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Go Outside by Cults, a music video
July 13, 2011 9:36 AM   Subscribe

This year's hot summer jam, Go Outside by Cults, finally has a video. It shows members of the band digitally inserted into footage of Jim Jones' famous religious cult, People's Temple.

Pitchfork review of Cults' self titled debut (spoiler it got an 8.5)
posted by The Devil Tesla (148 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Tasteful.
posted by Bummus at 9:38 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


For this music video we didn't want to put a spin on the footage or the peoples lives—instead we wanted to re-tell and humanize their story

Yeah, right.
posted by ciderwoman at 9:42 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not a terribly sensitive person, but this is in remarkably poor taste. Shame on that desperate band for resorting to that shit and shame on you for giving them the publicity that they hoped for by stooping to that level.

Most of the victims of the Jonestown Massacre were brought into this world with nothing, and they were desperate enough to follow someone to the jungle and start a new life in the hopes that the promised acceptance, love and freedom from want would be there. Instead, their blind hope and desperation got them killed. They deserve better than to be the backdrop for some collection of assholes and their shit music.
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:46 AM on July 13, 2011 [39 favorites]


I think I must be getting old because I agree with the above posters. And yet, the band name "Brian Jonestown Massacre" still amuses me.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:51 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Never forget that most of Jones' victims were poor, black, and desperate.

Fuck this band.
posted by Trurl at 9:56 AM on July 13, 2011 [7 favorites]


They're called Cults, and they sample speeches from cult leaders on their album. It's not like this should really surprise anybody.

That said, it is disappointing. I liked their record okay, and your music can play with whatever themes you want, fine by me. But this really feels exploitative and thoughtless and gross. I hate them a little bit now, and I wish they would have let me just go on simply liking their record.
posted by penduluum at 9:57 AM on July 13, 2011


This is pretty tasteless. Too bad, the album was pretty good, but now it's soured.
posted by arcticwoman at 10:00 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


This whole thing was incredibly upsetting.

That being said, it reminds me of the Familjen Video for Det snurrar i min skalle, repurposing danish (?) pentecostal footage into an amazing lip sync dance party.
posted by CharlesV42 at 10:04 AM on July 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


Sort of really love it. To me, it's not exploitative. It does humanize the victims of the Jonestown Massacre. I've long been fascinated with Jim Jones and the people who gave up their lives to start a better world in Jonestown, and one thing I always come back to is how many kind, interesting, talented, successful people got roped into this thing that got out of control. Including probably some really talented musicians. So for me this is like this little thought experiment, could people now find that kind of life attractive? What kind of person, what would a 2011 Jim Jones say to convince a pair of indie rockers from Brooklyn to follow him to a spot of land and start anew? I realize not everybody will see it like that but that's what I was thinking when I watched it and I liked it.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 10:04 AM on July 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


The music sounds like it's from Sesame Street or something and you don't even really listen to it, partly because it's so nothing and partly because your watching the suicide cultmembers.
posted by longsleeves at 10:06 AM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Does anyone remember a very similar video made by a ... I'm thinking a Scandinavian electronica group, and it was footage from a local holy roller revival church in the 1970s, fantastic sideburns and leisure suits, and cut to match the beat and singing of the song? It was great, and didn't have the whole "exploiting poor blacks who were taken in by some sociopathic cult leader who was protected by the California political class because he could get voters to come out" yuck factor.
posted by kenlayne at 10:06 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


@kenlayne, that's the Familjen video I posted above
posted by CharlesV42 at 10:07 AM on July 13, 2011


If they just choreographed their music video to look like it took place in Jonestown, would we care?
posted by LogicalDash at 10:09 AM on July 13, 2011


@kenlayne, that's the Familjen video I posted above

Thank you! I could not remember the name of the group or the actual country .... googling "holy roller 1970s Scandinavian video" did not lead me to the answer.
posted by kenlayne at 10:10 AM on July 13, 2011


This makes me hate music.
posted by BeerFilter at 10:16 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


The music sounds like it's from Sesame Street or something

Honestly, I was thinking that it sounded someone had muddied up a Carpenters track. Whatever, the quality of the music is irrelevant as it's presented.
posted by Mayor Curley at 10:19 AM on July 13, 2011


I like it but I feel like it doesn't go far enough. The music's dreamy and the lyrics are all about a longing to get out, of a situation or perhaps literally just out into nature. That lines up pretty well with the optimism and rebirth Jonestown must have initially offered for the mostly poor and downtrodden cult members. Instead of playing with those themes it's pretty much just the song, over footage of the cult, with some band members shoehorned in.
posted by 2bucksplus at 10:24 AM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


If you need an antidote to this exploitational BS, try this StoryCorps interview from my congressional representative, Jackie Speier. It's not easy listening, but it'll help to purge the bad taste in your mouth.
posted by anigbrowl at 10:25 AM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Here's a direct link to Vimeo so you can bypass BngBng.

IMO a hot summer jam cannot be echoey xylophone indie pop. Again, just IMO. (Unless the poster was joking?)
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 10:26 AM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Erk - link is on the wrong 'this' - should look like so:

If you need an antidote to this exploitational BS, try this StoryCorps interview from my congressional representative, Jackie Speier. It's not easy listening, but it'll help to purge the bad taste in your mouth.

posted by anigbrowl at 10:26 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Shame on that desperate band for resorting to that shit and shame on you for giving them the publicity that they hoped for by stooping to that level.

It's totally okay to not like this, but I'm a little tired of people assuming that when someone does something offensive its because they want attention. What a horribly reductive view of the world.
posted by The Devil Tesla at 10:27 AM on July 13, 2011 [13 favorites]


Also, the name Brian Oblivion sounds like a rock-star name from a Monty Python skit.

Is that intentional?
posted by Bummus at 10:28 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


luckily for me, my summer jam is already picked, 'cause this is pure shit.
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 10:28 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


The always and forever summer jam.
posted by adamdschneider at 10:29 AM on July 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'm sorry, could you please point to those someones doing offensive things who don't want attention please. That sounds interesting.
posted by humboldt32 at 10:34 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


In the Bay Area, this was a very big deal. I was a kid when Jonestown happened, but I remember my parents being glued to the news and the long, scrolling list of names of the dead shown at the end of one of the newscasts.

I'm really not easily offended, but this seemed utterly self-centered, thoughtless and ignorant. They just unveiled a memorial here in Oakland about a month and a half ago. There's hundreds of living relatives of Jonestown dead in this town, and I don't think they would appreciate this.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:35 AM on July 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


Apparently, the original video for DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince's "Summertime" involved the two of them being digitally interpolated into the firebombing of Tokyo.
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:36 AM on July 13, 2011 [19 favorites]


Obviously, since this video is a BoingBoing exclusive, it's full of hipster irony (and probably ukeleles somewhere in the mix), and everyone is simply not getting it.

