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Go Outside with the Cults

I’ve watched the music video for the Cults’ “Go Outside” at least a half-dozen times now, and I still don’t know what to make of it. Directed by Isaiah Seret, the video is assembled largely from footage of the infamous People’s Temple camp in Guyana. The so-called Jonestown colony ended in a massacre and mass suicide in which more than 900 people died, but Seret leaves out any scenes of the tragedy. Instead he concentrates on images of the cult members singing, laughing, and playing. And lest we forget this is a music video, Seret uses film trickery to edit members of the New York band Cults into the action, making it look as if they were in Guyana in 1978.

The result is disturbing in ways Seret intended and ways he apparently did not. The director has said that he wanted to humanize the People’s Temple members. He said he has shown the video to survivors, and they told him they liked it. He has a point. By skipping over the tragic images and combining happier scenes with a cheerful and innocent-sounding song, the video retells the story as if it had a happy ending. It’s strangely comforting, in a way.

But at the same time, it’s obvious that the band is using the Jonestown story to cultivate their own air of mystery. Bands do this kind of thing all the time — just ask the Brian Jonestown Massacre. But when a music video manipulates film footage to place the band in the action of a historic tragedy and make it look like the murdered cult members were singing the band’s song, this strikes me as crossing a line.

Mrs. Magician and Spectrals also perform.

CULTS: Belly Up Tavern, Wednesday, March 21, 9 p.m. 858-481-8140. $16 advance, $18 day of show.

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I’ve watched the music video for the Cults’ “Go Outside” at least a half-dozen times now, and I still don’t know what to make of it. Directed by Isaiah Seret, the video is assembled largely from footage of the infamous People’s Temple camp in Guyana. The so-called Jonestown colony ended in a massacre and mass suicide in which more than 900 people died, but Seret leaves out any scenes of the tragedy. Instead he concentrates on images of the cult members singing, laughing, and playing. And lest we forget this is a music video, Seret uses film trickery to edit members of the New York band Cults into the action, making it look as if they were in Guyana in 1978.

The result is disturbing in ways Seret intended and ways he apparently did not. The director has said that he wanted to humanize the People’s Temple members. He said he has shown the video to survivors, and they told him they liked it. He has a point. By skipping over the tragic images and combining happier scenes with a cheerful and innocent-sounding song, the video retells the story as if it had a happy ending. It’s strangely comforting, in a way.

But at the same time, it’s obvious that the band is using the Jonestown story to cultivate their own air of mystery. Bands do this kind of thing all the time — just ask the Brian Jonestown Massacre. But when a music video manipulates film footage to place the band in the action of a historic tragedy and make it look like the murdered cult members were singing the band’s song, this strikes me as crossing a line.

Mrs. Magician and Spectrals also perform.

CULTS: Belly Up Tavern, Wednesday, March 21, 9 p.m. 858-481-8140. $16 advance, $18 day of show.

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Comments
1

You make excellent points. I suspect the director thought that, among so many modern tragedies that happened in front of cameras, the folks at the People's Temple are held in the public eye as far less culpable for their own ultimate fall than, say, David Koresh's followers, or those under Warren Jeffs' spell, who are accused of doing far more insidious things than singing Guyanan cumbayas and forming drum circles.

However, even tho the Jonestown fallen seem to looked at more sympathetically than most members of CULTS (the band's ham-handed groan-worthy cutline behind this video's existence), I agree that it crosses a line to literally twist the images to suit (and SELL) a song. A line of good and paste taste at the very least --

March 20, 2012

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