Scientology in popular culture

Scientology in popular culture

Scientology has been referenced in popular culture in many different forms of media including fiction, film, music, television and theatre. In the 1960s, author William S. Burroughs wrote about Scientology in both fictional short stories and non-fictional essays. The topic was dealt with more directly in his book, "Ali's Smile/Naked Scientology". The 2000 film "Battlefield Earth" was an adaptation of a novel by L. Ron Hubbard.

Musicians and playwrights have made reference to Scientology on some of their work, with some pieces treating the topic in a negative light by their references, and others in a positive manner. Frank Zappa's 1979 concept album/rock opera "Joe's Garage" lampoons Scientology in the song "A Token of My Extreme", and Gary Numan had popular songs laced with Scientology references in the 1980s such as "Me, I Disconnect from you," and "Praying to the Aliens". Scientologist Chick Corea has made reference to Scientology in his work, and two of his albums were influenced by L. Ron Hubbard novels. Maynard James Keenan of the progressive rock band Tool, has been critical of Scientology, and the 1996 song "Ænema" contains a negative reference to L. Ron Hubbard. Both Scientology and the life of its founder L. Ron Hubbard were addressed in the 2003 Off-Broadway musical, "A Very Merry Unauthorized Children's Scientology Pageant". The play took a tongue-in-cheek look at both Hubbard's life and the history of the Church, and received an Obie Award in 2004.

Scientology has been dealt with in fictional television shows, including sitcoms, cartoons, and dramas. The 2005 "South Park" episode "Trapped in the Closet" dealt with Scientology, and related the story of Xenu. This episode resulted in a deal of controversy, including the departure of Isaac Hayes, and questions over why the episode was not initially rebroadcast. In season four of the television program "Nip/Tuck", characters Kimber and Matt join the Church of Scientology. Issues addressed within "Nip/Tuck" have included both the Xenu story and a look at deprogramming. In "Boston Legal's" third season, character Alan Shore helps defend an employer sued for discrimination after firing a Scientologist. The episode delves into some of the employee's more eccentric beliefs as well as a debate on religious bigotry, but Shore ends up winning the case for his client.


William S. Burroughs, who briefly dabbled with Scientology, wrote extensively about it during the late 1960s, weaving some of its jargon into his fictional works, as well as authoring non-fiction essays about it. In the end, however, he abandoned Scientology and publicly eschewed it in an editorial for the Los Angeles Free Press in 1970. [cite web | url = | title = William S. Burroughs On Scientology | author = William S. Burroughs | authorlink = William S. Burroughs | date = 1970-03-06 | publisher = Los Angeles Free Press] Burroughs' work "Ali's Smile/Naked Scientology" contains many writings related to both Dianetics and L. Ron Hubbard.

"Operation Freakout", also known as "Operation PC Freakout", was the name given by the Church of Scientology to a covert plan intended to have the author Paulette Cooper imprisoned or committed to a mental institution.; pp. 23-25] cite news | last =Behar, Richard | title =The Scientologists and Me | work =TIME | publisher =Time Inc. | date =May 6, 1991 | url =,9171,972886,00.html | accessdate =2008-06-25 ] cite news | last =Ortega | first =Tony | title =Double Crossed: The Church of Scientology has a reputation for ruthlessly going after its enemies. Robert Cipriano claims Scientologists rewarded him for helping them do just that. Now he's turned on them | work =Phoenix New Times | publisher =Village Voice Media | date =December 23, 1999 | url = | accessdate = 2008-06-25 ] The plan, undertaken in 1976 following years of Church-initiated lawsuits and covert harassment,cite news | last =Bercovici | first =Jeff | title =Writer: I Was Stalked by Scientologists | work =Radar Online | publisher =Radar Magazine | date =June 22, 2007 | url = | accessdate =2008-06-25 ] was meant to eliminate the perceived threat that Cooper posed to the Church and obtain revenge for her publication in 1971 of a highly critical book, "The Scandal of Scientology". The events of Operation Freakout are featured, in a thinly fictionalized form, in Giuseppe Genna's 2004 novel "In the Name of Ishmael". Scientology is referred to as "Science Religion", Cooper is called "Paulette Rowling" and Mary Sue Hubbard is "Johanna Lewis". The book includes an almost word-for-word transcription of the Operation Freakout planning document of April 1, 1976, with the names of the principal figures substituted as described above.cite book | last =Genna | first =Giuseppe | title =In the Name of Ishmael | publisher =Miramax Books | year =2004 | location = | pages =pp. 89-92| isbn =0786888865 ]