Or, it's lame and reprehensible crap.

I suppose there's some saving grace in that it wasn't yet another Die Antwoord video.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:42 AM on July 13, 2011


I'm sorry, could you please point to those someones doing offensive things who don't want attention please.

Instead of making somebody disprove their point, perhaps you could prove yours. Where is your evidence that they are doing this just for the sake of attention, rather than as a genuine artistic statement that you personally don't like?

It is entirely possible to discuss the art without making presumptions about the motivation. Unless you have some information about their motivation that is not in any of the links provided.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:44 AM on July 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


Also tasteless: if your band name is Cults, don't make your video about a cult. That's like going to a band's concert wearing their t-shirt. Wang Chung, as always, is exempted from this line of reasoning.
posted by condour75 at 10:44 AM on July 13, 2011 [11 favorites]


Goddamn that is a boring song. It sounds like someone shaking a jar of pennies at the bottom of a pool.
posted by saladin at 10:45 AM on July 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


Eh, it's no "Fire Woman."
posted by Eideteker at 10:47 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Machines of Loving Grace beat these guys to it. And I'm sure they probably weren't the first. I know Jim Jones' ranting has been used in music before.
posted by dortmunder at 10:50 AM on July 13, 2011


GAH I have liked this song for what feels like close to a year, and now they come out with this shite, tone-deaf video.

Pity.
posted by everichon at 10:51 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Astro Zombie: “Where is your evidence that they are doing this just for the sake of attention, rather than as a genuine artistic statement that you personally don't like? It is entirely possible to discuss the art without making presumptions about the motivation. Unless you have some information about their motivation that is not in any of the links provided.”

Well, I'm not joining the chorus of hand-wringing disgust, but I'd like to hear somebody's explanation of just how this could be an "artistic statement." The band's claim that they're trying to "humanize" the victims doesn't really make any sense at all; who in their right mind didn't find the victims human already? And how is digitally inserting your face next to someone else's and making it seem like they're singing your single along with you "humanizing" them?

Really, the only possibility that makes sense to me is that this is a publicity stunt.

But, as I say, I might be totally wrong. I really would like to hear a description of what "artistic statement" they're actually trying to make.
posted by koeselitz at 10:51 AM on July 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


Also, the name Brian Oblivion sounds like a rock-star name from a Monty Python skit.

It's a character from Videodrome. Or a member of the hacking group the L0pht.
posted by scalefree at 10:51 AM on July 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


I quite liked the Jonestown CBC piece I FPPed here.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:52 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Somewhere, Genesis P-Orridge shakes his head.
posted by stinkycheese at 10:54 AM on July 13, 2011


From the director's statement on the linked page:
To tell the story of Cults' hauntingly beautiful track, "Go Outside", I was inspired to bring the band inside the world of Jim Jones' famous religious cult, Peoples Temple, and the eventual tragedy in Jonestown. Fortunately, when exploring the feasibility of this video I became acquainted with Fielding M. McGehee III, an expert on Peoples Temple history and the primary researcher for the Jonestown Archive. It is thanks to him and his encouragement that I was able to take on this project and through his support gained access to over two and half hours of home videos showing Peoples Temple in Jonestown. For this music video we didn't want to put a spin on the footage or the peoples lives—instead we wanted to re-tell and humanize their story. In order to achieve this we used a combination of stock footage, visual effects and other tricks to embed the band into the historical footage. This was achieved through my collaboration with my visual effects supervisor Bill Gillman and my cinematographer Matthew Lloyd. Lastly, I am moved to say when we completed the video we were able to preview it for some of the survivors of the Jonestown Massacre, who expressed their appreciation of our focus on the lives of the People's Temple members as opposed to exploiting the graphic images of the final tragedy.
(Emphasis mine). Assuming the director isn't lying or deceiving himself, that makes me a little less ready to jump on the offended wagon.
posted by treepour at 10:55 AM on July 13, 2011 [10 favorites]


Thanks, treepour. That's a good answer. I still don't know if I agree with the move, but at least they really feel they're in earnest.
posted by koeselitz at 10:57 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Astro Zombie: “Where is your evidence that they are doing this just for the sake of attention, rather than as a genuine artistic statement that you personally don't like? It is entirely possible to discuss the art without making presumptions about the motivation. Unless you have some information about their motivation that is not in any of the links provided.”

I wasn't commenting on this video or it's artistic intent. I simply found the idea of someone doing something offensive who has no interest in having anyone pay attention to it an interesting concept. I'd like to find out more about someone who's doing this. But yeah, feel free to prejudge me all you want.
posted by humboldt32 at 10:57 AM on July 13, 2011


I've always thought the Cults had an interestingly weird take on a lot of classic pop songs. Like Every Breath You Take, Cults' Abducted is structurally a song about crushes and unrequited love, but it's got a strangely creepy undercurrent that captures something way darker.

While I can understand that people would be troubled and startled by this particular video, I think it's in keeping with the music they've produced and the previous video (for Abducted).
posted by verb at 10:58 AM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think it's possible to assume the band intended this for exactly the reason they state, without cynicism. It's also possible to think that that the video is thoughtless and fails to meet their stated goal.

People make bad decisions all the time for reasons other than attention-seeking. This looks like one of those cases to me.

And 3rding everybody going and listening to that Jackie Speier piece. Holy crap.
posted by feckless at 10:58 AM on July 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't know why this bothers me less than Rage Against The Machine using a photograph of Thích Quảng Đức's self-immolation for an album cover.

This at least has the merit of being deliberately provocative. The RATM album was just alliance by inference.

I dunno.

Perhaps it feels less bad to trivialize the sad deaths of many than the brave death of one.

Hmmm. Now I have to think about this.

But yeah, that song blows goats.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:58 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


But, as I say, I might be totally wrong. I really would like to hear a description of what "artistic statement" they're actually trying to make.

All right, well, I have watched the video now. I think this post could have been framed a little clearer, as, although it's not said outright, on first blush one might assume, incorrectly, that the video has the band inserted into footage from the mass suicide. It doesn't.

Instead, what they present is a sort of mini-documentary of Jonestown, from the People's Temple in San Francisco to the move to Guyana. The band is not inserted often, and, when they are, it is not in a mocking or ironic way, but as though they were present. It ends before the suicide, with a group leaving the Guyana compound.

