We use the word “cult” to talk about a lot of things: the cult of celebrity, the cult of personality, the cult of domesticity, and yes, even the cult of Trump. We also use the word to describe a collective, often underground, love of something, like favorite beauty products, or movies that bomb so hard they end up getting a second life (see: The Room). But now, the conversation around cults is getting literal. This summer, we're talking about the cult of...cults.
Welcome to Cult Fridays.
Over the next few weeks, Refinery29 will be talking anything and everything cults: Why do they all wear one color? Can anyone drink actual Kool-Aid without irony? Is YouTube really bringing us the latest (scariest) version of modern cult followings? You'll have to check back every Friday to find out.
Cults appeared to reach their full pop cultural apotheosis in the 1960s and '70s as a reaction to the political, civil, and social unrest across the country. But they've been around for much longer, and fragments still exist today. It's difficult to pinpoint the first ever cult, but it's a handful have changed the course of history. There's Charles Manson and his murderous "family," David Koresh and the Branch Davidians, David Berg and his child brides, and Jim Jones and his revolutionists. All of these charismatic leaders left behind death, destruction and scores of victims of brainwashing and mental, physical and financial abuse.
This year has seen a renewed obsession with cults due to an influx of real-life news headlines, shows and films about them – and, arguably, another period of traumatic political and cultural upheaval and discord.
How do cults begin and flourish? How can so many exist simultaneously? How are so many seemingly sane, intelligent people seduced into joining? If you're fascinated by the concept of cults and their leaders, this is where you can read all about them, all summer long.
Join us. (No, not like that.)
All summer long, Refinery29 will be examining cults from every angle: pop culture, fashion, food, beauty, and their controversial origins. Let’s dig into the fascination behind this fervor with "Cult Fridays."