A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
It portrays a religious organization as a cult designed for the power and profit of its leader. Cult behavior, Christian doctrine, evangelism, proselytizing, and corruption are themes. Issues like divorce, marriage, child custodial battles, extortion, and abuse of all kinds are discussed.
Positive Role Models
Gwen Shamblin is characterized as a zealous, hypocritical, and greedy cult leader who thrives on power. Her husband is characterized as someone who is using her for money and status.
There are a few Black church members visible in archived footage, but the fact that Remnant Fellowship Church lacks racial, ethnic, and ideological diversity is clearly stated. A few former members, as well as pastors and representatives from other churches from BIPOC communities are interviewed. A Black couple was convicted of murdering their son based on Gwen Shamblin's teachings.
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Violence & Scariness
Emotional and psychological abuse is discussed. Predatory cult behavior, child abuse, and the murder of a child are also themes. The death of Gwen Shamblin, Joe Lara, and other church leaders in a plane crash is briefly addressed.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
There are conversations about illicit affairs, womanizing, and other inappropriate sexual behaviors. There is a quick reference to escorting. Narratives address how wives were required to submit to their husband's sexual desires in total obedience.
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The overall language is clean, but there are occasional strong words like "hell" and "damn," and the curse "f--k" uttered on several occasions during interviews.
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Products & Purchases
Weigh Down program books and related events featured, but offered in context. Archived footage also features different popular journalists, as well as other religious leaders. Random logos (Apple, Under Armor, Mercedes, Kia, etc.) are visible on clothing and other items, but not in a commercial way.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
There are references to pot use and drug and alcohol addiction. Archive photographs and reenactments show people drinking wine and hard liquor. An overdose is allegedly covered up. A former member discusses being punished for being on anti-depressants.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Way Down is a docuseries about the late controversial pastor Gwen Shamblin, and the faith-based weight loss program that became the foundation for the Remnant Fellowship Church. It addresses mature issues, such as cult behavior, church-sanctioned abuse, addiction, extramarital behavior, and death. Drinking, pot smoking, and drug addiction is discussed, as is the rejection of anti-depressants and other medical interventions. Explanations about evangelical tenets of faith and tradition are also offered, and proselytizing is featured. While the language is mostly clean, on occasion some strong curse words are audible, and random logos are visible, but not in a commercial context. The accidental deaths of Shamblin, her husband, and other church leaders in May 2021, which occurred while the series was in production, is briefly addressed.
Is It Any Good?
The unsettling docuseries chronicles how the late pastor and diet guru created a controversial ministry that combines biblical teachings with common-sense diet tips to build power and wealth. The Way Down discusses the way Gwen Shamblin, many of whom within the church referred to as a prophet, equated being thin with spiritual perfection, and rejected scientific explanations for weight gain in order to exploit her followers' fundamental religious beliefs for her own gains. It also explains how she preached her own version of Christianity, which rejects the foundational tenets for most Christian faiths, but created a place for her as a matriarch in a religious world led by men. But much of the series focuses on some of the many controversies that followed her and her husband, actor Joe Lara, until their deaths (the two died in a plane crash in May 2021), and details disturbing activities within the organization. It's subjective, and active members of the church are not interviewed (despite the efforts of producers). Nonetheless, The Way Down tells an intriguing story that shows how people's religious beliefs and personal vulnerabilities can be exploited in unexpected, consequential ways.
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.