The music fits in well -- it's ecstatic and sounds a bit like the sort of group folk rock hymn that was popular in the Sixties and Seventies. And the lyrics seem appropriate as well, suggesting a sort of bullying from somebody with a clear idea about what is worthwhile, singing to somebody who doesn't share that viewpoint:

I really want to go out
I really want to go outside and stop to see your day
You really want to hole up
You really want to stay inside and sleep the light away


I don't think there is anything inherently offensive about this. I might have had they put themselves into the suicide footage, but, as it stands, it's no more offensive than, say, Forrest Gump showing up in historical footage. The footage itself actually is quite moving, and I think it works perfectly well as a short film.

But yeah, feel free to prejudge me all you want.

Properly, I'm asking that you not prejudge the video, or ascribe motivations that are not there.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:02 AM on July 13, 2011 [10 favorites]


Perhaps the band wanted to show the unadulterated joy that members of the church felt - that it all started out with enthusiasm and pure good intentions. But yeah - I can't make myself sit through the video - the feeling of innocent lambs being lead to the slaughter is too much for me.
posted by helmutdog at 11:03 AM on July 13, 2011


A journalist for LA Weekly found a suitcase full of correspondence from parents to their daughter who had joined the cult. The cache also included dissenting letters from their son-in-law to Jones, who escaped once, and then returned and was drugged and kept in captivity in Guyana.

It's a long article, but well worth reading.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:04 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


az:Properly, I'm asking that you not prejudge the video, or ascribe motivations that are not there.

Conveniently you've chosen to completely ignore the first sentence of my last comment.
posted by humboldt32 at 11:05 AM on July 13, 2011


I think I really want to go outside. Even when I agree to some extent or another, Outragefilter has got me down.
posted by everichon at 11:06 AM on July 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Conveniently you've chosen to completely ignore the first sentence of my last comment.

I didn't ignore it. But when you say somebody is deliberately being offensive for the sake of getting attention, you are ascribing motivations, even when you claim otherwise.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:07 AM on July 13, 2011


more summer jam picks, please.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:08 AM on July 13, 2011


It's hard to say what i would think of this music absent the context of the video, but the phrase "mediocre-to-slightly-above-average blog rock" springs to mind.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:10 AM on July 13, 2011


I like the song. I wonder how much that affects people's experience of the video?
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:12 AM on July 13, 2011


From the director's statement on the linked page:

Note that a) this is the director, not the band member, and bands often just show up to video shoots without really even knowing what they'll be shooting and

b) this guy is totally full of crap. if it's all about the history, why insert the band members, who weren't there? Actually, why not just make a different music video, then go make a documentary about Jonestown later, if it's so interesting to you? and finally

c) all "artist's statements" all ultimately worthless. The art *is* the statement. If you have to explain it in words, why does it exist?
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:16 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


blog rock

Is that really a Thing?

Please don't let that be a Thing.

Tell me that's not a Thing.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:16 AM on July 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


if it's all about the history, why insert the band members, who weren't there?

Nowhere does he say it's all about the history.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:17 AM on July 13, 2011


I like the song and the video is ok. I am not ashamed.
posted by orme at 11:17 AM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Please don't let that be a Thing.

Sorry, it is totally a thing. Still, I like music blogs, even if some of them are getting into a kind of groupthink. For an example of how this is totally okay, try a channel on shuffler.fm.
posted by The Devil Tesla at 11:20 AM on July 13, 2011


this has been done before. sorta.

but this version has Powers Boothe!
posted by ianaces at 11:24 AM on July 13, 2011


Just watched the video. Have to say, I thought it was well done.
posted by 2N2222 at 11:24 AM on July 13, 2011


If people were smarter, or more media-aware, maybe this wouldn't bother me so much. But, in the same way I have no doubt that there are people who really think Weezer played at Arnold's that one time (and Fonzie did that funny dance!), I feel fairly certain someone is going to approach one of the members of Cults over the next year or so, and as them how they survived Jonestown and what was it really like.
posted by stinkycheese at 11:24 AM on July 13, 2011


I like the video and the song too. I had heard of Cults but hadn't bothered to check them out.

What amazes me the most about the whole thing is how good their SEO is. #1 google result for "cults"?! WTF?

By the way, only tangentially related, but will you look at the #1 song in the USA? WTF? I knew Top 40 jumped the shark decades ago, but is it now only reserved for self-flagellators?

blog rock

Is that really a Thing?

Please don't let that be a Thing.

Tell me that's not a Thing.


It's a common pejorative for "indie rock"

Still, I like music blogs, even if some of them are getting into a kind of groupthink.

You do not read enough music blogs.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:25 AM on July 13, 2011


sorry, here is that link.
posted by ianaces at 11:25 AM on July 13, 2011


I feel fairly certain someone is going to approach one of the members of Cults over the next year or so, and as them how they survived Jonestown and what was it really like.

You simply cannot make art out of concern about the misunderstandings of somebody stupid enough to think a singer in her early 20s was at Jonestown.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:27 AM on July 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


I simply found the idea of someone doing something offensive who has no interest in having anyone pay attention to it an interesting concept. I'd like to find out more about someone who's doing this.

Well there was that thread yesterday about the South African Colonial-themed wedding.
posted by Hoopo at 11:34 AM on July 13, 2011


Really? Jonestown is still "too soon". I've seen more extreme exploitation of more controversial footage and events - like of the Holocaust/Hitler for instance.

Go ahead and call me insensitive, but I thought this was a very thought provoking, creative video that worked perfectly with the song. There were no bodies lying on the ground or gruesome footage used - though you wouldn't know that judging by the comments here. I'm actually a bit confused at the number of knickers that are in a knot .. oh wait, this is MeFi - carry on.
posted by weezy at 11:54 AM on July 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


I like it. It's well executed, artistically cohesive, and emotionally resonant. It does tend to bury the song a bit, though. Reduces it to a soundtrack.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:58 AM on July 13, 2011


The massacre happened on my 11th birthday, when I was old enough to notice it and pay attention to the footage. The video was creepy to me because I recognized Jones immediately from the footage and it took me a bit to figure out where they'd inserted the new footage.

I like the song; the video isn't my cuppa. It's not offensive to me, though. I loved Guyana Punch, and this song and video have nothing on that for offensiveness.
posted by immlass at 12:00 PM on July 13, 2011


I'm actually a bit confused at the number of knickers that are in a knot.

It's because they're an "indie" band. It's impossible for some people to see past the "indieness" of it all and they will automatically assume that this "indie" group is using this archival footage for ironic or sarcastic purposes. It is almost impossible for an "indie" band to be seen as genuine or sincere in their artistic intent. It's a bad faith judgement right out of the gate.
posted by Think_Long at 12:01 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, the name Brian Oblivion sounds like a rock-star name from a Monty Python skit.

