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Bonus TV Post: Peggy’s Alter-Ego

Elisabeth Moss, who plays Peggy on Mad Men, sounds like a major contender for coolest person in the world — until you get to the part about how she’s a Scientologist. I really don’t get it. Is becoming a Scientologist like the celebrity equivalent of getting a Netflix account or what? (“I bought all this stuff to help me get rid of thetan bodies. I used to be really into it, but honestly lately it just sits there for weeks at a time.”)

By the way, do you all remember this?

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June 11, 2009 - Posted by | television

30 Comments

  1. That many celebrities are scientologists is depressing (c’mon, you too Beck?) but I’m hoping that, eventually, some celebrity will realize that it’s a cult and then use their prestige and $$$ to wage war against it. I don’t know whether to be hopeful or not though, because I’ve heard that the celebrities’ experience of scientology (for those celebs who join after acquiring their fortune and fame) is extremely different from the relatively poor entry-level scientologists’ (perhaps most importantly, I don’t think the celebs have to pay exorbitant amounts of money for “e-meter treatment”).

    Comment by Currence | June 11, 2009

  2. I don’t know anything about Scientology, but I like to stop and take their quizzes when I’m walking to the grocery store on Hollywood Blvd. It turns out that I have a really high IQ, but I need to learn how to actualize my potential. Also, I am suffering from a lot of stress, but if I take some expensive courses I can learn how to improve my mental state.

    Comment by jms | June 11, 2009

  3. “The woman who plays the tightly controlled Peggy Olson on “Mad Men” needs to be reminded of this?”

    Is the times just now discovering that actors are not identical to the people they portray?

    Comment by ben | June 11, 2009

  4. Beck was raised into Scientology, as were the Ribisi’s. I gather it is a little different for them than it is for Cruise or Travolta.

    Comment by Craig | June 11, 2009

  5. There are justifiable complaints about Scientology, but the usual ones people make (“it’s all about money! it’s wildly at odds with science! it’s really weird!“) seem like an exercise in glass-housery.

    The COS has actually been responsible for some actually nasty shit, but even that seems like a drop in the Pacific compared to the sins of most mainstream, acceptable American religions. L. Ron Hubbard may have been a pretty odd duck, but as far as I can tell he never launched multiple invasions of the middle east, attempted to stamp out the Jews, or used his church to hide dozens of serial child molesters from the law.

    It does seem to be the case, though, that every new religion needs to go through a period of hazing by the upperclassmen before it becomes a recognized member of the club. If Scientology ever grows beyond its current niche status, I can imagine it eventually reaching the level of acceptability that Mormons currently have – still hypocritically regarded as weird by the greater culture, but well on its way towards mainstream status.

    Comment by stras jones | June 11, 2009

  6. My problem with Scientology is the aggressive brain-washing.(Surely in response you’ll have some insightful remark about that time you watched Jesus Camp.) In fact, that is literally the only complaint I have ever heard about Scientology, other than the notion that it was consciously developed and subsequently propagated as a scam. You could turn around and say that was true of all religions, but then you would also probably be oversimplifying a bit.

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | June 11, 2009

  7. (Surely in response you’ll have some insightful remark about that time you watched Jesus Camp.)

    I don’t need Jesus Camp. My niece and nephew go to a K-12 school attached to their (right-wing) megachurch, and after they graduate they’ll be encouraged to go to any number of right-wing wackjob colleges; my other brother is considering homeschooling his kids. An entire parallel education system has sprung up to allow religious zealots to control what ideas their children will be exposed to throughout their formative years, from childhood through young adulthood.

    The special attention we pay to Scientology is mostly due to its novelty – and, of course, its celebrity status, which we generally tend to treat as a sort of spiritual fashion faux pas. Saying “oh, man, Beck’s a Scientologist!” is the equivalent of getting embarrassed for some Hollywood starlet who shows up at the Oscars in an ugly dress.

    Comment by stras jones | June 12, 2009

  8. From what I’ve heard, Scientologist brainwashing is much more thorough-going than even the most aggressive fundamentalist indoctrination — they go down to the level of convincing you that you don’t know what even the most basic words mean and make you utterly dependent. Compared to that, fundamentalist indoctrination — which is really bad, of course — seems pretty naive and amateurish. I’d venture to say that a world in which there were as many Scientologists as fundamentalists would be a worse world.

