The Charismatic “Saviors”: A Depiction of Cults and Leaders in Mainstream Film




Trapane, Kamryn

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This study evaluates four films regarding cults and cult leaders using discourse analysis or content analysis. Cults were depicted as having in-person or historical supernatural motives with both the followers and leaders participating in deviant behaviors. The leaders possessed confidence and charisma in their cultic responsibilities, using impression management (Goffman 1959), or a way to give a perceived perception to others within social interactions, and expressing their charismatic authority (Weber 1947), or a type of leadership which is unique in that it influences a group of people due to attractive qualities. The main characters exhibited anomie (Durkheim 1893), or the morals that the characters follow resulting in instability in their lives. Anomie becomes prevalent when the cult members and leader manipulates the characters, resulting in the characters exhibiting instability when navigating the cult as their morals do not align. Understanding cults and cult leaders in mainstream films can help recognize the social construction that the media has established in our society. These films can establish patterns and differences between real-life cults and fictional movie depictions.



cults, cult leadership, films


Trapane, K. (2023). The charismatic “saviors”: A depiction of cults and leaders in mainstream film. Poster presented at the Graduate Student Research Conference, San Marcos, Texas.


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