Monday, June 22, 2015

Polymorphous Cult-ure

Emilie Friedland at the Fader has her own take on why there are so many Cults all of the sudden, particularly how they reflect postmodern culture's pastische ideologies:
When we watch a TV show like Aquarius, we’re transported back to a time before people necessarily “knew better” than to think that other worlds, and other homes, were possible; even in watching Manson’s most sinister moments, we experience the vicarious thrill of living life completely according to one's own, made-up rules—of breaking with consensus reality as we know it, of starting with utopian intentions and going way too far.

...Back when I interviewed Isis Aquarian, I asked her about the foundation of Father Yod’s belief system. “We took from everything,” she said. “We took from every religion. We took from past lives. We took from the mystery teachings. We took from the yogis. We took from the Buddha. We took from whatever made sense and worked to us and distilled it into our own uniqueness.” That pick-and-choose, take-what-you-like-and-leave-the-rest eclecticism remains a core facet of new age culture; it’s an idea I’d say that I adhere to in my own spiritual life, only I can’t help noticing how perfectly it dovetails with our behavior as 21st century consumers. We express our view of the world—and even our desire to drop out of it—with the objects and experiences that we choose to spend our money on. But when escape becomes something that you buy, it ceases to be a real escape. Maybe it ensnares us even further in the world that we’re escaping.

I read this early Saturday and, sure enough, later that day my wife and I saw an episode on the new season of Orange is the New Black where the mute character of Norma's back story is explored through her many years as a loyal cult member.

This episode also brought to mind one of the other things about cults that also falls outside of the cultural norms Friedlander talks about; polygamy, which can serve both that patriarchal domination/submission wish fulfillment fantasy and also incriminate it.  Polygamy as subject matter ensnares all of our contradictory feelings towards sexual liberation and allows an avenue to filter anxieties about commitment, as well as how both sexual freedom and the bonds of marriage feed into the continued superstructural subjugation of women.  Likewise to the Fader piece, polygamy is both something available reflected in the world we're escaping (multiple partners, infidelity, open relationships, et al.) and something completely taboo or outside the bounds of acceptance.

I had totally forgotten about Big Love too- I think many people have, to be honest.  Big Love (about a particularly fundamentalist strain of Mormonism) was a massive success when it first aired and probably even lead to the similar reality TV spinoff Sister Wives, which was even bigger.  

Incidentally, it turns out OITNB's Annie Golden, who plays Norma, has a 20 year history in music.  Starting out in the new wave/punk end of things and then veering into pop later on.

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