliminally influence people, although it causes terror and panic rather than obedience.
  • In the Atari Lynx version of Rampage, one of the gag newspaper headlines shown at the start of the level read "There are no (Buy a Lynx) subliminal messages (Or two) in this game (Buy a Lynx)."
  • In Leisure Suit Larry 5: Passionate Patti Does a Little Undercover Work, the Des Rever Records corporation places literally seductive backmasked messages in their recordings, which you can actually hear in-game if you play the golden record in their headquarters backwards. At the end of the game it gets mentioned that their plan ultimately failed because none of their customers knew how to play CDs backwards.
  • The Neverhood soundtrack has an odd song called "Sound Effects Record #33" which simply consists of a voice naming a list of various strangely-specific sounds, the first of which is "Man Facing Backwards in the Shower Whilst Singing." The sounds of a man singing in what could possibly be a foreign language is then heard amid shower noises, which last for the rest of the song (no other sound effects are actually heard, despite them being named). Reversed, the song reveals a man singing "Kumbaya" in a shower.
  • Batman: Arkham City contains a very easy-to-miss example. If you get Catwoman's Non-Standard Game Over by leaving Batman to die, the credits play for a couple of minutes before the game itself rewinds back to before you made the choice. Just before the rewind stops, you can hear high-pitched backmasked speech; reversing it and slowing it down reveals the Joker saying "Thanks for the entertainment, Bats!"
  • There's a longstanding rumor about an arcade game called Polybius, which variously mention the high scores being monitored by The Men in Black, as well as players suffering night terrors and suicidal thoughts. The only existing ROMs and cabinets seem to be inspired by the legend, though.
  • Play as a Malkavian in Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines and use the Dementia skill in dialogue and soft whispers can be heard telling you hidden plot points. i.e. the boardwalk slasher can be spoken to in the Surf Diner, appearing as an unassuming man, but refuses to talk to you even after using the skill, and the whispers tell you vaguely that he is the boardwalk slasher.
  • In Exmortis 2, there's a CB radio, on which two stations are active. One contains people screaming before the channel goes dead, while the other continuously relays a message being spoken backwards. If reversed, it turns out to be Vlaew proclaiming warnings like, "Your destruction at the hands of Exmortis is inevitable", or "Pitiful pawns of the Earth realm, you have been chosen for extinction."
  • Myst contains an easter egg mixed into a message from Achenar saying something in the language of the Tree-Dwellers. Part of that message is actually real words, played backwards. When reversed, he says, "Rush Limbaugh understands..."
  • Rule of Rose, a survival horror game, also has an example of this with the imps that whisper a muffled message throughout the game. When their sounds are played backwards, it is revealed that they are saying "A Bright Red Crayon Just For You!"
  • Mortal Kombat: Deception has a few backwards-talking characters in Konquest Mode. Along with containing a few in-jokes and the obligatory "Why are you decoding this?" line, one of the backwards lines hilariously subverts the whole sinister agenda thing you see with backwards message all the time with "Drink milk. Get plenty of sleep. Listen to your parents. Do your homework."
  • In Minecraft, the noises made by calm Endermen consist of "here", "hiya", "what's up?", "this way!", "forever!" and "uh oh!" played backwards, sometimes with the pitch changed.
  • In Saints Row IV, the simulation version of Steelport is full of ominous messages plastered across signs and billboards, in a direct Shout-Out to They Live!. They range from ordering the President to give up to mocking them for the reckless death and destruction they've caused.
  • Discussed on the Conspire radio show from Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Damned. A caller claims that the Redwood Cigarettes logo depicts a man masturbating & says she constantly catches her children smoking & masturbating. The host seems interested in steering her toward the possible correlation, but she claims that it was their father, not the logo, who they learned the behavior from.
  • Portal:
    • The game has GLaDOS tipping over her prerecorded messages almost intentionally. An example in test chamber 10 has a portion of a sentence about momentum scrambled at different speeds AND reversed, but backmasking and tweaking the speed of the audio reveals the whole message: "To reiterate our previous warning, this test requires mastery of the principles of portal momentum."
    • GLaDOS also does this intentionally in the second game, where a sped-up version of her "explanation" for a test chamber turns out instead to be a passage from Moby Dick. There's a reason why it's not about the test, later in the game.
  • Anytime you try to open the front door in The Viridian Room, a generator sound and a low, deep voice starts talking backwards. Reversing it reveals "You dive into unbelievably deep darkness" and something else involving the man who committed suicide in this room over the loss of his girlfriend.
  • Alan Wake's American Nightmare has Heavy Mithril Fake Band Old Gods of Asgard's "Balance Slays the Demon." It has a small section with reversed, sped up lyrics. Play it the right way round and you get "It will happen again, in another town. A town... called Ordinary."
  • Control features another song by the Old Gods of Asgard, "Take Control", which has three backwards messages. The first one seems to be a reference to the Foundation DLC. The second and third together give the solution to a hidden puzzle in the Alan Wake themed AWE DLC.
    In their drunken fever state, seeing double, profoundly. The pyramid in the stone file becomes a spruce tree.
    A diamond will tell you where. 1, 19, 7, 1, 18, 4, 9, 19.
    Landing on the polar stare and rushing on to the red room, find the cord to take you to a secret rendezvous.
  • Splatoon 2 manages to use an odd variation of this as Foreshadowing. All of the music tracks in the single-player campaign (which were composed by the Octarian military themselves in-universe) have faint female singing at one point or another. You'd think this is just the Octoling soldiers, but when played backwards, these turn out to be Callie's vocals from different songs in the first game.
  • In Celeste, the second movement of the "In the Mirror" suite from the Mirror Temple is a reversed version of the preceding song, "Quiet and Falling", and also incorporates a backmasked monologue by composer Lena Raine in the character of Madeline, describing her struggle with depression.