    Not that the one with fundamentalists is good! Any time I claim that fundamentalism is “not as bad” as something else, I always get accused of carrying water for them, as though they’re self-evidently the greatest possible evil on earth. They are evil, of course. We’re just really lucky that their leaders are so politically naive and, in some cases, just plain crazy (and not “like a fox”).

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | June 12, 2009

  9. my other brother is considering homeschooling his kids. An entire parallel education system has sprung up to allow religious zealots to control what ideas their children will be exposed to throughout their formative years, from childhood through young adulthood.

    When the time comes, I’ll likely homeschool. Other parents and elementary/middle/high school teachers are, in general, fairly repulsive. Alternatively, the children can be registered in public school, but only go when they feel like it. We have a better library than most high schools anyway, what’s the point in going?

    Comment by Craig | June 12, 2009

  10. My partner, her sisters and her friends growing up were all homeschooled; I was pretty agnostic on homeschooling until I met them. Unless you’re planning to actually teach classes in your house, every day, while assigning work for them to do – like they’d get in an actual school – I think homeschooling, even the non-fundamentalist kind, is a recipe for disaster. You end up with kids who end up learning a lot about subjects that interest them when they’re kids, and very little about, say, math and science. Preparation for college is terrible; my partner’s youngest sister is a pretty smart kid, but will probably never go to college at this point, because she’s got too many massive gaps in her education to do so.

    Comment by stras jones | June 12, 2009

  11. Given that the most complex equation you need to know to graduate high school is how to calculate compound interest, the problem is likely one of transmission rather than difficulty.

    Comment by Craig | June 12, 2009

  12. I’ve seen a mixed bag. There are some kids who really seem to thrive, and some who become real freaks. I’d venture to say that the ones who became freaks would’ve been freaks anyway given who their parents are and the ones who did well would’ve done well in any educational environment. But I surely envied the ones who did well, because they were spared all the busy-work, etc., that comes with public schools and could actually study in a way that made most sense to them.

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | June 12, 2009

  13. Given that the most complex equation you need to know to graduate high school is how to calculate compound interest,

    This isn’t just a matter of graduating high school, but of getting into college, and getting into a good college, and about having the option to pursue, say, a career in the sciences. The vast majority of twelve-year-olds don’t really know what they’re going to want to do when they’re twenty-five, and aren’t going to be interested in learning subjects they’re not interested in unless it’s drilled into them over and over again. But dropping them off at the local library and saying “teach yourselves” – which is what a growing number of homeschooling parents do – doesn’t cut it.

    Adam, I’ve met a lot of homeschoolers, and I wouldn’t call any of them freaks, at least if we’re taking “freaks” to mean the stereotypical social maladaption that’s expected of homeschoolers. But every single homeschooler I’ve met has had massive problems with math, for instance, and has regrets about things they didn’t have the opportunity to learn that “normal” kids kid, which limited what they could do with their lives and careers.

    Comment by stras jones | June 12, 2009

  14. This math issue seems like a fixable problem, though — not quite proportionate to the social plague you seemed to be making homeschooling out to be.

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | June 12, 2009

  15. A fixable problem how?

    Comment by stras jones | June 12, 2009

  16. And I didn’t say homeschooling was a “social plague.” I said it was a bad thing to do to one’s children, that it severely limits their education and what opportunities they’ll have later in life, that the many people I know who’ve been homeschooled have all been negatively affected by being homeschooled.

    Comment by stras jones | June 12, 2009

  17. Teach math better! Simple enough.

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | June 12, 2009

  18. I certainly wished I had stayed with calculus and finite math in the final year of high school by the time I came to do the required quantitative methods courses, but I still got by just fine without that background. But more than my regret for dropping math classes is my regret for not continuing in French immersion through high school. It’s much easier to pick up math later in life than it is to pick up languages.

    I’d strangle my children before I let them become scientists.

    Comment by Craig | June 12, 2009

  19. Further, it is highly unlikely I’ll ever live anywhere other than Canada. As unappealing as Canada is, the other options are far worse. Except maybe New Zealand (assuming people in New Zealand are like Bret, Jemaine and Murray). Given that there is no significant differences between undergraduate education at different universities in Canada, it doesn’t likely matter what school people go to for their first degree. In fact, you are likely better doing your undergraduate degree at a small university than at UBC, Toronto, Queen’s or Western because you’ll have much higher faculty contact, smaller student to teacher ration, and tuition is much cheaper.

