As I was watching Starz’ Seduced, the second documentary series to come out in recent months about Keith Raniere and NXIVM, I started to understand why pop culture is so engrossed by the story of the the Albany-based “sex cult” that branded women. It’s not just because of the salacious details, or because of Raniere’s wealthy and high-profile followers. Americans are riveted because NXIVM is a cult whose members call it a movement, led by a shockingly misogynist man who lies about being the smartest person in the world.
There’s a scene in the finale of The Vow, HBO’s series on the NXIVM multilevel-marketing cult, that captures the essence of its nine episodes. Catherine Oxenberg, the former Dynasty actress and onetime NXIVM dabbler, pulls into her Malibu driveway on the heels of a tense meeting with her still-ensnared daughter, India. As she steps out of her vehicle, we see a couple there to greet her: filmmaker Mark Vicente and his wife, the actress Bonnie Piesse. The duo of NXIVM defectors, along with Oxenberg and two fellow ex-members, Sarah Edmondson and Nippy Ames, form a conspiratorial pod to take the…
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