But not a member of The Oblivians. That was Jack, Eric, and Greg Oblivian, I think. Speaking of great summer jams, here's The Oblivians doing Bad Man. It fucking rocks.

And just because I want to and mrgrimm asked for it, here's a couple more summer jams to make you drive fast and enjoy sweating:
King Tuff, Hands
Fistful of Beard, Dark Dark Side

posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:04 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's because they're an "indie" band. It's impossible for some people to see past the "indieness" of it all.. It's a bad faith judgement right out of the gate.

And here I thought my objection stemmed from someone using dead victims to sell a product. Everyone's talking about the artistic intent of the video, but music videos exist to increase publicity and move a product (music). This is an advertisement at its base and using non-consenting victims of a great tragedy to sell your product is in the worst possible taste. Capitalism has no fucking soul. That's why I'm offended. I don't care about genres of music-- I'm old and I don't care about new music trends at all.
posted by Mayor Curley at 12:12 PM on July 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


At least they didn't film it on a plantation.
posted by blue_beetle at 12:13 PM on July 13, 2011


This is rapidly becoming my summer jam for this year.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:13 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


And here I thought my objection stemmed from someone using dead victims to sell a product. Everyone's talking about the artistic intent of the video, but music videos exist to increase publicity and move a product (music).

I think that's a fair point and a legitimate difference of opinion. Music videos certainly do push a product, but don't most artistic endeavours share that motivation? Surely there's a continuum of capitalism>>>>>>>>>>art? Is it impossible, in your opinion, for a music video to make a statement simply because it's a music video?
posted by Think_Long at 12:16 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Everyone's talking about the artistic intent of the video, but music videos exist to increase publicity and move a product (music).

That's a reason videos exist, but not the only one. There's a lot of art out there that draws from actual historical tragedies -- one of my plays retells of a lynching that occurred in Omaha in 1919, and the first production was performed on the exact location where it occurred. Later productions have made use of a photograph of the lynching victim. All of these productions made money, but everybody involved would balk at your suggestion that we were using a dead victim to sell a product.

I think that criticism is similarly reductive and unfair here.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:16 PM on July 13, 2011


Or this. I'm really not sure.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:18 PM on July 13, 2011


Also, the name Brian Oblivion sounds like a rock-star name from a Monty Python skit.

But not a member of The Oblivians.


Actually, it was the "Brian" part that made it sound all Pythonesque to me.
posted by Bummus at 12:20 PM on July 13, 2011


I found it strangely moving.

Why complain about this product, which arguably exploits the dead (who were already dead and will stay that way), when pretty much every product, in our age, exploits the living?
posted by klanawa at 12:21 PM on July 13, 2011


In most cases, the band doesn't have much input in the creation of the video. The director or music label picks an idea and the band makes an appearance for better or for worse. I remember seeing an interview with Nick Cave about his "Into My Arms" video which he hated.
posted by JJ86 at 12:22 PM on July 13, 2011


I know next to nothing about Cults but a friend has been bugging me to go see them when they're in Vancouver next week. Anybody seen them live, can offer an opinion?
posted by mannequito at 12:24 PM on July 13, 2011


AZ: no, you can't, but, like it or not, that's reality. And it is painful to imagine.

I used to be pretty obsessed with Jonestown, read everything about it I could get my hands on (White Night I recall being particularly good). It's a fascinating story, for many reasons. I remember the first time I heard the recording of the massacre there, I had very mixed feelings about the experience: was this akin to watching a snuff film? Was I exploiting these people's deaths by listening to this?

Oddly enough, this video creeps me out even more than that tape did. At least that audio recording was real, the actual events unaltered (unless one believes the CIA was involved, of course) - there was no confusion present, no layering of realities. This video may have been alright with some survivors families, but what of the dead who cannot speak, what of those who appear onscreen in this video who did not consent?

It's a very slippery slope, and in an age of increasingly good technology, I'd argue it's a dangerous one. How long until some band decides to insert themselves into Triumph of the Will? Would that be ok? What if they pretended to give Hitler a wedgie (or have him do a jig) or something? Would that make it ok? What if someone inserts themselves into the Zapruder film, standing on the hood of JFK's limo and blowing him away with a gun?

It depresses me to consider the possibilities. It's lying really, using the camera to lie. Now, as a former film theory major, I'm very familiar with the idea that the camera always lies, but this seems like giving up on the idea that a camera can give us any truth whatsoever. Conflating truth (this is period footage of the actual people involved) with lies (inserting new figures into that footage decades later) serves us how?

I read the director's statement, but I would agree with the comment upthread - if you want people to learn about Jonestown, make a documentary. If you want to connect your band to something going on historically, use historical footage, fine - lots of hip hop groups in the 90s used footage of civil rights marches, and so on, to great effect. They didn't insert themselves into the footage. They didn't have to.
posted by stinkycheese at 12:24 PM on July 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm actually a bit confused at the number of knickers that are in a knot.

All I saw when I watched the video was children not yet dead, a landing strip not yet a kill zone, a death site not yet littered with bodies, parents who had not yet murdered their children and a band looking to cash in on the event. I don't know how anybody can know the horrific history of that place and -not- think of those things while watching unless they're absolutely ignorant of, quite literally, the next few hours of history. That shit was absolutely horrific on every level, nearly beyond imagination and really needs no adornment.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 12:25 PM on July 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


What if they pretended to give Hitler a wedgie (or have him do a jig) or something? Would that make it ok?

"After Hitler accepted France's surrender, he stepped backwards slightly, as if in shock. But this is not what audiences in the Allied countries saw who watched the movie-reel of the ceremony. Instead they saw Hitler dance a bizarre little jig after signing the documents, as if he were childishly celebrating his victory by jumping up and down. The scene was played over and over again in movie theaters. " *
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:27 PM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Er, that's why I mentioned it.
posted by stinkycheese at 12:31 PM on July 13, 2011


Well, then I am curious as to why you think we're on a slippery slope. If we've been manipulating the imagery since Hitler was actually alive, the slope can't be all that slippery, can it?
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:32 PM on July 13, 2011


I think it's possible to think that the video is tasteless and disgusting, but to elevate it to eleven on the Outrage-o-Meter seems excessive to me.
posted by blucevalo at 12:32 PM on July 13, 2011


What bothers me the most about this is that the story of Jonestown doesn't seem to be integral — rather they seem to be glomming onto it and shoehorning the "Cults" band in, in a way that makes it feel like the primary emotional punch is carried by the real things that happened, not by their video, and yeah, that feels lazy and exploitative. I also hated Forest Gump (the paean to the American moron).

Instead of feeling like a new work, their treatment of the footage simply feels derivative, and I'd rather that derivative works not be so obliviously twee about their exploitation.