In the science-fiction setting of Count Zero, a cyberpunk novel by author William Gibson, one of the character's relatives is mentioned to be a Scientologist. L. Ron Hubbard (referred to simply as "Hubbard") is also mentioned as an option of a possible hologram that could appear over someone's bed, another choice included the Virgin Mary.cite book | last =Gibson | first =William | title =Count Zero | publisher =Berkley Pub. Group | date =1987, c1986 | location = | pages =pp. 35,74,85| isbn =0441117732 ]


In reviews of the 1999 film "Bowfinger", some critics compared the fictional organization "MindHead" to the Church of Scientology. In the film, producer Bobby Bowfinger, played by Steve Martin, encounters difficulties involving actor Kit Ramsey, played by Eddie Murphy. Paul Clinton writes in "CNN" online: "'Bowfinger' could just be viewed as an out-there, over-the-top spoof about Hollywood, films, celebrities and even the Church of Scientology. But Martin has written a sweet story about a group of outsiders with impossible dreams." [cite news | last =Clinton | first =Paul | coauthors = | title =Review: 'Bowfinger' over-the-top farcical treat | work =CNN | pages =Section: Movies | language = | publisher =Time Warner | date =August 12, 1999 | url = | accessdate = 2007-12-18 ] Andrew O'Hehir writes in "Salon" that "Too much of 'Bowfinger' involves the filmmakers' generically wacky pursuit of the increasingly paranoid Kit, who flees into the clutches of a pseudo-Scientology outfit called MindHead (their slogan: 'Truth Through Strength')." [cite news | last =O'Hehir | first =Andrew | coauthors = | title =Bowfinger: Martin and Murphy team up for a good-natured sendup of the mindless summer blockbuster -- and just barely avoid making one themselves. | work =Salon | pages =
language = | publisher = | date =August 12, 1999 | url = | accessdate = 2007-12-18
] "The Denver Post" describes the Kit Ramsey character as "...petulant, paranoid and pampered, like any good star, and also a devotee of a Scientology-like religion." [cite news | last =Booth | first =Michael | coauthors = | title =Martin skewers Hollywood | work =The Denver Post | pages = | language = | publisher = | date =July 16, 2007 | url = | accessdate = 2007-12-18] In a review in the "San Francisco Chronicle", Wesley Morris describes Ramsey's organization as "a mock-Scientology cult called MindHead - a bit that sprung from Martin's own issues with MENSA." [cite news | last =Morris | first =Wesley | coauthors = | title ="Bowfinger' has the touchMartin, Murphy make mincemeat out of Hollywood as a down-and-out producer and his "star' | work =San Francisco Chronicle | pages = | language = | publisher =Hearst Newspapers | date =August 13, 1999 | url = | accessdate = 2007-12-18] The "Albuquerque Journal" describes the MindHead organization "a rather thinly veiled but nevertheless amusing blast at Scientology," [cite news | last =Staff | first = | coauthors = | title ='Bowfinger' Lacks Chemistry Between Martin, Murphy. | work =Albuquerque Journal | pages = | language = | publisher = | date =January 1, 2007 | url = | accessdate = ] and the "Fort Worth Star-Telegram" characterizes it as an "organization that comes across as a thinly veiled send-up of Scientology." [cite news | last =Staff | first = | coauthors = | title =Hollywood looks in the mirror, and laughs | work =Fort Worth Star-Telegram | pages = | language = | publisher = | date =January 21, 2000 | url = | accessdate = ] The "Daily Record" writes that Ramsey is "in the grip of a cult religion called Mind Head," which it calls "a rather close cousin of Scientology". [cite news | last =Staff | first = | coauthors = | title =Martin makes Murphy make magic; BOWFINGER | work =Daily Record | pages =Section: Features | language = | publisher = | date =October 22, 1999 | url = | accessdate = ] A review in "The Dallas Morning News" describes actor Terrence Stamp's role in the film as "a Scientology-style guru," [cite news | last =Staff | first = | coauthors = | title =Actor Terence Stamp makes the most of his film roles | work =The Dallas Morning News | pages = | language = | publisher = | date =October 23, 1999 | url = | accessdate = ] "The New York Times" referred to Stamp's character as "a cult leader for a Scientology-like organization called Mind Head," [cite news | last =Holden | first =Stephen | coauthors = | title =CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK; Laughs, Schmaffs. Does It Have an Edge? | work =The New York Times | pages = | language = | publisher =The New York Times Company | date =September 3, 1999 | url = | accessdate = ] and the "Houston Chronicle" described Stamp as "the character actor behind the semi-Scientology guru in Bowfinger." [cite news | last =Millar | first =Jeff | coauthors = | title =Good acting gives hard-to-follow `Limey' a boost | work =Houston Chronicle | pages =Page 4 | language = | publisher =Houston Chronicle Publishing Company Division, Hearst Newspapers Partnership, LP | date =October 15, 1999 | url = | accessdate = ] Writer Steve Martin told the "New York Daily News" "I view it as a pastiche of things I've seen come and go through the years," and stated "Scientology gets a lot of credit or blame right now, because they're the hottest one." [cite news | last =Staff | first = | coauthors = | title =Steve Martin on Scientology | work =New York Daily News | pages = | language = | publisher = | date = July 28, 1999 | url = | accessdate = ]

