A very happy Easter to our readers, whether you celebrate the holiday or not. In case you missed the excitement last night, Saturday Night Live aired a pitch-perfect parody of Scientology’s 1990 video “We Stand Tall” which was featured prominently in Alex Gibney’s documentary Going Clear.
Gibney’s film aired on HBO Sunday night and has been repeating since then, but the amount of work that went into SNL’s spoof suggests that this has been in the works for weeks — either since Going Clear‘s theatrical run began on March 13 or perhaps as far back as when it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January.
There are so many amazing little Easter eggs in this thing, and we’re doing our best to unpack it. But of course, we know our eagle-eyed readers are going to spot some things that we’ve missed. Here, give it a close look…
And thanks to reader Zana and others who got the lyrics down for us:
“In 1990, the Church of Neurotology made the following music video.
It has been updated based on new information about the church.”
Reach out your hand and follow me
I have the code, the code to the key
The key to the secret, the secret of space
We’ll always believe this,
We are invested, invested till death
We’re in this forever,
Never to leave it until our last breath
We are here
Our path is clear
We are finally free with Neurotology
The gorgeous religion, old and true
Started in 1982
Our founder brings us endless life
‘cause he can never die
Our brain machines can fix our minds
Our brain machines can save mankind
Each brain machine costs twenty grand
And that is fair and fine
We, we are the children,
The children of Meepthorp, the science is there
We, we are a family, joined by the knowledge
The knowledge we share
We are light! We are life!
We are proud to be
Ooh we, ooh we, we believe
Ooh we, ooh we, we believe
Ooh we, ooh we, we believe
Ooh we, ooh we, we believe
Ooh we, ooh we, we believe…
We, we are the future
We’re like a rocket into the sea…
We used to be starfish
Enslaved by the seagulls
But now we are free
We are home
We are one
We will always be
Now, let’s take a closer look at some of the frames to appreciate just how much work went into the thing and how well the writers knew their Scientology!
Notice how they not only renamed Dianetics, but the triangle is diametrically opposed to the usual thing! Oh, we crack ourselves up.
The lighting, the costumes, the postures, the non-HD film effect: So much went into this thing to capture the feeling in the original video — including the fake enthusiasm of actors pretending to be Scientologists actually having fun!
A fun bit of background — in 1990, when “We Stand Tall” was made, Scientology was pretty much at its height. Marty Rathbun has told us that peak membership occurred around 1991, and it’s all been downhill since then.
We only wish Scientology book covers were this honest! And how about that book in the distance. Is that title “Ignoring the Brain”?
One of many little things that tell us that while SNL is having fun, it did its homework. One version of the actual billion-year contract Sea Org members sign has in large letters “Sea Organization, Religious Commitment.”
The quasi-naval uniform, complete with lanyard, the goofy trophies. Yep, she’s just written a big check and she’s Silver Meritorious!
…and then she bailed. What a great homage not just to Scientology’s current crisis of dwindling membership, but also to Going Clear, and the way each ex-Scientologist has a card come up to list the year they left.
This just gets better and better. Yes to the title of the book, and that people have disappeared. It’s funny stuff, but there’s a serious purpose. Where are the missing, such as Shelly Miscavige? And Rena Weinberg? And Barbara Ruiz? And Heber Jentzsch? And Clark Carr?
A fun reference to Scientology’s recent age. The year AD 65 begins next month, on May 9. Can you believe Scientology is still a thing? Well, maybe not for too much longer.
This mini-sequence of Bobby Moynihan as L. Ron Hubbard is worth the price of admission on its own. We get the Commodore snapping a salute…
…explaining his brain machine…
…and illustrating his lecture with a stick figure labeled “God.” The song at this point refers to the Founder as someone who can “never die,” until pink eye took him out, apparently. And that’s another wonderful little detail which shows how the writers were paying attention — in Going Clear, Alex Gibney explains that while L. Ron Hubbard made many wild claims about being machine-gunned and blinded in the war, his medical records show he actually only suffered from some arthritis and conjunctivitis — also known as “pink eye.”
Now we get a look at the brain machine in action. We love that the dial shows “good” on one side and “400” on the other.
Another pair of unfortunates who recall Sea Org members who were tossed overboard from the deck of the Apollo, or suffered disconnection and lost family. A great way to remind people that the point really is about people being harmed by toxic church policies.
Meepthorp is apparently Neurotology’s Xenu, and another example of the sheer work they put into this thing. Getting those posters made must have taken time and a pretty penny.
We’re glad we pointed out in Going Clear that Sea Org members work such long hours and take home such a paltry weekly check, the math works out to about 40 cents an hour. We mention it a couple of times in the movie, and we think it might have had an effect on someone.
You all noticed the Nazi salute to the Commodore, didn’t you?
