Belief is certainly one of the most powerful things on this Earth. The sentiment can be used to achieve the impossible and go beyond anything people think is possible. However, that same sentiment can be used for manipulation and self-benefit. Many people throughout the history of humanity have used belief to control others, gain followers, and, with it, the closest thing to godhood on Earth. How to Become a Cult Leader is a new documentary series on Netflix that explores some of the most famous examples of cult leaders in the last century and does it with a perfect dose of irony and dry humor.
How to Become a Cult Leader is a documentary series developed by Netflix and executive produced by Peter Dinklage. Yes, Tyrion Lannister himself has a prominent role on the show, not only as a force from behind the scenes but also as a narrator, one that uses his very specific and dry tone of voice to narrate the happenings on each episode with a very particular sense of humor.
The show uses Dinklage’s monotone, almost ironic tone to present itself as a proper guide on How to Become a Cult Leader. It is quite funny at times and makes for a unique show experience. Especially when comparing it to other documentary series on the streaming service.
How to Become a Cult Leader is a very fast show. Every single episode runs for about 30 minutes, and that’s it. Each episode also focuses on a different cult leader and paints a very broad picture of who this person was, how they gained power, and then how they lost that power. More often than not, the ending is very tragic, which makes sense considering that these people were immoral enough to take agency from their followers and expected nothing bad to happen from doing that.
30 minutes might seem short. However, the documentary series proves that it might be just the perfect amount of time to explore and present each case. Many YouTube documentaries are certainly longer and gather millions of views daily, so you could watch the entire series as one of those big YouTube documentaries.
The video essay format is ruling the world right now, and it feels great that this Netflix documentary series is basically doing one big documentary and cutting it into chapters in the same way the YouTube chapters work.
The episodes are short, yes, but they are also quite entertaining. As we said before, the narration has very dry humor; everything it says is said with huge amounts of irony.
The documentary does not tell us how to become a cult leader but warns us about people like this who think they can manipulate others and become gods on Earth. You could say that the real title of the show could be “How Not to Become a Member of a Cult.” You will just need three hours to see the light and get away from scammers, just like the group presented in each episode.
How to Become a Cult Leader also goes out of its way to make the watching experience more interesting than many other documentary series by using animation. Each episode of the show uses archive footage to illustrate each case. We can see the real people and how they present themselves.
However, in the many accounts that sadly don’t have real-life footage, How to Become a Cult Leader uses animated sequences to illustrate those key moments. The most impressive thing is that these animated sequences are of very high quality and make the documentary look like a bigger effort than its contemporaries because it was.
It is quite entertaining to see depictions of Charles Manson or Jim Jones in animated form. The sequences make everything look a bit cooler than it is supposed to be but also a bit more creepy. All these cult leaders were so immersed in themselves that they believed they were more than mere men.
So when we see them in the form of cartoons, it diminishes these figures and transforms them into what they actually are: demented people living in their own reality and dragging others along with them. It is eerie that the show is so entertaining, but alongside being informative, that is the show’s main objective.
How to Become a Cult Leader is a very straightforward documentary series regarding the information it presents. However, thanks to the fantastic narration by Peter Dinklage and the use of high-quality animated sequences, the series stands out from others.
The short running time of each episode also makes it easy to watch, along with how this guidebook frame device presents the information. It really makes you wonder why no more documentaries are trying to find new and exciting ways to deliver their information to audiences. It might not be the most in-depth documentary ever made, but it is one of the most entertaining.