Still like the song though.
posted by klangklangston at 12:40 PM on July 13, 2011


Hitler's jig is an historical example of creating a lie from real footage. Further, it was 'justified' because it was making fun of a very bad man. The slope is slippery, thanks largely to technology - the lie becomes easier and easier to propagate.
posted by stinkycheese at 12:41 PM on July 13, 2011


Yeah, I'm just not buying your slippery slope argument. The Hitler video was blatantly propagandist, but this video is in no way trying to pretend that Cults were actually in Guyana for the event. It is, instead, quite transparent about what it is doing. Your slope seems to be running uphill, if anything, from technology being used to deceive people for the purpose of propaganda to people using technology in a non-deceptive way for the sake of art.

I think it is very easy to justify this video, in that Cults are using a mass media format to reach an audience that documentaries might not reach. Without the soundtrack, and without the half-dozen scenes of Cults actually making an appearance, it's a pretty straightforward, if non-narrative, documentary.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:46 PM on July 13, 2011


The slope is slippery, thanks largely to technology - the lie becomes easier and easier to propagate.

So is the problem that it is insensitive to the nature of the massacre to alter the footage? Or is the problem that you're afraid that the historical record will be changed?

The footage itself isn't sacred, I don't begrudge a group from trying to use it in what seems to me to be a pretty sensitive way.
posted by Think_Long at 12:52 PM on July 13, 2011


At this point, I find myself wondering if you have a friend in the band or something. Your arguments usually at least make sense, but you're sure not making much sense here. This is non-deceptive? Transparent? A pretty straightforward, if non-narrative, documentary? I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree. That isn't remotely what I see.
posted by stinkycheese at 12:55 PM on July 13, 2011


This is non-deceptive?

They openly state that they have inserted themselves into the footage. Unless you believe that people are going to think a band that just released their first album somehow died at Jonestown, there is no deception going on here.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:59 PM on July 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


And I have no friends in the band. I would thank you to take my arguments at face value, rather than impugn my motivation. I only heard them for the first time about a week ago.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:59 PM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Think_Long: Can't it be both?

The footage is as sacred as we make it. In one sense, it's magnetic tape, subject to decay, that's about it. In another sense, it's memories, lives, people.

Look, the first time I saw a pic online of Hulk Hogan ripping down the WTC, I laughed. It's a funny juxtaposition of tragedy and comedy. It was also a pic (or gif), no one is making any money off it, it doesn't promote Hulk Hogan, and it doesn't confuse the events of 9-11 (hopefully).
posted by stinkycheese at 1:01 PM on July 13, 2011


They openly state that they have inserted themselves into the footage.

In the director's statement?

To the extent the video is impressive, it is because the members of Cults are seamlessy integrated into historical footage. In other words, because of the deception's believability.
posted by stinkycheese at 1:15 PM on July 13, 2011


In the director's statement?

Yes. And by the fact that it is a contemporary band appearing in archival footage.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:18 PM on July 13, 2011


In the director's statement?

Yes. And by the fact that it is a contemporary band appearing in archival footage.


And the fact that they're singing along to a contemporary song.
posted by Think_Long at 1:19 PM on July 13, 2011


And the fact that it was released embedded in a BoingBoing story about how the band is in archival footage. At this moment, you'd have to go to great effort to not be aware that this is what's been done.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:22 PM on July 13, 2011


At this moment, yes. After this moment, no.
posted by stinkycheese at 1:26 PM on July 13, 2011


Well, when that comes up, we can address it. In order to make an effective slippery slope argument, you have to demonstrate some sort of inevitability. I think this video is about as likely to lead to the inevitable degradation of the historical record as Forrest Gump did, and nothing you have said sounds to me like anything more than techno-pessimism.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:29 PM on July 13, 2011


TECHNO-PESSIMISM.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:30 PM on July 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


We don't have to wait for it because it's implicit. The fact that it's a contemporary band playing contemporary music isn't obvious whatsoever unless you already knew that, and the Boing Boing presentation will ultimately be seen by what percentage of the video's viewers? Unless the Earth stops spinning tonight, I'm guessing a pretty low number.
posted by stinkycheese at 1:37 PM on July 13, 2011


The fact that it's a contemporary band playing contemporary music isn't obvious whatsoever unless you already knew that, and the Boing Boing presentation will ultimately be seen by what percentage of the video's viewers?

It absolutely is, because it's a music video. Unless somebody deliberately shows it in a context where we would expect to see documentaries, and labels it a documentary, it's going to show up in places where we see music videos and will be labeled a music video.

Your slippery slope argument relies on an exceptional amount of naivety and foolishness, and, as I said earlier, those aren't the people you make art for. Or, at least, they need their own special art, with somebody standing alongside, explaining every part of it. They also get confused about how the little people get into the television set.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:40 PM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


The song's abject lameness is much more offensive than the video.
posted by ghastlyfop at 1:41 PM on July 13, 2011


To the extent the video is impressive, it is because the members of Cults are seamlessy integrated into historical footage. In other words, because of the deception's believability.

I strongly disagree. I think the insertion of the members of the band is intentionally not as smooth as it could be, and the digital manipulation is purposely clear. What's impressive about the video is the music, the editing, and the power of the lyrics combined with the video footage.

What bothers me the most about this is that the story of Jonestown doesn't seem to be integral

It seems integral to me. The song seems to be a fairly straightforward ditty about how different people want to live life. I'm not super familiar with the People's Project, but it was, at least in part, an interracial socialist community that rejected Christianity as white-patriarchy enabling, i.e. PTAP was mostly made up of people who wanted to "live differently." On its face the PTAP sounded OK ... except that the leadership was or went insane, stole people's money, and then killed everyone.

The video is composed of very positive imagery from the members of the PTAP, going about the changes they made to create their new home in Georgetown, and leading all the way up to the kids pumping their fists at the Port Kaituma airstrip.

The "concept" of Jonestown is saddled with a lot of emotional baggage. I think this video aims to show the "cultists" as people who just wanted a better life, and had a different way of going about it, with the obvious undercurrent of danger and death hanging around to say "not so fast."

I particularly thought the sequence at 3:05-3:12, when Leo Ryan says "Whatever these comments are, there are some people here who believe this is the best thing that happened to them in their whole life," and then cracks a smile as the crowd explores was very powerful.

I dunno. I liked it, and I think the video works pretty well.

I am honestly very surprised people find it "tasteless" or "disgusting." I would guess that most people who think it's offensive didn't watch the video at all or didn't watch the whole thing.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:42 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Or, at least, they need their own special art, with somebody standing alongside, explaining every part of it.

