Cults, Community, and The Heidi & Frank Show

advice, storytelling

The roar of my neighbor’s un-mufflered pick-up greeted me in the carport. She got out and told me she was going to a live broadcast of her favorite pirated internet radio show – The Heidi & Frank Show – at the Hooter’s in North Hollywood. She strongly encouraged me to come.

As appealing as that sounded, I had to regretfully decline. However, I was struck by her zeal in proselytizing on behalf of Heidi and/or Frank. I’m from the rural South, so I’ve been on the receiving end of my share of well-meaning invitations to church suppers, youth groups, baptismal founts and lock-ins.

It wasn’t till a while later when her truck roared up – backwards (she always backs in) – when I noticed a giant “Heidi & Frank Show” banner covering the entire back of her truck gate – that I realized the full extent of her Heidi & Frank conversion.

“Where’d you get that banner?” I asked.

“I had it made,” she said. “To support the show.”

This was like lightning striking me dumb, the idea that anyone could care so much about Heidi & Frank – who, from what I’ve gathered online appear to be a couple of profane idiot-whisperers (“Topics discussed on today’s After Hours: tweets out of context, downs, swollen lady bits, fly hair quests, and lit hickeys… it’s radio worth watching!”) who specialize in the kind of community-building first espoused by the Hitler Youth.

I was blown away by my neighbor’s banner – by the idea that anyone could care so much about a show, feel so identified with and invested in a *money-making corporate enterprise* as to spend her own money to help advertise for them – till she drove up a while later with her new Heidi & Frank mudflaps.

That’s when I realized – isn’t this a goal of anyone who makes stuff, who tells stories for a living and depends on the enthusiasm and support of others to help spread those stories around? Don’t we all want our listeners, our blog readers, our T.V. show watchers or movie watchers or novel readers to feel so invested in and identified with our stories they create their own mudflaps on their trucks, to extend those myths those mud-encrusted-rubber couple inches further into the world?

I guess we can all learn a think or two from Heidi & Frank, and not just about swollen lady bits.

*

I’ve spent all of 60 seconds studying this Heidi & Frank, but seems like they’re following the cult leader’s handbook:

  1. People are put in physical or emotionally distressing situations [Hooter’s in North Hollywood]
  2. Their problems are reduced to one simple explanation, which is repeatedly emphasized [I’m listening to Heidi & Frank.]
  3. They receive what seems to be unconditional love, acceptance, and attention from a charismatic leader or group [this is the logline of any radio show]
  4. They get a new identity based on the group [my neighbor feels so identified with the show she used her own money to make a banner for her truck to advertise for them]
  5. They are subject to entrapment (isolation from friends, relatives and the mainstream culture) and their access to information is severely controlled. [the more they listen to Heidi & Frank, the less contact they have with the outside world]

 

*

I’m reading