Have you seen Netflix original series, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt yet? It’s a lighthearted sitcom starring Ellie Kemper (The Office, Bridesmaids), created by Tina Fey. It follows the main character, Kimmy, as she adjusts to life after her escape from an underground doomsday cult bunker where she’d lived with three other women and their leader for 15 years. She moves to New York City to begin her new life, constantly battling the legacy of her cult experience: the ignorance of 15 missed years out in the world, and the scars of having lived through such an event. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LIdFa1qLgNQ Despite the subject matter, it truly is a fun and quirky little show with ridiculous characters and plot situations. But, given my personal knowledge of cult-like self-help events and leaders, it strikes a particular chord with me.
Beware the Charismatic Mad Man
One of the most poignant aspects for me is when we finally meet the cult leader towards the end of the first season. Throughout the show, we get glimpses of the crazy-looking, bearded robe-wearing cult leader, Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne. But when we finally encounter him during his trial, it’s the a cleaned-up, super-charismatic version, played by one of the most suave actors out there (I don’t want to spoil it for you–it’s truly hysterical when he’s revealed). During the course of the trial, his manipulations easily win everyone over–the judge, jury, public, even the prosecuting attorneys. I love this portrayal because although it’s absurd, it fits so well with one of SEEK’s most important messages: that pretty much anyone can be charmed and taken in by a particularly charismatic and calculating leader. Although the show makes light of this situation, the writers seem keenly aware of how real this phenomenon is. Just before the trial begins, we see Kimmy reveal her employer’s intense spinning instructor for the sham that he is. But first Kimmy is also taken in by this fraudster, and is alarmed to discover that he’s just another BS guy constructing a powerful illusion to control others–and this is at an upscale, Manhattan fitness club, not a bunker in a Midwest cornfield. The shams are everywhere, capturing all types of people.
The other thing I really love about this show is the strength of the main character. Despite her seeming naivety and innocence, Kimmy repeatedly proves herself hard and wise, surviving both a doomsday bunker and one of the world’s toughest cities. The title of the show is, after all, “Unbreakable.” Kimmy takes on her new life with a lovely mix of cheerful optimism and an underlying strength that enables her to see the people for who they truly are (even if it takes a bit of time). Kimmy’s experience has given her a unique perspective on the world and its people, and with that rare knowledge she’s able to be a source of strength for those around her.
The Crux of It
And it’s at this point that I get a bit emotional over a funny little sitcom. But this, to me, is a metaphor for SEEK’s mission. Our experience losing a family member at a self-help event led by a hugely popular teacher has given us a rare glimpse into the darker side of the self-help industry–the reality that despite the many good teachers out there with valuable messages to share, there are some dangerous frauds who do not have their customers’ best interests at heart. Rather than other seekers being taken in by a sham and harmed financially, emotionally or even physically, we want to share our perspective with you, so that you can be armed with and protected by this knowledge. SEEK is Self-help Empowerment through Education and Knowledge. We want you to experience growth and happiness, and utilize whatever tools you need to get there. But we want to empower you first–to make you unbreakable, too. We would love for you to share your stories with us! Also, please consider donating to help us spread SEEK’s message. [button href=”https://www.seeksafely.org/donate/” title=”Donations”]Donations[/button] [button href=”https://www.seeksafely.org/contact/” title=”Contact Us”]Contact Us[/button]