  • Parodied in this webcomic.
  • In Jason Love's cartoons — "Sir, we're just not reaching them..."
  • Two examples from Homestuck, in-universe and out:
    • On Alpha Earth, the Betty Crocker company seems to have putOBEYsubliminal messaging in everything with the brand name — and considering it'sCEASE REPRODUCTIONa multi-global corporation, it's got a lot of merchandise.
    • This is part of the schtick of The Felt's album, what with the characters this album is based on having forms of time manipulation powers and all. Reversed versions of each song can be found here. Exemplified with the palindromic "English", and taken to its logical conclusion with "Rhapsody in Green" (where reversing the track reveals the actual song).
  • In an early College Roomies from Hell!!! arc, Dave embedded a subliminal message in his shirt in a failed attempt to get Margaret to like him.
  • Sluggy Freelance:
    • In a Saturday filler strip from 2005, the guys are playing a Japanese game that uses Gratuitous English Word Salad in Calling Your Attacks. They say they've just learnt to tune it out, but Zoë notices the game is also saying things like "buy-more-Japanese-imports-KICK!"
    • Hamster NOM, an online game, forces players who play it to become addicted to it. Then the programmer who made it hacks the game and starts a zombie apocalypse to get back at the company that stole the code from him. Fortunately, only animals are zombie-fied. Unfortunately, the main cast has a whole host of animals in their house, and they're ALL playing Hamster NOM.
  • An early arc of S.S.D.D. had Norman first attempt to embed a subliminal message to spread anarchy and chaos in a webcomic, which didn't work too well. So he tried to put it in a TV ad, but Kingston accidentally swapped the tape with the message with one of Richard and Anne's sex tapes so all the ad did was give people boners.