If that somebody is Sister Wendy, consider me one of those special persons!
posted by Think_Long at 1:43 PM on July 13, 2011


Summer Jamz? New Dawes Album, suckas!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:44 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


If that somebody is Sister Wendy, consider me one of those special persons!

She did like Piss Christ, which, come to think of it, engendered here similar assumptions that it was a piece of work intended to offend.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:45 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hate to break it to you, but there's a huge amount of people out there that don't watch documentaries, don't care about art, and do learn their history from crappy Hollywood films like The Patriot. I think you're the one being naive here.

Does that mean every creative effort should cater to these people? Not at all, let's just not pretend they don't exist either.

In any case, the question of whether using digital technology to insert [x] into historical footage is a slippery slope or not is one I am content to see answered in time; I've little doubt that, between better technology and the increasingly ubiquitous presence of cameras, that will soon become clear.
posted by stinkycheese at 1:56 PM on July 13, 2011


Not at all, let's just not pretend they don't exist either.

Please let me.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:57 PM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hate to break it to you, but there's a huge amount of people out there that don't watch documentaries, don't care about art, and do learn their history from crappy Hollywood films like The Patriot. I think you're the one being naive here.

Does that mean every creative effort should cater to these people? Not at all, let's just not pretend they don't exist either


I guess I just feel that artists and their work should not be checked by unknown ignorant future people. (I hope I'm not coming off as too defensive. The video didn't blow my mind or anything, I'm just bored at work and am interested in the topic).
posted by Think_Long at 2:07 PM on July 13, 2011


guys, this is this year's summer jam - and it's a pretty dark one
posted by pyramid termite at 2:07 PM on July 13, 2011


"'blog rock'

Is that really a Thing?

Please don't let that be a Thing.

Tell me that's not a Thing."


Eh, it's just music that's about things you've seen on the web. A sort of log, if you will. My band is currently working on a 43-minute epic about one man's quest to escape tvtropes.com.
posted by Eideteker at 2:22 PM on July 13, 2011


Think_Long: They shouldn't be, I agree.

It's a little more complicated than working for the lowest common denominator or the dumbest person in the room, though. Personally, I have produced work that met a *totally* different reaction/appraisal than I had ever intended; I can ignore that, or I can keep that in mind the next time I do something, if only to try and be clearer about what I'm saying. This is an ongoing issue for me, and I guess every creative person has to decide how they feel about that for themselves.

Weezer made things a little easier for Cults with the "Buddy Holly" video. It would be hard to find much fault with a band inserting themselves into an old TV show - but now a band is inserting themselves into historical footage of Jim Jones and his congregation (who, just in case anyone reading doesn't know, went on to perhaps the largest mass suicide in modern times) quite a different kettle of fish. It's not an 11 for me on the outrage scale, it's not the end of the world, but it more than raises an eyebrow for me. It does - to my admitted surprise - shock me somewhat. I find it very unsettling.

Even if we just take it as art, doesn't art employ lies to get at a greater truth? What is the greater truth here? Is it just "cool" that they're in the footage? Is the cynical idea that indie rock kids will follow the bouncing ball and learn about Jonestown?

Would we agree that it would be reprehensible to insert the band into footage of Reverend Jones encouraging people to come forth and drink the strychnine? Or playing and singing next to the twitching bodies? I can't help wondering if the band and/or director discussed exactly what footage to use, and what might constitute a tipping point as far as offensiveness is concerned... I don't know, they may have meant well, but I think it still comes off as tasteless.

Now I think I'm going to do like the song says and go outside.
posted by stinkycheese at 2:36 PM on July 13, 2011


guys, this is this year's summer jam - and it's a pretty dark one

I think that was last year. I don't think it has to be released this year, but it helps.

The Dawes song is nice, but that's no "summer jam."

A summer jam requires:

1. to be able to dance to it, however dorkily
2: to be played at volume 10 by a pimply 16-year-old while cruising around with the top down in her mom's convertible
3. ubiquity--you hear the song everywhere

MGMT's "Kids" applies for 2009, even though it was released way back in 2008 or 2007.

Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" applies for 2006, even though it came out in 2005, and although it's not the easiest song in the world to dance to, I've seen plenty of people trying.

2005? "Daft Punk is Playing at My House"

2011?????
posted by mrgrimm at 2:55 PM on July 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Even if we just take it as art, doesn't art employ lies to get at a greater truth? What is the greater truth here? Is it just "cool" that they're in the footage? Is the cynical idea that indie rock kids will follow the bouncing ball and learn about Jonestown?

I think there's definitely artistic truth presented by the song and the video (or at least attempted).

I'm curious what you thought of my (admittedly simplistic) reading, stinkycheese. (Also, I don't think you'll ever get agreement on what a "greater truth" is, let alone whether or not a work of art satisfies your requirement of providing one.)

It's a little more complicated than working for the lowest common denominator or the dumbest person in the room, though. Personally, I have produced work that met a *totally* different reaction/appraisal than I had ever intended; I can ignore that, or I can keep that in mind the next time I do something, if only to try and be clearer about what I'm saying.

When I read that, I think of Dave Chappelle, i.e. there were a lot of people enjoying his humor in a way he didn't expect or like.

It's easy to imagine a "bad" reaction to Dave Chappelle's comedy ("boy, those black people sure do like crack," etc.), but I'm not so sure I understand the "bad" reaction that this music video could elicit. I guess it's "boy, those race-traitor socialist hippies got what was coming to them"?
posted by mrgrimm at 3:03 PM on July 13, 2011


The director's statement reads in part, "For this music video we didn't want to put a spin on the footage or the peoples lives—instead we wanted to re-tell and humanize their story."

The director signs the statement: In History and Memory

Now that sounds nice, doesn't it? Except, if you pause the video at 2:37, after Rev. Jones has opened a box, there's a close-up of the box's contents which includes a container digitally altered to read Kool-Aid (what people like to joke about the people of Jonestown being poisoned with) instead of Flavor-Aid (which is what was actually used). If you notice, the darker container reads Flavor-Aid but the lighter one reads Kool-Aid.

So, what's up with that, I wonder?
posted by stinkycheese at 3:35 PM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's easy to imagine a "bad" reaction to Dave Chappelle's comedy ("boy, those black people sure do like crack," etc.), but I'm not so sure I understand the "bad" reaction that this music video could elicit. I guess it's "boy, those race-traitor socialist hippies got what was coming to them"?

I'm a little fuzzy on that one, too. I imagine that the concern is that the Jonestown tragedy will be minimized somehow, but I think the message that comes across is quite different. Here we see a deadly, manipulative cult at its brightest: people euphoric, celebratory, connected to each other in a shared ecstatic experience. They grow vegetables, they sing, they worship, they mow grass, yet there's a terribly dark undercurrent that's impossible to escape.

