When it comes to realism in movies, Quentin Tarantino’s offerings don’t usually top the list. A famous slasher fan, Tarantino tends to do over-the-top scenes full of gore and cartoonish violence. When it came to Once upon a time in Hollywoodhowever, at least some of the movie was fairly true to life.
A cult deprogrammer explains how one particular scene shows how cults keep their members isolated in order to maintain power.
“Once upon a time in Hollywood” puts a fantastic spin on a true story
In Tarantino’s fantasy remake, the murderers are thwarted by the protagonists, and Tarantino reimagines what Hollywood might have been like if the gruesome crime had never happened.
A Cult Expert Deprogrammer Rated “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” for his cult realism
Vanity Fair has a video series that involves interviewing experts as they watch film clips that describe concepts in their field of study. Rick Alan Ross has worked as a cult deprogrammer since 1982 and knows quite a bit about the psychology behind the practice. As he watched Once upon a time in Hollywoodhe noted some ways the film matched reality.
Ross watched a clip that takes place on Manson’s ranch, a hub of his cult filled with young women who made up most of his followers. Ross notes that not only are many of the biographical details correct (Manson really locked himself up on a remote ranch and a man named George lives there with him), but it also shows “how sectarian compounds work”.
Brad Pitt’s character, Cliff Booth, tries to visit George after meeting a young woman who is part of Manson’s band, and he struggles to break into the inner circle. Ross explains that cults often make it difficult for visitors to have contact with members. “Apologies are made. ‘Oh, they’re missing. They are shopping. They are busy,” says Ross. “The idea is to separate and isolate them and keep them under group control.”
Pointing to the body language of the extras playing the cult members, Ross calls it “typical” of real-life cults: “it illustrates their determination and the fact that they reinforce each other”.
Charles Manson has inspired many other films
Manson is perhaps one of the most influential cult leaders in history, and the way his followers terrorized and murdered Tate and his friends left Hollywood particularly fascinated with him. This is evidenced by the number of times Manson’s story has been turned into source material for movies.
Like rolling stone reports, cinematographic explorations of the cult leader and his crimes are the subject of Manson (a 1973 documentary), Helter Skelter (a 1976 TV movie), Manson, my name is bad (a 2009 comedy centered on a fictional jury member for Manson’s trial), and Life after Manson (a 2014 short documentary about the life of one of the murderers).
RELATED: Dolly Parton once stopped a friend from speaking with Charles Manson: “He is evil incarnate”
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