    Web Original 
  • There's an entire genre of youtube videos based around using subliminal messages to facilitate the use of The Law of Attraction.note  These sorts of videos are purported to be able to do everything from make you more confident, to make your boobs bigger, to make you a bright blue, immortal, eternally youthful anthro femboy wolf who's good at everything, can grant wishes, and has omnikinesis.
    • Yu-Gi-Oh! Youtuber Hard Leg Gaming made a parody of this genre which consists of him reading "supreme confidence affirmations" in his Ojama Lime voice (the joke being that "confidence" and "Ojama Lime" go together about as well as oil and water, so the affirmations rapidly deteriorate into Lime spouting total nonsense).
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series:
    • Little Kuriboh throws in a message in The Abridged Movie. During Yugi's "thinly veiled foreshadowing" dream, where Yami and Kaiba duel, Yami loses, and Kaiba is attacked by a gibberish-spouting Anubis, the gibberish, played backwards... "Watch Naruto: The Abridged Series!"
    • In the Clip Show episode, Rebecca's teddy bear also spouts a backwards message. It says "You have too much time on your hands"
  • Yahtzee plays with this trope:
    • In the 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand review — by inserting short clips into the animation that vanish before you can properly read them. The specific image in the review is of Yahtzee with his arm around a black guy, with the message "not racist." pointing at Yahtzee with an arrow.
    • Yahtzee does this half his episodes, with these having 'blink-and-you-miss-it' frames saying something or other.
  • A number of Screamers (videos that encourage the viewer to watch and/or listen intently, only to be interrupted by a loud scream and shocking imagery) pretend to be this. One of the earliest even ended with the message "NEVER TRUST STRANGE FLASH DOCUMENTS TALKING ABOUT SUBLIMINAL STUFF!"
  • Derren Brown uses this is many of his routines.
    • The audience thinks they're choosing things at random, and he's been influencing them by seemingly-random phrases throughout the routine. Naturally, some people don't believe it, and there's usually a controversy. The man tried to use what was ostensibly a personal development course to make people rob an armoured car with a toy gun. It worked for most of the candidates.
    • In "Trick Or Treat", he offers a young woman £500 if she doesn't kill a kitten in a glass box. Not only is there a Big Red Button which will kill the kitten, but he tries to regress her to a more childlike state where she will be more susceptible. And slapping the coffee table he's sitting next to, in a motion much like that of pressing the button, which is on a similar table. And clicking his pen rapidly. And making a clicking noise when he leaves the room.
  • A lot of Doctor Steel's videos will have momentary words flashed on the screen such as "Dr. Steel Loves You." The multimedia displays during his stage shows also contained such subliminal messages.
  • Vete A La Versh. A parody of Ocarina of Time has a sign that says "Obligatory Subliminal Message. Errm......Sex."
  • RFC 1097, an April fool's RFC from 1989, gives us the TELNET SUBLIMINAL-MESSAGE option.
  • The Dark World musics in the Luna Game series are actually slowed and reversed BGM cues from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic; for example, the one in Game 3 is this of the "Sonic Rainboom" music from the episode of the same name. The Game Over music from Game 2 is a reversed version of a cue from the second part of the pilot episode.
  • In Dragon Ball Z Abridged Kai Episode 2, when Freeza tries to make his wish, Porunga responds with "Or maybe you learn to speak goddamn Namekian!" least, according to the subtitles. If you reverse the audio, instead he says "Fuck you, I'm a dragon!"
  • Whateley Universe: Eisenmadel 1 Summer of my German Heritage (Part 1) has "Subliminals in the [Public Safety] seminar, video and audio.":
    • Video:
    when her eyes did the frame-by-frame trick, they were painfully visible — pictures of young blonde women, girls, being threatened, beaten, dragged away to be raped by shadowy thugs drawn from a broad caricature of non-Aryan examples. Only one frame in ten, at most, contained these violent graphics, but that was enough to make her uncomfortable. All around her, other girls were squirming in their seats, reacting to the pictures they were not consciously seeing.
    Subliminal imagery.
    • Audio:
    Open your mouth and close your eyes, and you will get a big surprise. The rhyme popped into Erica's head. In all the old cartoons Eric had watched with Opa, that had been the lead-in to a dirty trick of some sort. Erica expected no less now. So when the relaxing music began, she closed her eyes and focused on listening, in the hopes that her ears had picked up a trick or two as well. At first it didn't seem so, but then she caught just a bit of a word here and there. Fragments of sound came together to form phrases, like "obey the Lady" and "fear the black man." It took a lot more focus to keep up with the sounds, but knowing that they existed helped. She could separate the words from the music. Hopefully that would be enough.
    "She should not be giving us this much attitude now. Her resistance to the subliminals is outside the parameters.
  • The very premise of Backwards Songs With Luke is to find backmasked messages in popular music.