Some critics perceived the 2000 film "Bless the Child" to be mocking Scientology because the fictionalized cult "The New Dawn" in the film mimicked Scientology's symbols and rhetoric. [cite news | url = | title = Spawn of Hollywood | author = Bruce Kirkland | publisher = The Toronto Sun | date = 2000-08-11]


Frank Zappa's 1979 concept album/rock opera "Joe's Garage" lampoons Scientology in the song "A Token of My Extreme". Zappa uses terminology such as "L. Ron Hoover" and "Appliantology", telling the main character "Joe" that he "must go into the closet" to pursue his latent appliance fetishism.cite journal | last = Carr | first = Paul | authorlink = | coauthors = Richard J. Hand | title = Frank Zappa and musical theatre | journal = Studies in Musical Theatre | volume = 1 | issue = 1 | pages = 41–56 | publisher = | month = December | year = 2006 | url = | doi = | id = ISSN|1450-3159 | accessdate =2007-11-28 | format = abstract ] cite journal | last = Prince | first = Michael J. | authorlink = | coauthors = | title = The Science Fiction Protocols of Frank Zappa | journal = Chapter&Verse | volume = | issue = | pages = | publisher = PopMatters Media, Inc. | date = Spring 2005 | url = | doi = | id = | accessdate = 2007-11-28 ] Gary Numan had popular songs laced with Scientology references in the 1980s such as "Me, I Disconnect from you", "Praying to the Aliens", and "Only a Downstat", influenced directly by Burroughs' Scientology-based writings. [] [ [] ]

The alternative metal band Tool has voiced criticism of Scientology. After releasing their first full-length album "Undertow" in 1993, the band began touring to promote their new work. In May 1993, Tool was scheduled to play the Garden Pavilion in Hollywood but learned at the last minute that the Garden Pavilion belonged to the Church of Scientology, which the band felt clashed with "the band's ethics about how a person should not follow a belief system that constricts their development as a human being".cite web | date=2001-05-23 | url= | work=Exclaim! | title=Tool - Stepping Out From the Shadows | accessdate=2006-09-17 | last=Sokal | first=Roman ] The band's vocalist Maynard James Keenan recalled that he "spent most of the show baa-ing like a sheep at the audience".cite web | url= | title=33 Things You Should Know About Tool | work=Blender | accessdate=2006-09-18 | first=Jon | last=Dolan | year=2006 | month=August ] Scott Schalin reported in "Bay Area Music": "Between songs, Keenan, staring first at the lush grounds paid for by devoted L. Ron followers and then into the eyes of his own audience, bayed into the mic like a sheep looking for his shepherd's gate. "Baaaaa! Baaaaa!" the singer bleated." [cite news | last = Schalin | first = Scott | coauthors = | title = Sob Story - Tool Will Give You Something To Cry About | work = Bay Area Music| pages = | language = | publisher = |date=November 1993 | url = | accessdate = 2007-10-24] The lyrics to the Tool song "Ænema" contain the phrase: "Fuck L. Ron Hubbard, Fuck all his clones."cite news | last = Gennaro | first = Loraine | coauthors = | title = Angry Jung Men! | work = Livewire Magazine | pages = Volume 7, #3 | language = | publisher = |date=February / March 1997 | url = |accessdate = ]


