Cults seem to be the flavor of the month right now. You’ve got Fox’s The Following, in which a serial killer is able to cull minions via the Internet. Though not featuring “cult” members per se, across the pond Utopia has obsessed fans of a comic facing off against those obsessed with hiding the books secrets.
And now the CW has its own show about fanatics, the so not creatively titled Cult. This network knows a thing or two about fandom. Have you ever met any Supernatural or The Vampire Diaries fans? So how can a channel that has created a base of rabid fanatics misunderstand them so much?
Cult is a show within a show and meta to the max. The television program playing on Cult is also entitled Cult and airing on the CW. Just for the sake of clarity; I will refer to the fictional show as Cult 2.0. So in Cult 2.0 we have Detective Kelly, an ex-member of Billy Grimm’s cult, searching for her kidnapped sister and nephew. In just plain Cult, we have ex-Washington Post reporter Jeff looking for his missing brother, Nate. But these two shows don’t just connect via parallel plots. Cult 2.0 has raised a fanatic base and, unawares to the network, its own cult. Some viewers believe that there are hidden messages within the TV program, as if the show is addressing them directly. As Jeff searches for his brother, he finds that the line between reality and fiction has nearly disappeared completely and that his mission resembles current episodes way too close for comfort.
Now let us not delve into the cheesy acting, dialogue seemingly ripped from the pages of fanfiction.net, and the absurdity of logic when it comes to crime procedure. This is the CW after all, so what do you expect? No, if you are going to look for the real sin that Cult commits, it is the complete lack of understanding this show has about real people. By that I mean more than just fans. I’m talking about everyday folks whether they obsess about television shows or not. This show gives us plebeians no credit to our intelligence what so ever. There are two ways in particular that Cult insults us all in general.
First off, the characters on both shows are not realistic. Of course both of the Cult programs are fiction and therefore realism is not necessary on all accounts. However, the utter stupidity and lack of sensible judgment from multiple members of the cast(s) makes me wonder, do the writers believe this to be normal behavior?
On to point two. Multiple twists and turns are spoon fed to the audience (unlike the viewers of Cult 2.0) as if we couldn’t catch the hint the first time around. Cult has multiple layers of mystery so not everything is revealed, but when the last two minutes of the pilot episode are anti-climactic due to obvious revelations, then you got yourself a problem.
However, what surprised me most about Cult wasn’t the lack of quality, which was to be expected. Note: The CW has produced great programs like Supernatural and Reaper, even The Vampire Diaries improved immensely after season one. That being said, the CW is hardly associated with groundbreaking television with shows of critical acclaim. No, what shocked me was that the CW didn’t try to delve deeper down the rabbit hole. Where is OUR fan involvement? What mysteries have the show runners set up for us to get wrapped up in? I remember when The Dark Knight launched its viral campaign where you could receive e-mails, discover clues, and solve puzzles to find hidden trailers and such. Warner Bros. went so far as to “kidnap” a kid at San Diego Comic-Con as part of their genius marketing venture. But go onto the official CW site for Cult and what do you find? Nothing. Well, not nothing. Just the typical videos, photos, and summaries that all the other shows featured on the channel have. There is nothing special to be found. But why not? Why not take advantage of a show about fans dissecting a show and then try and see if that’ll work in real life? Why not lay clues out for viewers to try and connect the dots? Of course, if the writers take themselves too seriously, maybe they fear violent repercussions like the ones on the show. Seems reasonable enough to me as they seem to have lost their own grip on reality.
Maybe such a social media campaign is out of their league due to their erroneous views towards fandom. Shall we for a moment dissect the errors this show makes in regard to its depiction of fan culture? We know that someone on this show had to have gone to Comic-Con before. For crying out loud, the lead Matthew Davis starred in The Vampire Diaries and got killed off to work on this?! So you would think that with all that first hand experience, the writers would know that they are referred to as cosplayers NOT role-players. I could have made a drinking game with how many times they used this misnomer, but I think I would have ended up in the hospital with alcohol poisoning. Cosplaying, I’m sorry, role-playing is supposed to be super underground, even more so than the basement club FanDomAin where hardcore fans can go and watch their favorite TV shows. Except they don’t. Instead, they type away on their computers, coming up with conspiracy theories and printing out images for their creepy collages.
Cult is a train wreck. But instead of producing obsessive fans, it is more likely to create rubberneckers. I just couldn’t look away, no matter how much I moaned and groaned at the logical impossibilities before me. If The Secret Circle was given a chance to finish a full season, then I expect the CW to do the same with Cult. Just maybe not for the reasons the show runners intended. Instead of taking this show seriously, I plan on viewing Cult as an hour-long sitcom filled with dense characters and numerous “jumped the shark” moments.