    Western Animation 
  • In an episode of The Brak Show, Thundercleese sings "The Robotic Hymn of Doom". Played backwards, the lyrics are "Why are you listening to this song backwards? You could have been on a date with a girl."
  • G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero:
    • The episode "Sins of Our Fathers" featured villainous character Destro performing a strange chant to lure away a monster. When played backwards, it is clear that the chant is just Destro's voice actor saying "Anybody listening to this backwards for a secret occult message is a real dweeb."
    • Another episode featured Cobra Commander hiding a secret message in a small town's 6:00 news report, by putting one frame of his message into every 20th frame of the news report.
  • In an episode of Justice League Unlimited, the balance is disrupted by a bad guy taking over Hell, causing all the League's magic-users to start writhing in pain. Zatanna, who always speaks her spells backwards, says this if the episode is played in reverse: "All is lost. Faust sits on the throne of hell."
  • The Simpsons:
    • Parodied in an episode which focuses on Bart joining a Boy Band that gets caught up in the US Navy's evil scheme to corrupt the minds of the youth into supporting and joining the Navy through subliminal messages in the band's lyrics ("Yvan eht nioj! Yvan eht nioj!" — not really the message played backwards, but the message written backwards and the result sung phonetically). Upon being confronted with this, the officer in charge explains that it's part of a three-pronged approach to increase enlistment.
    Lt. Smash: It's a three-pronged attack: sub-liminal, liminal and superliminal.
    Lisa: Superliminal?
    Smash: I'll show you. (Leans out his window) Hey you! Join the Navy!
    • Paul McCartney claims that playing his song "Maybe I'm Amazed" backwards reveals a "really ripping" lentil soup recipe. The song itself plays at the end of the episode - -a version that indeed has a lentil soup recipe backward-masked into it (and it's not bad). "Oh, and by the way, I'm alive."
    • Parodied in one of the blackboard segments in the titles: "I will not plant subliminal messagores".
    • And then there was Homer's ad for Marge's political party, which featured several really, really obvious appearances of "NO ON 232" (while Homer moved a picture of Rudy Giuliani around on the screen). Homer being...well, Homer, Marge's party needed a YES on 232, a NO on 242.
    • A literal example of subliminal seduction comes with Artie Ziff's snore-sound converter, in the form of a message aimed at Marge, urging her to leave Homer for Artie. It fails when he sings out "I'm watching you through a camera!" In the middle of "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" by Eurythmics.
  • Rex the Runt:
    • At the end of one short, a picture of some bizarre looking burger is shown that you have to freeze frame to catch. There is no reason for this other than the show just being weird as usual.
    • In "Adventures on Telly, Part III", the dogs (riding the deflated Earth) zoom past an asteroid with a sign. Bad Bob claims the sign reads "You are now entering a black hole, please drive carefully", while Wendy says it is "Dogs must be kept on a leash." You have to freeze frame to see what it really says. "Neither of those two"
  • In Family Guy the tobacco executive responsible attempted to do so in real time, but so obviously as to be impossible to miss. Are you smoking yet?
  • Disney's Doug: During an investigative-journalism trip to the makers of Nic-Nacs (a product that's meant to parallel tobacco products), Doug is shown an "informative" film laced with these. Of course, they're just long enough to be noticed and read by the real-life audience; it even cuts to a separate music cue.
  • In an episode of Recess, the protagonists try to get other kids to start accidentally calling their teachers "mama" and "daddy" to stave off the infamy from Spinelli doing it. Gretchen's method involves a tape of "Mama. Daddy. Mama. Daddy." being played at ultra-high speed over the PA system. It doesn't work. (Correctly.)
  • During Orel's climactic near-death experience in Moral Orel, he says "I don't need a building to tell me that. I'm a church!" backwards. This was the point of his vision, but his father forces Orel to reject the message.
  • Several episodes of Invader Zim include a semi-transparent image of GIR covered in blood for a single frame.
  • When Dave the Barbarian and his family form a rock group, Chuckles uses this to turn their listeners into a zombie army.
  • Clone High has JFK fall through the roof of the school and begin gurgling on the ground. The bump before the commercial is played backwards. When the whole scene is played backwards, the gurgling Kennedy urges the audience to nominate Clone High for an Emmy. This episode (Raisin The Stakes: A Rock Opera In Three Acts) contained many parody subliminal messages. Scudworth is your favorite character!