Anyone know if John Travolta watches Saturday Night Live?
Having written about Scientology’s litigation tactics for some 20 years now, this may be our single favorite frame.
Hearsay! We love that for as long as servers continue to remain powered with electricity, a search on Scientology will probably pull up this video as an early result.
Someone knows their stuff. Did you catch the half-second shot of a cheetah running and dissolving into an image of the Founder? You do know about Dianetics and “the black panther problem,” right?
This shot is on screen for less than a second, but a lot went into it. The effort here is really something.
The only thing this shot needs is a diminutive but earnest ecclesiastical leader, ready to deliver a speech…
And here’s our first look at the Miscavige character, wearing a suitably awful shirt!
Can’t help wondering if, when they published “The Truth Rundown” in 2009 revealing the level of physical abuse Miscavige was heaping on his employees, Joe Childs and Tom Tobin of the Tampa Bay Times had any idea that their work would end up in such a perfect SNL sketch.
If only Debbie Cook — who was once held in “The Hole” so she could stand in a trash can for 12 hours straight with cold water poured on her — could tell us how deeply satisfying it must have been to see this frame.
We hear this reference to Scientology got the biggest laugh from the studio audience.
Another laugh that is so funny because it’s so near the truth.
Another shot that is visible for less than a second, but we marvel at the amount of work that went into it.
What a great closing shot. There’s the Going Clear reference with the fruit flies. The Miscavige character is a billionaire. And we also can’t help thinking of the “Dauntless, Defiant, and Resolute” video put out by the Copenhagen org. Scientology, you are so busted.
So please tell us what your favorite parts of the parody were, and what you take away from it.
UPDATE: Former Sea Org executive Mark Fisher posted a really informative comment about the making of “We Stand Tall,” the 1990 Scientology video that SNL’s spoof is based on. We’re adding Mark’s comment to the post, with slight edits for clarity…
Some history on the We Stand Tall Video. I was there and involved in its production. What I remember about this song and video is that it was done sometime in the late winter/early spring in 1990. It is just a few weeks or days before I was removed from my post of working for David Miscavige for “disaffection” over the removal of my ex-wife Julie and her being sent to the Rehabilitation Project Force (the Sea Org’s prison program).
The song was written by Rick Cruzen if I recall, and I am sure Peter Schless (famous for writing the music for the 80’s hit “On the Wings of Love”) probably contributed to the arrangement and chorus. The song and video was going to be used at some event — either March 13th (L. Ron Hubbard’s birthday event) or the Freewinds Anniversary Cruise. The male singer is David Pomeranz, whose claim to fame is this song and also some songs on the 1986 Road to Freedom album. I don’t remember who the female singer is. The Gold Movie shoot crew did the filming and I think Ted Horner was involved in directing it to make sure it came off the way Miscavige wanted it.
All of RTC, CMO International Management and the Exec Strata were brought to the LRH Music Studio to record the chorus and film what you see in the video. We were told to wear nice casual sweaters if I recall. Miscavige of course wanted to stand out so wore that hideous Hermes shirt. The key executives of Scientology Management were all positioned in the front row, and you know how you ranked in the hierarchy based on your position in the video. I was in the second row and you can see my head behind Marc Yager’s. Miscavige is standing on an “apple box” because he is so short. An apple box is a wooden box used in movies to make short actors look taller when shot from the waist up.
Someone was there as the Music Director. I think Rick Cruzen or Peter Schless, to run down the lyrics we all had to sing. And then we shot the video a few times with the cameras moving across the large studio from left to right and then back again. I remember we had to do it a few times because Miscavige was not happy with how Ray Mithoff looked when he was singing, and he seemed to not be on time with the rest of us. But it didn’t take too long to do and we were done.
The video was then edited and mixed and released at the event. It was a big hit at the time and Gold produced the video and cassettes for sale and they sold thousands of them. I think at the time we were all very proud of the song and the results, being the dedicated Kool-Aid drinkers that we were. And although it is very cheesy and corny today, the song does have a hook to it and I challenge you to get the chorus (“Hey La De Dah, Hey La De We Stand Tall!”) out of your head. (I’m joking!)
SNL did a brilliant parody and Mike is right. Once SNL gets ahold of you and makes fun of the truly ridiculous, it is hard to get that image out of the public’s mind. Best example — when Tina Fey did her Sarah Palin impersonation. Palin was never really taken seriously again.
Hey, speaking of cool films, Mark “Wise Beard Man” Bunker could use your help finishing up post-production on his documentary about Scientology, “Knowledge Report.” Head on over for his latest update and appeal.
Posted by Tony Ortega on April 5, 2015 at 06:15
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Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…
BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of LA attorney and former church member Vance Woodward
UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists
GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts
PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer
The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill
The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ
Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield