Documentary makers can’t resist a good cult, and oh my Manson have they got their work cut out trying to explain the NXIVM sex-cult.
The controversial group NXIVM sold itself as a self-help group for women, and quote: “a community guided by humanitarian principles that seek to empower people.” Seems they copied and pasted the tag line of every cult and/or pyramid scheme. But 16,000 people joined, apparently not put off by the initiation process which allegedly involved sending crotch shots, offering up your virginity, and being branded with the leader’s initials. (That leader/evil overlord is Keith Raniere, who you’ll be pleased to know has now been sentenced to 120 years in prison.) But what makes this whole thing even more baffling, is that among the reported members were some of Hollywood’s elite.
Clearly all that LA-type yoga, reiki and juice-cleansing has gone to their heads. One of these sort-of-celebs is India Oxenberg, the daughter of Dynasty’s Catherine Oxenberg, who leads us through this four-parter, talking about her own experience and interviewing others who fell into the (plainly obvious) trap of NXIVM. This isn’t the first documentary on the group – HBO’s The Vow is the most well-known – and it doesn’t really give us anything new. But somehow, it’s still interesting. Probably because we could watch ten documentaries and still not know how on earth these people got into this mess, and how in hell Raniere got away with it for so long.
The Times’ Camilla Long calls it a “gripping” documentary on what she called “cos-playing sex bollocks some impressionable and bored moneyed Americans can get themselves into.” Her words, not ours. Adrian Horton in The Guardian says, “Seduced ultimately argues for giving time to one woman’s story, already Google searchable, in her own words,” and offers “additional insight to the just-finished rival show The Vow.” Margaret Lyons in The New York Times thinks Seduced is the better of the two documentaries, noting that “the shows’ different approaches reflect some of the exact social shortcomings that facilitate abuse, namely a reluctance to point out — and, ideally, stamp out — misogyny.”
First shown October 2020. You can watch the trailer by pressing play on the show image, or by clicking here: