It was roughly two years ago that we learned about NXIVM, the bizarre “sex cult” and pyramid scheme that counted Smallville actress Allison Mack in its ranks. Since then, Mack’s pleaded guilty to crimes related to her involvement, and founder Keith Raniere was convicted of sex trafficking of children, conspiracy, and conspiracy to commit forced labor. Lifetime wasted no time turning it into a soap opera, while HBO and filmmakers Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer (The Square) have been slowly piecing together a docuseries unpacking its creation and key players.
NXIVM attracted members by presenting itself a vessel for female empowerment, which the below teaser highlights with soundbites about it providing “the family I’ve been looking for” and leading to “the next level of being a woman.” The darkness therein is teased, however: “It is manipulative,” says another woman, “but it’s a good manipulation.”
Check it out below.
It won’t be an easy watch. Raniere, who’s been described as a “master manipulator,” would routinely punish his female followers, force them into starvation diets, and brand them with a cauterizing pen. Per a synopsis, the series “takes a deep, nuanced look at the experiences of its members” as it “seeks to reveal the issues behind the headlines and explore the emotional toll of unfolding events on these individuals.”
The Vow debuts on HBO on August 23.