Find Your Cult Documentary Niche

Find Your Cult Documentary Niche

Between the two Twin Flames documentaries and Love Has Won I've felt really spoiled for choice lately. We are living in a highly productive age when it comes to cult documentaries; I won't speculate too far about the quality or the odds of lasting cultural impact, but at least there's a lot, you know? As always, half the pleasure of watching a documentary about a cult is evaluating the leader, who is invariably disappointing; I think one of the necessary qualities of cult-leading must be looking disappointing.

If you ever met a cult leader and thought right away "Yes, this person should be leading a cult, they're as charismatic as they are attractive and as disciplined as they are charismatic," it wouldn't work somehow. Possibly that initial feeling of disappointment (this goofy little volleyball enthusiast wants to tell me how to run my life?) is necessary for the trick to work. The disappointment enables you to let down your guard and lulls you into a false sense of security ("I'm sure I can handle whatever this little volleyball fellow tries to lob at me").

It seems to me that Love Has Won, with its "Mother God" leader and its alternative "Galactic Federation of Light 5D Full Disclosure" name, is a slight aberration from the present norm; cults used to more commonly have wild and rambling names like True Salt New Coming of Franklin Delano Starcycle, whereas now they're likelier to have vaguely tech-y names like "FREEVRS" or "MNMN" (pronounced "minimium"). Possibly we have lost something in this transition! But of course we are speaking of factories which exclusively run on human suffering, so the silliness of the names is relatively unimportant.

Here are some of the tell-tale signs of a modern-day cult leader whose service might someday land you in a shallow Amazon documentary, since you can no longer reliably trust these guys to grow a Jesus hairstyle and rename themselves Napoleon the Rocket-hearted:

Disappointingly prosaic name:

Jeff, Keith, Chris, Tyler, Brandon, Zach, Kevin, Jason, Alex, Trevor, Cory. It doesn't seem right that so many guys with 90s-sounding names should be leading cults; to my mind that should still be the provenance of guys named stuff like Shepherd of the Great Rivers or Druid Richard, but here we are.

Noteworthy hobby:

  • Some fake "new" sport like pickleball or Frisbee golf. The kind that always tries to inflate its popularity by calling itself the "fastest-growing sport in the US in 2008" or something, as if they can expect current trends to continue and will shortly overtake baseball.
  • Stamp collecting (and he'll try to pass it off as some sort of spiritual exercise, too, probably, like how it cultivates patience and attention to detail)
  • Whittling
  • Car restoration (come to think of it, they always use their weird hobby as a cult thing, like they're trying to write off their own interests. So he'd probably do the same thing with car restoration: it teaches, uh, the value of teamwork and the importance of avoiding spiritual rust)
  • Lizards
  • Shooting marbles
  • POGs
  • Birdwatching
  • Juggling and closeup magic
  • Cosplay
  • Sauna culture
  • Miniature trains

Looks like he works at (as in, "How could this guy possibly hurt me? He looks like he works part time at a Michael's!"):

  • Guitar Center
  • Airport boba shop
  • Fry's Electronics
  • Auntie Anne's Pretzels
  • Hobby Lobby
  • Hudson Booksellers
  • One-hour eyeglasses store
  • Honeybaked Ham

This is the nobody who's going to ruin your life. Good luck!

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