As the practice of floating continues to grow in popularity, it’s no surprise to discover it’s made a number of ‘guest appearances’ in movies and TV shows. And while we’re all for spreading the good word about float therapy by any means necessary, what we don’t want is for the float-curious amongst us to get the wrong impression about our favorite wellness practice.
In honor of the July 4th release of the third season for Netflix’s “Stranger Things,” we’ll be taking a look at 4 different ways that floating has been immortalized in pop culture – and present you with the facts behind the (sometimes) purely fictional story developments. Lights! Camera! And:
ALTERED STATES (1980)
WHAT IT IS: As a scientist bent on discovering the secrets of human consciousness, Edward Jessup (William Hurt) puts his life and sanity on the line through a series of dangerous experiments… including some that involve the use of a float tank.
HOW IT’S USED: Jessup uses a float tank to heighten the effects of a hallucinogenic, consciousness-shattering drug. As the experiments progress, he finds himself slipping deeper and deeper into a distorted version of reality (in the film’s most memorable moment, he ‘devolves’ into a cave man and wreaks havoc on a local zoo.)
THE BOTTOM LINE: Like sharks with “Jaws” and showers for “Psycho,” “Altered States” presented floating as something to be feared. Even today, many people associate the practice with the basic tenets (the mad scientist, hallucinations, etc.) established in the film. And while it’s TRUE that floating can be a wonderful tool for delving deeper into the conscious mind in a relaxed, meditative way, everything else? PURE FICTION (although it did inspire “Stranger Things” in a big way, 36 years later.)
THE SIMPSONS (1999)
WHAT IT IS: In the episode “Make Room for Lisa,” Homer and daughter Lisa visit a new age store, where the owner convinces them both to embark on a spiritual journey by way of a float tank.
HOW IT’S USED: In their separate tanks for a two-hour float, Lisa and Homer have wildly different experiences. After quieting her mind, Lisa is able to fully relax and gain much-needed perspective about her father. And while we won’t spoil what happens with Homer (thanks to #floatinglight for the link), safe to say he goes on a journey that leads him to proclaim: “Sensory deprivation kicks ass!”
THE BOTTOM LINE: You know how “The Simpsons” is sometimes credited for predicting the future, and/or setting the stage for various movements in pop culture? 20 years ago, “The Simpsons” was telling us what floaters everywhere today know for a fact: when you quiet your mind and fully immerse in the float experience, it can be absolutely unforgettable. Verdict: MOSTLY TRUE
WHAT IT IS: An FBI agent is forced to work with an institutionalized scientist (and his son) in order to rationalize a brewing storm of unexplained phenomena. The word “fringe” relates to “fringe science,” and the team’s sometimes-unorthodox methods of investigation.
HOW IT’S USED: The practice of floating makes an appearance in a number of different “Fringe” episodes; more often than not, characters enter the float tank to explore their consciousness to retrieve lost memories and information. It’s even suggested that – under the right circumstances – floating provides access to dimensions unavailable through any other means (see “The Upside Down” in our last entry.)
THE BOTTOM LINE: Like “Altered States,” the characters use psychotropic substances to facilitate the float experience; also like “Altered States,” floaters are able to explore the subconscious in ways not possible in everyday life. And while it’s TRUE that floating has been scientifically proven to aid in recovering lost memories and gaining powerful new insights, floating as a gateway to other worlds and/or dimensions makes “Fringe” the stuff of PURE FICTION.
And now, finally, the latest work of pop culture to help put floating on the map (and launch a thousand questions for us here at Just Float,) it’s:
Stranger Things (2016-2019)
WHAT IT IS: In the small town of Hawkins in 1982, an unlikely group of friends discover that some “things” are more dangerous than others.
HOW IT’S USED: Through the use of a makeshift float tank in their high school’s gym, a gifted young girl is able to expand her consciousness and visit a dangerous parallel universe known as “The Upside Down.”
THE BOTTOM LINE: Anything that brings the practice of floating into the public sphere is ok by us – especially when it’s as cool, fun and entertaining as “Stranger Things”! First: yes, there is science to back up the fact that floating can aid in the expansion and exploration of the conscious mind – to reach places inaccessible through other means. But, sadly (or gladly, as the case may be,) the answer for the rest is NO: you won’t enter one of Just Float’s tanks and finds yourself inadvertently up-close-and-personal with a Gorgon, or any other manner of monstrous entity. If you do… please contact a Just Float team member for assistance locating the nearest exit.
Will floating make a return for season 3 in “Stranger Things”? We’ll know for sure very shortly – in the meantime, here’s Netflix’s trailer for what’s coming up next for our young friends in Hawkins, Indiana:
Did we miss anything? Have a different take on the material and/or a few suggestions of your own? We’d love to know! You can send your comments along to firstname.lastname@example.org, or post a message via Facebook or Twitter with #justfloat.