The show fits perfectly into the category of Guilty Pleasures; I don’t watch it and feel an overwhelming serge of compassion for the victims who have suffered enormously during their cult experiences. To the contrary, I find myself unbearably annoyed, frustrated, and entertained by the poor souls who end up brainwashed and eventually locked in a damp shed or forcefully paddled by the rest of their congregation. So ya, I guess I’m the guilty one for being somewhat amused by former cult members’ misfortunes.
Honestly, it is funny. Who in their right mind thinks that another human is a messenger from God and when has a cult ever accomplished anything productive?
What I am truly fascinated by is the mental state these people are in when they decide to join up. I can’t imagine waking up one day, walking to work, and during my stop at Dunkin’ Donuts, being handed a pamphlet that immediately and severely changes my outlook on life. But this is why I have fallen in love with the series; I can not fathom the fragility and vulnerability of someone’s character who is able to abandon normal life for a life of secrecy, isolation, and fanaticism. This lack of common sense, mixed with the bizarre rituals and secrets revealed by the ex-cult members, makes for a show that will suck you in until you feel like you might have had a sip of the Kool-Aid yourself.
The show is a combination of interviews and explanations from experts on cults and psychological disorders. The series is brand new so there have only been three episodes, the first focusing on Jim Jones and The Peoples Temple, the second focuses on the FLDS (Mormon Fundamentalists) and the third features The Nation of Yahweh.
Each episode follows a victim who escaped and has turned his/her life around and now lives a life of normalcy, usually working to expose their previous tormentors.
The turning point for Khalil Amani, who was unconditionally loyal to Yahweh Ben Yahweh, leader of the Nation of Yahweh, a Black Supremacist movement, occurred when he was falsely accused of speaking about impure subjects. He was forced to receive three paddle smacks by every woman in the congregation, including his brainwashed wife who made sure to get a few painful licks in. This punishment seriously traumatized Khalil, who after was unable to look his wife in the eyes and felt debilitatingly emasculated. But for me, it seemed like your average bachelor party.
But then again, poor old Khalil was bat-shit crazy enough to join a cult in the first place, so I’m not the least bit surprised he couldn’t handle a little American paddle sesh.
Another victim, Maura Shmierer, became involved with the Aggressive Christian Mission Training Corps, whose base and attire resembled Tyler Durden’s Project Mayhem headquarters. After being accused of being possessed by demons and judged unworthy by, you know, God himself, Maura was shunned and confined to a small shed in the back of the main residence. For months she was fed stale bread, and while being able to physically see her children, was not allowed any real contact with them. However, she admits she could have left at any time. Regardless of the undeniable trauma these easily influenced victims have undergone, they, in a redemptive fashion, make it out alive and are able to turn their lives around. Interestingly enough, Khalil has even become a hip-hop artist. Let’s hope his competition never finds out about him being paddled by a gaggle of robbed women in the Nation of Yaweh—that would make for a career-ending diss track.
Aside from the protagonists’ frustrating stories that at times leave the audience wondering how they could be so stupid, the show does a fantastic job of exposing the inner workings of some of the most secretive and controversial cults.
If you’re like me and love watching other people do incredibly bizarre things that ultimately lead to embarrassing and dangerous situations, I suggest you tune in on Sunday night at 10pm and catch the next poor sap’s story of how he became a mindless zombie following a twisted ideology.