    Comment by Craig | June 12, 2009

  20. Teach math better! Simple enough.

    No, it’s not simple enough. Math is the kind of thing you don’t learn casually; it demands the kind of repetitive instruction that children find tedious, and aren’t going to be attracted to on their own. And we’re not talking about people who just didn’t pick up trig or calculus; when my partner’s sister moved in with us, she couldn’t do percents or multiply fractions. This really is a kind of parental neglect.

    Comment by stras jones | June 12, 2009

  21. I should add: none of this is to say that one couldn’t teach one’s child this rigorously, and thus provide them with an education comparable to the kind they’d get at a school. But doing so is very time- and energy-intensive, which is why we don’t expect parents to do it – we have people who are trained specifically to teach children, because teaching children is actually very difficult.

    Comment by stras jones | June 12, 2009

  22. when my partner’s sister moved in with us

    You know, I’m perfectly well aware that this sort of living arrangement is and has been anything but uncommon, but still my first reaction was “that must be awkward”.

    Comment by ben | June 12, 2009

  23. Homeschooling is fine–with smart, educator-type parents, probably superior–academically. The problem is that “socialization” thing. It’s GOOD for bright children to have to learn how to befriend and/or get along with the less bright, the poor, the neglected, and so on. It’s not like the kids of people who homeschool are really going to be academically retarded because they go to public school.

    That said, it’s also not true that the only route to teaching arithmetic is rote boring repetition.

    Comment by bitchphd | June 13, 2009

  24. Because, see, kids who go to public school at least have a *hope* of not growing up to think things like this:

    Other parents and elementary/middle/high school teachers are, in general, fairly repulsive.

    Comment by bitchphd | June 13, 2009

  25. I’d venture to say that some of the stereotypical forms of socialization available in public schools are better avoided. Sure, you meet people different from you — you also get a nice taste of a social viciousness that I don’t think you find in later adult life for the most part.

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | June 13, 2009

  26. Actually, anti-bullying is becoming more of a big deal in school. See, one of the problems with blathering about public schools based on one’s own memories is that things do kind of change with time. (Plus, you know, as a parent, it *is* possible to go into school and say “my kid is being bullied and I damn well expect you to do something about it.”)

    Comment by bitchphd | June 13, 2009

  27. a social viciousness that I don’t think you find in later adult life for the most part.

    Depends on your socioeconomic status, doesn’t it? Which is part of my point.

    Comment by bitchphd | June 13, 2009

  28. Other than a bleeding heart, do you have anything to disprove my claim? Have you looked at parents at any point in your life? Have you looked at teachers at any point in your life? Recall, a few months ago, Adam labeled the constitutive exception to human sociality. Perhaps teaching is different where it isn’t an organized profession with a legally acknowledged and constituted college to organize and control the profession, but where I live, teachers – and those striving to be teachers – are absolutely intolerable people. I’ve taught my fair share of sociology undergrads who want to be teachers and, frankly, I don’t want any of my hypothetical children around them. (These are the very students who I can’t fail for being unable to write a five page paper on what Durkheim means by “social fact” and their autonomy from “psychological” and “biological” facts because I don’t have tenure nor am I tenure-track.)

    The vet I take my pets to had a stint at teacher’s college before dropping out, moving to Korea to teach English, and then returning to veterinary college. He said he found it deeply troubling that a bunch of adults would want to sit in a classroom to learn how to play ring-around-the-rosey and then proceed to play ring-around-the-rosey with each other. I tend to agree with him: any adult who willingly does that shouldn’t be around children – or other adults.

    Of course, I’m just bitter because I’m presently an unemployed all but completed PhD who can’t even teach high school social studies as a “supply teacher” despite being a few months away from a sociology PhD.

    For the record, I occasionally attended a public high school, mostly attended a public middle school and attended an elementary school. The weight of accumulated teenaged experience is firmly on my side: institutional education just doesn’t work and it tends to produce pathology rather than normality (c.f., Adam’s comment at 25).

    At 26 – I’d go the other way: take my kid to karate or judo and the next time some asshole picked on him/her (especially if it were a daughter), destroy the fucker’s scrotum.

    Comment by Craig | June 13, 2009

  29. Craig, I *am* a parent. My child attends a public shool.

    I’m willing to claim that I know a shitload more about what I’m talking about than you do.

    Comment by bitchphd | June 13, 2009

  30. You’re obviously biased – I’ve already written off “other parents” as repulsive.

    Comment by Craig | June 13, 2009


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