The same theme comes through very strongly in the rest of their songs, and the video for Abducted that I linked to earlier. The idea that deeply destructive and dysfunctional relationships can still have the same rhythm as True Love for the people in the relationship, can still hit the same high notes -- that's unsettling. After spending some time listening to their music and looking at their earlier video, this one didn't come as a shock. You can say it's exploitative, but the exploration of joy and dangerous dysfunction -- and how they're intertwined in a lot of lives -- feels like a consistent theme for them.
posted by verb at 3:37 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


mrgrimm: I think your reading was one of the more learned, intelligent comments in the thread. I think it is perhaps too generous though:

The "concept" of Jonestown is saddled with a lot of emotional baggage. I think this video aims to show the "cultists" as people who just wanted a better life, and had a different way of going about it, with the obvious undercurrent of danger and death hanging around to say "not so fast."

It's not obvious at all from this video what happened shortly afterwards; older people will recognize Leo Ryan as the politician shot and killed, will remember the 900+ corpses bloating in the heat - but some kid today watching that video? I don't know what they'd think, but I can't help imagining "cool! It's like she's singing at Jonestown! Wow! He's conducting the children's choir!"

the exploration of joy and dangerous dysfunction

Cults (or New Religious Movements) are fascinating, no doubt. The experiences and history of these movements, particularly in the last forty years, makes excellent grist for the mill, calls up all sorts of interesting questions. I completely understand wanting to incorporate some of that into your band, but this goes too far for me, even after repeated viewings.

Having images of little kids singing the song off your new album, kids who died a horrible death shortly after those images were taken, who in fact are only interesting and worthy of being in your music video because they died* - it's pretty awful. If it were a noise or industrial band doing it, the context would be a little different; certain musical scenes positively wallow in transgression and bad taste, and if you follow those scenes, you adjust your expectations accordingly.

But this sunny, happy (if slightly melancholy or morose) tune, with those images? I'm someone who would defend a lot of stuff I daresay wouldn't go down well at Mefi at all, but yeah, this shocks me. I don't think it should be banned, I don't believe in censorship, but it's the most tasteless thing I've seen in awhile.

*no doubt there is 1970s footage galore available of "cult" members from other groups going about their activities. They just didn't end their lives in mass suicide.
posted by stinkycheese at 3:59 PM on July 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


"It seems integral to me. The song seems to be a fairly straightforward ditty about how different people want to live life. I'm not super familiar with the People's Project, but it was, at least in part, an interracial socialist community that rejected Christianity as white-patriarchy enabling, i.e. PTAP was mostly made up of people who wanted to "live differently." On its face the PTAP sounded OK ... except that the leadership was or went insane, stole people's money, and then killed everyone."

Maybe I wasn't clear in expressing what I meant — In what way is the Jonestown tragedy integral to the song? It doesn't feel like it is to me, and while the story of the video is powerful, that power exists both prior to and without the involvement of the band. That's what feels exploitative — the images overpower the music, to the extent that the song feels like a tag-along, an attempt to make the tragedy of Jonestown into something about Cults.

Tie that into a trying-too-hard name, and I just don't feel like they used the amount of tact and skill necessary to make this a compelling piece without the huge emotional payload which they helped themselves to without having any personal connection.

It's appropriation, and appropriation is tricky, and I don't think they pulled it off here.
posted by klangklangston at 4:10 PM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


But this sunny, happy (if slightly melancholy or morose) tune, with those images? I'm someone who would defend a lot of stuff I daresay wouldn't go down well at Mefi at all, but yeah, this shocks me.

Yes.
posted by verb at 4:23 PM on July 13, 2011


So, what's up with that, I wonder?

What is up with that? Why would they digitally insert Kool Aid.

Oh, they didn't.

The term is derived from the 1978 cult suicide in Jonestown, Guyana. Jim Jones, the leader of the Peoples Temple, persuaded his followers to move to Jonestown. Late in the year he ordered his followers to commit suicide by drinking grape -flavored Flavor Aid laced with potassium cyanide (Those unable, such as infants, and those unwilling to comply received involuntary injections). A camera from inside the compound shows a large chest being opened, clearly showing boxes of both Flavor Aid and Kool-Aid.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:42 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can just see you pumping your fist in the air.
posted by stinkycheese at 4:51 PM on July 13, 2011


Honestly, that was a hell of an accusation you just made -- that they didn't just insert the band into the historical record, but altered it in ways they haven't admitted to.

That's really the sort of thing you should double-check before you toss off, because it's a pretty serious charge.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:54 PM on July 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Your PDF link went nowhere for me, but let's see what Wikipedia says:

Evidence gathered at the Jonestown site after the incident indicated that Flavor Aid (a similar powdered drink mix), not Kool-Aid, was used in the massacre.

That seems pretty unequivocal.

Oh, it isn't.

Both brands are known to have been among the commune's supplies: Film footage shot inside the compound prior to the events of November shows Jones opening a large chest in which boxes of both Flavor Aid and Kool-Aid are visible..

The filmmakers are so overwhelmingly straight up, as you've pointed out, about their digitally altering footage, so imaging they might've digitally altered some footage... no. No, I don't think that was a hell of an accusation.

Incidentally, the Kool Aid FAQ has this to say on the matter:

It is a popular misconception that 900 followers of cult leader Jim Jones committed suicide by drinking Grape Kool-Aid laced with cyanide at their commune in Jonestown Guyana in the late 1970's. This is not true. The followers of Jones actually drank cyanide laced Flavor-aid, a cheap imitation of Kool-Aid. The Flavor-aid flavor they consumed was grape. Therefore, Kool-Aid played no part in this tragedy.
posted by stinkycheese at 5:08 PM on July 13, 2011


*imagining
posted by stinkycheese at 5:10 PM on July 13, 2011


In what way is the Jonestown tragedy integral to the song?

It's not integral, but — like the band's name — it's an effective lens for reading what Cults are exploring in their music.

The music itself directly references an era of music where death ballads were pop hits and even the rosy songs have murky shadows. The lyrics throughout "Go Outside" and the album at large envision a narrator wanting to escape control despite loving the controller. Early songs grapple with comprehending the captivity, later songs openly threaten running away. The helpless tension always lurks, even when the immediate sound is poppy, groovy, all that.

The footage used from Jonestown gains synchronous poignancy in what's been selected: generally joyous imagery, with a fair amount of creepiness given the context that's established at the beginning and that most of us are immediately aware of. It all looks lovely, but we all know otherwise... Just like a 21st century audience listening to love-pained songs from the 1960s steeped with domestic abuse.