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy:
    • The original ending credits sequence for the show had a backwards message near the end, which turns out to be creator Maxwell Atoms saying "No, no, this is the end of the show. You're watching it backwards!"
    • At the beginning of the episode "The Prank Call of Cthulhu", Mandy says something backwards that turns out to be "Cartoons will rot your brain".
  • Parodied (of course) on an episode of South Park, where it's revealed that all Broadway musicals use this to get women to give men blowjobs. In practice, it's just the actors inserting the word "blowjob" into every other line.
  • The Danny Phantom episode "Pirate Radio" revolves around an instrumental written by Ember McLain that, when played backwards, contains the message "leave your kids, come to the cruise" and is used in a mind control plot.
  • Apparently, Amon in The Legend of Korra is hiding a rather interesting phrase in his Revelation speech. Subliminal messages tie in perfectly with his character.
  • The ALF cartoon caused a minor stink when a single frame containing no less than three American symbols (the American flag, the Statue of Liberty, and text reading "America") was found slipped into one episode during a space battle. The animators apparently put the frame in as a gag and had no idea it would be seen as a subliminal message.
  • Gravity Falls:
    • The opening theme for the series contains a backwards whisper which varies depending on the episode. It usually explains how to decode a message in the credits, but the episode "Not What He Seems" has the whisper "Stan is not what he seems", "Weirdmageddon Part 1" has Bill Cipher saying "I'm watching you nerds!", and "Weirdmageddon Part 2: Escape From Reality" has Bill saying "I'M WATCHING YOU" much more angrily. The final episode, "Weirdmageddon Part 3: Take Back the Falls", has the whisper say "Goodbye Gravity Falls," because it's the end of the show.
    • The speech of one of the Flavor Pups in Mabel's Smile Dip hallucination in "The Inconveniencing" (implied as being either gibberish, or German), sounds like he's saying "must distrust Grunkle" when played backwards.
    • The issue was brought up directly in the episode "Boyz Crazy", where Robbie finds a song on a CD that, when played backwards, turns out to say "you are now under my control, your mind is mine". He uses it on Wendy and she breaks up with him when she finds out — because mind control message or no, it wasn't his own music like he said it was.
    • Parodied in "Dreamscaperers": the scene where Li'l Gideon summons Bill Cipher has Gideon chanting ominous-sounding gibberish right before Bill appears. Played backwards, the gibberish sounds like... Gideon repeatedly saying the phrase "backwards message".
    • In "Dipper's Guide to the Unexplained: The Tooth", the Island Monster's incoherent shouting reveals a hidden message when played backwards: "You have awoken me from my slumber! Enter my mouth, children! Enter your destiny!"
    • The scene in "The Stanchurian Candidate" where Bud Gleeful asks Gideon not to use any more spooky spells and Gideon promptly uses one has some ominous-sounding gibberish chanting as part of said spell. The chanting turns out to be "spooky evil spells, spooky spells, spooky spells!" when played backwards.
    • The most significant backwards message is in the final episode where right before being defeated, Bill says, "A-X-O-L-O-T-L, my time has come to burn! I invoke the ancient power that I may return!"
  • Phineas and Ferb: Parodied in the episode "Undercover Carl". After Carl shows a recording of Phineas' iconic catchphrase, he plays it backwards in a completely random order to Mayor Monogram and somehow gets "Let's help Doofenshmirtz to destroy the Tri-State Area." Naturally, this gets Monogram worried, kicking the events of the chapter.
  • One Pinky and the Brain short has Brain become a country singer so that he can implant subliminal messages in his records. Just when he is on the verge of switching his message from "listen to my single constantly" to "I am your ruler", Pinky annoys him into lashing out verbally, accidentally changing the command to "forget you ever heard about me". This results in his scheme and music career collapsing, and Brain needing to come up with a new plan for tomorrow night.

Alternative Title(s): Backmasking, Subliminal Messaging


Subtle Hidden Messaging

Grunkle Stan understands subliminal messaging to sell stuff.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (14 votes)

Example of:

Main / SubliminalSeduction

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