An organization with similarities to Scientology, called Selfosophy, was a central part of an episode from the second season of "Millennium" that aired on the FOX network on November 21, 1997, entitled "Jose Chung's Doomsday Defense." Selfosophy was created by a science fiction writer who had spent time in an insane asylum. Matt Roush of "USA Today" wrote that the episode was "written with the density of a Simpsons cartoon. You'll scream till you laugh, or laugh till you scream." [USA Today, Roush R., 20 Nov 1997] Michael Patrick Sullivan writing for "Underground Online"/UGO wrote: "After a year and a half of doom and gloom stories, one of the most astounding television writers of the nineties, Darin Morgan, is allowed his fractured take on Millennium and Frank and author Jose Chung investigate murders that lead them deeply into the world of a pseudo-religion called Selfosophy (read as Scientology). Bizarre is exactly the word for it as Millennium takes sharp aim at itself and has fun with it." [, Sullivan, M.P., 22 November 1997]

In 2006, season four of "Nip/Tuck", the characters Kimber and Matt join the Church, making them the first Scientologist regular characters on a prime-time TV show. [cite news | last = Leventry | first = Ellen | coauthors = | title = Scientology Gets Nipped and Tucked | work = Idol Chatter | pages = | language = | publisher = |date=October 4, 2006 | url = | accessdate = ] In the latter part of the fourth season, Kimber has a hallucination in which Xenu appears to her. [cite news | last = Dow Jones | first = | coauthors = | title = TELEVISION; `Nip/Tuck' warms up to Scientology | work = Los Angeles Times | pages = | language = | publisher = |date=October 1, 2006 | url =
accessdate =
] Though the Scientology "tech" and details are portrayed in a simplified way, the show is incorporating the Scientology storyline as a serious subplot, rather than a parody or a one-time jab. In the episode "Dawn Budge", Matt moves out of the house after his parents pressure him to leave Scientology. [cite video | people = Hank Chilton, Ryan Murphy | title = "Nip/Tuck", Dawn Budge | medium = Television | publisher = F/X | location = Episode 49, Production Code 405, (Season 4, Episode 5) |date=October 3, 2006 ]


The controversy surrounding the Church of Scientology and the (new) Cult Awareness Network organization was described in the 2002 play, "Jesus Hopped the "A" Train".cite book
last = Guirgis | first = Stephen Adly | authorlink = Stephen Adly Guirgis | coauthors = | title = Jesus Hopped the "A" Train | publisher = Dramatists Play Service, Inc. | year = 2002 | location = | pages = 25 | url = | doi = | id = ISBN 0822217996

"Scientologists sued the Cult Awareness Network, bankrupted them, and took over the damn Cult Awareness Network! ... Same office! Same phone number! But when you call the [expletive] up, you speaking to one of them! What kinda help you think they gonna give you?"] The character Angel tells Mary Jane that individuals who call the Cult Awareness Network looking for help will end up speaking with a Scientologist on the other end of the phone. The play was nominated for a 2003 Laurence Olivier Theatre Award, in the category: "The BBC Award for Best New Play of 2002." [cite news | last =Staff | first = | coauthors = | title = Laurence Olivier Award winners - complete list | work =London Theatre Guide | pages = | language = | publisher = | date =February 14, 2003 | url = | accessdate = 2007-10-28 ]

In 2003, the play "A Very Merry Unauthorized Children's Scientology Pageant" was produced, which described a tale of the life of L. Ron Hubbard and the Church of Scientology, told from the perspective of fictional children of Scientologists. The play won a 2004 Obie Award.cite news | last = Hernandez | first = Ernio | coauthors = | title = A Very Merry Unauthorized Children's Scientology Pageant Returns to NYC | work = Playbill | pages = | language = | publisher = |date=September 15, 2006 | url = | accessdate = 2007-11-01 ] cite news | last = Staff | first = | coauthors = | title = OBIES Awards | work = The Village Voice | pages = "2004 Winners", Special Citations: Kyle Jarrow and Alex Timbers "A Very Merry Unauthorized Children's Scientology Pageant" | language = | publisher = | date =
url = | accessdate = 2007-11-01
] cite web | first = Dan | last = Glaister | title = Curtain goes up on Scientology | url =,7792,1333958,00.html | work = | publisher = Guardian Unlimited | date = 2004-10-22 | accessdate = 2007-10-24 ]

See also

*Cults and new religious movements in literature and popular culture
*List of fictional religions
*Parody religion
*Religious satire
*Scientology beliefs and practices
*Scientology controversy


External links


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