A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
Mostly looks at the cult's history and context, but the documentary also looks at how to cope with inexplicable loss and tragedy.
Positive Role Models
Many of the interview subjects are survivors of trauma and tragedy. Many also seek to genuinely understand the complex motivations of cult members.
Violence & Scariness
The reason Heaven's Gate is a subject of interest is that its members died in a mass suicide. The mass suicide is spoken about and news footage of the site of the event is shown. At one point, a forced castration is described in detail.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Heaven's Gate talks about sex mostly in that sex and sensual thoughts were not allowed within the cult. At one point, a forced castration is described in detail.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Some subjects' histories of drug use or alcoholism are talked about.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Heaven's Gate: The Cult of Cults is a documentary series about a well known UFO religious cult whose members died in a mass suicide in 1997. The series traces the cult's origin and history leading up to the tragic events of 1997 using archival footage, including crime scene footage of the site of the mass suicide, and new interviews with surviving Heaven's Gate members and members' families. No violence or sexual content is shown, but the forced asexuality of the cult members is a topic of detailed discussion, and at one point a castration is described in detail. A theory is put forward that one of the cult leaders' repressed homosexuality motivated his actions within the cult, which may be interpreted as a homophobic line of thinking by some viewers. In general, the documentary paints a complex and sympathetic picture of the cult and what attracted and motivated its members. Younger viewers may have trouble parsing the complexity of the subject, but for older teens and young adults it can be extremely informative, as cults and cult-like organizations tend to target that demographic.
Is It Any Good?
UFO cults and other fringe organizations are often treated like tabloid material or weird human interest stories -- Heaven's Gate: The Cult of Cults, by contrast, begins by taking the cult, its members, and their beliefs as seriously as they do. This allows the documentary to do many things at once. It seeks to understand the members, the leaders, and their seemingly bizarre and erratic behavior. It gives insight on how cults and cult-like organizations operate and their methods of manipulation and control. It places Heaven's Gate into historical context, alongside tragedies such as the Jonestown Massacre. Finally, it explores how the actions of the Heaven's Gate cult and its leaders traumatized everyone that came into their orbit, with a focus on how the survivors cope with their trauma. The series is not always easy to watch, but it is consistently fascinating and informative. Even those who might just want to gawk at people who believe they're aliens should find something of value here.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.