Cults- “Go Outside” Music Video (and the controversy)

 Look, I absolutely love the Cults and their sound. Cults is the Manhattan duo of Brian Oblivion and Madeline Follin who first gained fame in 2010 with their bandcamp page. The group’s  debut LP was just released on In The Name Of/Columbia RecordsI remember when I heard their very first released song “Go Outside” from their bandcamp and watched the band explode onto the blog world before my eyes. I support nearly everything Cults does, except for this exception. In this post, I will discuss the often ambiguous definition of what exactly is art, and what is just mere exploitation. Well let’s talk some context first, below is the official statement of Isaiah Seret.  

Director’s Statement

To tell the story of Cults’ hauntingly beautiful track, “Go Outside”, I was inspired to bring the band inside the world of Jim Jones’ famous religious cult, Peoples Temple, and the eventual tragedy in Jonestown. Fortunately, when exploring the feasibility of this video I became acquainted with Fielding M. McGehee III, an expert on Peoples Temple history and the primary researcher for the Jonestown Archive. It is thanks to him and his encouragement that I was able to take on this project and through his support gained access to over two and half hours of home videos showing Peoples Temple in Jonestown. For this music video we didn’t want to put a spin on the footage or the peoples lives—instead we wanted to re-tell and humanize their story. In order to achieve this we used a combination of stock footage, visual effects and other tricks to embed the band into the historical footage. This was achieved through my collaboration with my visual effects supervisor Bill Gillman and my cinematographer Matthew Lloyd. Lastly, I am moved to say when we completed the video we were able to preview it for some of the survivors of the Jonestown Massacre, who expressed their appreciation of our focus on the lives of the People’s Temple members as opposed to exploiting the graphic images of the final tragedy.

In History and Memory,

In the beginning of the beautiful “Go Outside” track, you hear a man speaking about how “Death is not a fearful thing, it’s living that’s treacherous”, a quote that most certainly makes you really ponder about its meaning and validity. As it turns out, that man speaking in the beginning of the song is actually archival soundbites of Jim Jones, of the Jonestown massacre . This song is cognitive dissonance at its finest because you have a sunny song with a slightly malicious tone underneath thanks to the incorporation of Jim Jones.

Since the video was presented by, the comments page has had a fair share of various comments.

“Sorry, but I find this to be in pretty poor taste. Perhaps I just don’t ‘get it’, but it certainly looks a lot like a band exploiting the dead to promote themselves with a cool video.”

“I disagree strongly. I think it’s a great piece of art, and a great historical document, in that it attempts to revisit the human experience of Jonestown beyond the terrible ending. Absolutely could not disagree more with the naysayers.”

“Well, here’s a middle-of-the-road opinion for you. I think the video works as a ballsy aesthetic statement – it recontextualizes the song in a new, bittersweet context, and it does make an interesting statement about Jonestown. However, the self-promotional aspect of writing a pop song and promoting it via internet video is almost always going to trump any humanitarian purpose one might espouse – I think people are chafing against the director’s suggestion that he is somehow doing these people a big favor.”

“Wow, very haunting. The first thing that struck me was tying a happy upbeat melody to what could be more or less every day images of people just trying to live their lives, seemingly happy but the viewer knows about the tragic ending.”

However, at least the video showed a bit more spunk and risk than this lame attempt of a music video:

– “Go Outside” (Right Click to Download)

2 responses to “Cults- “Go Outside” Music Video (and the controversy)

  • Danii Boo-yaa Tyler

    This song taught me all about Rev Jim Jones and The People’s Temple. I thought it was a good way to explore the past and find something hauntingly fascinating. I don’t think it exploited what happened at Jonestown. It’s a part of History. Learning. I think anything that opens up your world is a cool thing to do.

  • vincentvpham

    Yeah I see what you mean. In a way, the attention drawn by this music video also draws attention to what happened to The People’s Temple. What I would really love to know is how other people would take a look at this music video and other documentaries done on Jim Jones, and see if they are of both equal value. Does the medium in which the story of Jim Jones is told affect the response? Thanks for the read and thoughtful take.

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