Arts and popular culture notes (2022)

The Jonestown story continues to find resonance for a number of writers, poets, painters, playwrights, and musicians, who offer artistic interpretations of the events through their own individual visions.

• A new book by Amanda Montell, the creator of the podcast “Sounds Like a Cult,” returns to the Jonestown tragedy periodically as an example of her thesis, that language can be used to manipulate people who are willing to believe what they hear. According to the author’s description, the book Cultish “breaks down what makes something a cult, the toxic ways that leaders and followers interact, and how cults aren’t just for fringe religious groups anymore.”

• As the one year anniversary of publication of his book Be A Giant Killer approached, Eddie Norwood discussed the themes of the book’s lessons on Jonestown in an interview with Ashleigh Banfield of News Nation.

Norwood’s family lost 27 relatives in Jonestown. His mother, Jynona Norwood, has been leading memorial services at Evergreen Cemetery every year since 1979.

Asked during the July 2022 interview whether such a tragedy could repeat itself, Norwood replied, “This can absolutely happen again in America. It happens every day in America. We run from problems. We fail. We make mistakes. We stay in comfort zones. We ignore red flags. We cower in shame and guilt. We fight bouts of depression. We stay in unhealthy, abusive, familiar, and yet sometimes destructive relationships out of fear. We die prematurely taking our dreams to the grave. We transmit our fears and traumas to the next generation.”

• In February 2022, it was announced that Chloe Grace Moretz and Joseph Gordon-Levitt have been cast into the roles of Peoples Temple defector Deborah Layton and Temple leader Jim Jones in the film White Night. The film will tell the Layton’s story as adapted from her book Seductive Poison.

“Debbie’s incredible journey … should serve as warning about the power a certain type of charismatic leader can have and the very real lessons to be learned from our history,” said Amy Nauiokas, CEO of Archer Grey, one of the film’s production companies. “Entering Jim Jones’ magnetic orbit through the eyes of an idealistic, passionate young woman reminded us that anyone can fall victim to extremism, given the right circumstances,” added Ashley Fox, president of a second production company, FilmNation.

• A new song by the trio The Warning suggests that it is human nature to “drink the Kool-Aid” both when it comes to being cruel and when one feels fear and regret afterwards. “Kool Aid Kids” was released in June 2022.