This article analyzes the stereotypical portrayal of cults on fictional television shows and demonstrates the vital role that this popular culture form plays in the dissemination of anticult ideology. Through an in-depth examination of five episodes that aired between 1998 and 2008, it delineates how these shows employed stereotypical cult elements, such as fraud and violence, as well as contrasts in clothing, setting, and lifestyle to differentiate conventional religion from the dangers and delusions of cults. Further, the article reveals how usage of the cult concept is not limited to the present context and documents the historical pervasiveness of the cult stereotype on television since 1958. By highlighting these patterns, this study shows the power and implications of the cult stereotype. It illuminates how these television shows constitute a powerful force in defining and policing the boundaries of religious legitimacy in American culture.
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