What happens when you lose objectivity about pop culture and those who speak to that very same pop culture? How do you countenance elevating a writer, a director or a musician to the status of a god and fail to see just how indoctrinated you are becoming?
What happens when you lose objectivity about pop culture and those who speak to that very same pop culture? How do you countenance elevating a writer, a director or a musician to the status of a god and fail to see just how indoctrinated you are becoming? For instance the entire sad, pathetic phenomenon known as Juggalos. These (self-assigned) social rejects are cultish in their devotion to a band who, lets face it, was a joke from the very beginning and who’s popularity was a shock to everyone, even the band themselves. These Juggalos went from being fans of the Insane Clown Posse to devotees straight out of a ’70s cult flick.* They do not see these band leaders (with the oh so subtle names of “Violent J” and, sigh, “Shaggy 2 Dope”) as songwriters or performers, but as bastions to a way of life, no, not to a way of life… to a lifestyle, to… a philosophy. Once some part of pop culture develops a philosophy it moves from being pop culture into being culture and in that move from the supercilious to the mainstream it can become very dangerous. The philosophy therein is up for interpretation obviously as those on the outside see the danger and those on the inside see only the benefits yet the varied perspectives matter little when the actions of the cultists come into play. You are free to believe that which you will, I will never take that from someone, but the practice of those beliefs is where the problem arises. A cult is, by it’s very definition really, a form of mind control and this mind control branches out into act control which further branches out into simply control. What is the difference between the groupthink of Juggalos and that of the Heaven’s Gate cult, the Guyana cult of Jim Jones or The Manson Family outside of the final actions? At this point in the Juggalo’s lifespan they are seen as nothing more than a group of weirdos with a borderline obsessive fascination to an insipid rap group, but isn’t that the early years for all cults? To be seen as a nuisance, an annoyance or even a joke is how every cult begins existence. It is once you stop seeing them as such and their actions become more serious does the problem arise.
Now, I am not, repeat NOT, trying to say that Juggalos are going to attempt a national coup of the government or go on killing sprees in a sudden burst of violence (despite Juggalos now being classified as a gang by the FBI and have been classified as a “criminal street gang” in several states). What I am saying is that they lost their objectivity and began to let the lyrics, the put upon lifestyle and the groupthink take them over the same as those at Spawn Ranch did, as those in Guyana did and same as any cult does. You are too close to see that it got you and by then it may be to late to do anything about it.
If you think I am reaching with that look again at the origins of many cults and notice that a surprising number of them start as nothing more than pop culture groupings which elicit a devoted fanbase. Fine, that is just fine, but at what point does this devotion become more? Is it when that pop culture item becomes the most important thing in your life? Is it when that pop culture item BECOMES your life? Is it when that pop culture item takes OVER your life? Just look at Joss Whedon and his, frankly, insane fanbase. They not only hang on his every word they are so devoted him that those who dare to NOT be a disciple of Whedon are not seen as simply non-fans but they are instead seen as The Enemy to be converted or discredited… and no, that was not creative alliteration, the Whedon zealots I have met have two modes of vision; you are a follower or you are an infidel. A perfect example of his unwavering ability to mindwarp his acolytes is his recent statement about the ending of The Empire Strikes Back. Whedon was being interviewed and he voiced his disapproval of how that film ended, that he was let down the story was not concluded in that movie. Fine, fair enough, he has his opinion and I give him that, the issue comes in after that interview saw print. The Empire Strikes Back has long been regarded as the best film in the Star Wars franchise and that ending especially is usually seen as ballsy and accomplished. After Whedon made his thoughts on the issue public a backlash started up around The Empire Strikes Back and it’s ending and now there is a rising current of hate for that movie and ending, why? Because the almighty Whedon didn’t like it, so we can’t either. If he didn’t like it then, maybe I don’t either… That is the dangerous part of blind fandom, when it stops being about fandom and starts being about likethink (is that a new word, it is now). In an early entry in Sanity Is Razor Thin I gave my rather negative opinion of the man and his work which was met with such vitriolic hatred one could have confused me using the word Whedon with that of “your mama”. That entry got more hits than any other at that time and it also got the most hatemail of any entry so that should tell you something. Whedon fans went so far into themselves over my comments about the man’s work they hacked my webpage off the web for over a month with a ddos attack. All because of something I said about their snark god. See how you are starting to act cultlike?
Then we come to Scientology as the next obvious step. Scientology is a legal “religion” based around pulp sci-fi stories, literally that is what it is. Scientology is both the benchmark and the cautionary tale when it comes to taking pop culture far too seriously. L Ron Hubbard invented Scientology as a way to sell his books and to not pay taxes, this is common uncontested knowledge, and yet a literal cult grew around what is, in reality, quite a bad sci-fi story. Scientologists truly believe what they believe and do so with a fervor unmatched by that of nearly any other in pop CULTure. To be fair, they did achieve what I am sure Juggalos can only dream of, that of legal status with the protections thereof. Scientology started out as devoted fans the same as with Juggalos and Whedonites and Scientology is even legally considered a CULT in more than one country.
But as in the case of Scientology, how does something that is defined as pop culture get warped, twisted, corrupted or perverted into the “cult of…” we have today? How did people go from being fans of rap clowns to drinking the Kool-Aid? How did liking the work of a screenwriter devolve into abject and unabashed worship of the man himself? How did backup stories in pulp magazines begin a legal “religion”? I know how… those involved lost touch with reality and opportunist vultures swooped in to pick their mind (and wallet) clean. When you have low self-respect you are more open to be taken advantage of and you fail to see the obvious faults in front of you. You wish to belong to something so badly and longingly that the clear warning signs are not heeded. You fool yourself into believing that which those outside can see with such clarity. You become the fool as all cult members eventually become.
If you like the works of the Insane Clown Posse, Joss Whedon or L Ron Hubbard that is just fine… but please, distance yourself from them somewhat and see them as what they are, works of pop culture and not transcriptions from the almighty. The cults of the past should be a deterrent from future mistakes but due to those items being viewed as nothing more than pop culture their conspicuous menace is degraded into a false illusion of non-threatening silliness.
As William Shatner once said in jest I now say in earnest “GET A LIFE, will you people? I mean, for crying out loud, it’s just a TV show! I mean, look at you, look at the way you’re dressed! You’ve turned an enjoyable little job, that I did as a lark for a few years, into a COLOSSAL WASTE OF TIME!”. Substitute TV show with clown rap, snark writing and with sci-fi goofiness.
*Also, if you have issues with me using the term cult in the manner I do… I refer you to this:
noun: cult; plural noun: cults
a system of religious veneration and devotion directed toward a particular figure or object.
“the cult of St. Olaf”
a relatively small group of people having religious beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange or sinister.
“a network of Satan-worshiping cults”
synonyms: sect, denomination, group, movement, church, persuasion, body, faction
“a religious cult”
a misplaced or excessive admiration for a particular person or thing.
“a cult of personality surrounding the leaders”
synonyms: obsession with, fixation on, mania for, passion for, idolization of, devotion to, worship of, veneration of…
Now tell me I am misusing that word.
Tell me to shut the fuck up at firstname.lastname@example.org and make sure to leave a comment even if it’s a nasty one (especially if it’s a nasty one).