"Go Outside" may not be the greatest music video of the decade or even the year, but it's use of Jonestown footage ain't egregious exploitation either.
posted by pokermonk at 5:39 PM on July 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


I was going to come in here and make a joke but clearly that wouldn't be taken well by this crowd.
posted by schyler523 at 5:41 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dig the song, am fascinated by cults, but man, did a few people say it upthread better than I ever could: if you want this to be about the real people behind the tragedy, don't insert yourself into the footage, making yourself a primary narrative focal point. It reduces something that could be powerful to a cheap trick, turns it into macabre self-insertion fanfic, transforms something that should be about Them into something about You. Really tasteless.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:03 PM on July 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


Evidence gathered at the Jonestown site after the incident indicated that Flavor Aid (a similar powdered drink mix), not Kool-Aid, was used in the massacre.

Neither my link, which goes to a sourced PDF, nor the quote I posted, claim that Kool Ade was used in the suicides. Just that there is earlier footage showing both at the compound.

No, I don't think that was a hell of an accusation.

Well, I think YOU put faked footage in. I have no evidence of that either, but it's a perfectly fair accusation, apparently.

By the way, did you follow the sourced link in the Wikipedia article you went to? It leads here. I defy you to find the spot in the linked transcript that establishes that there was only Flavor Ade at the compound.

You made a charge, and it is a serious one -- you charge the filmmakers with altering the record and not being transparent about it. Go ahead and make your case.
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:04 PM on July 13, 2011


AID, not Ade.
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:06 PM on July 13, 2011


"It reduces something that could be powerful to a cheap trick, turns it into macabre self-insertion fanfic, transforms something that should be about Them into something about You. Really tasteless."

Yeah, to be glibly, unfairly hyperbolic: It's like writing your Mary Sue into Anne Frank's diary.
posted by klangklangston at 6:13 PM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


If you mean the author who wrote Annexed, she didn't. She wrote a fictional account of one of the people who was actually there.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:15 PM on July 13, 2011


Whoops, sorry, though you were sarcastically referencing another thread. That was actually at the back of my mind, though--the distinction between that, which didn't feel offensive, and this, which does.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:16 PM on July 13, 2011


It's because they're an "indie" band. It's impossible for some people to see past the "indieness" of it all and they will automatically assume that this "indie" group is using this archival footage for ironic or sarcastic purposes. It is almost impossible for an "indie" band to be seen as genuine or sincere in their artistic intent. It's a bad faith judgement right out of the gate.

Thanks for the dismissive and ignorant generalization. Apparently anyone who is discomfited by this video is not only shallow but knee-jerkingly stupid.
posted by oneirodynia at 6:25 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is why people (deservedly) hate on hipsters.

What a classless thing to do.
posted by bardic at 9:17 PM on July 13, 2011


This is why people (deservedly) hate on hipsters.

Yeah, this is why. This is all hipsters ever do, and people are just sick of it. I can't walk around Brooklun without smacking into a white-belted youth digitally putting himself onto the scene of the Killing Fields or the LA Riots.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:24 PM on July 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


Brooklun is how we hipster spell it. Classless, I know, but that's just how it is.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:24 PM on July 13, 2011


Touched a nerve I see.
posted by bardic at 10:39 PM on July 13, 2011


I'd like to interrupt for a moment, and blame inflation on people who wear khakis.
posted by verb at 10:41 PM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


So now I've watched the thing, and the band member inserts irritated me at first -- I must admit, they struck me as too hip and ironically dis-attached. But then I thought maybe the band was saying "we would have been here, as a part of this, if we could have, if we'd been ourselves back then. Because it seems and feels so positive and authentic and ecstatic."

I'm not sure they got the balance between "indie" and "authenticity/historicity" quite right, but I think I see where they were trying to go with it, and I must admit I find it pretty disarming and compelling.
posted by treepour at 10:47 PM on July 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yes, Bardic. Thoughless comments that invent an offense committee en masse by a group that's only really defined as "funny dressed people I am allowed to feel superior to" tends to irritate me.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:52 PM on July 13, 2011


Committed. The Committee en Masse broke up last summer when only six people showed upmfor it.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:54 PM on July 13, 2011


Who mourns for the hipsters?
posted by Snyder at 11:29 PM on July 13, 2011


But then I thought maybe the band was saying "we would have been here, as a part of this, if we could have, if we'd been ourselves back then. Because it seems and feels so positive and authentic and ecstatic."

I'm not sure they got the balance between "indie" and "authenticity/historicity" quite right, but I think I see where they were trying to go with it, and I must admit I find it pretty disarming and compelling.


Not to kick the dead horse, but yeah. Having listened to their music before seeing the video, I probably count as someone who's pre-biased towards liking it. But the way you describe it is in line what what I got out of it, too -- and in line with the stuff that seems to come through in the rest of their music.

Also, I was born and spent my early years in a Christian commune. So the strange interplay between joyous religious euphoria and the dark potential for abuse hits close to home. Often it's treated as 100% "Holy shit, a sociopath convinced a bunch of people to follow him," and there's no attention given to the complexity of the experience.
posted by verb at 11:40 PM on July 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


I found it to be incredibly sad, and humanizing. Most people know about Jonestown but rarely think of the people there as anything but casualties, or brainwashed drones, when the situation is far more complex. I didn't see it as exploitative because I really wasn't paying so much attention to the music as I was the video.

Like it has already been said, a terrible mix of poverty, class warfare and desperation, and a whole group of people who just wanted a better life and took a chance. We write them off but people like them are everywhere, only quietly dwindling away in a great poverty of the soul instead of bursting into a media sound bite for the rest of us to shake our heads at.

Jim Jones offered a philosophy- at least on the surface- of racial equality, social equality and a pseudo liberation theology that any of us, were we in the shoes of his followers, would have seen as a faint glimmering hope for real freedom in an America where the reality of life was much different than the mythology of freedom spouted on the nightly news.

I didn't find the video opportunistic, because the overwhelming impression it gave me was to consider the experience his followers went through, and far less any attention towards a band I will forget tomorrow.
posted by Bushidoboy at 4:20 AM on July 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Offense Committee? I liked their first album most best.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:57 AM on July 14, 2011


I don't know what they'd think, but I can't help imagining "cool! It's like she's singing at Jonestown! Wow! He's conducting the children's choir!"

No, really. What would you think at age 13, if you'd never heard of Jonestown?

I'd think "Well, what the hell was that cult or whatever the people were working on and what happened to make it famous?" and then if I was 13 now, I'd look it up online, probably starting at Wikipedia and say holy shit. And then I'd watch the video again while reading about Jonestown. What's so bad about that? Honestly, I haven't seen much of an argument against that.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:12 AM on July 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


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