The Problematic Nature of Amazon’s Hellier

Amazon’s docuseries, Hellier, details an investigation by three apparently terribly ignorant “paranormal researchers” into the presence of small “goblins” living in a mineshaft near the moribund mining town of Hellier, Kentucky. Despite being rife with pseudoscience and obvious bad actors (as in agents, not hired thespians), the show emphasizes the growing and alarming disparity between members of the nonessential luxury-class (the paranormal investigators) and the working-class citizens of the town they visit to conduct their research.

The show makes it a point to highlight the general lack of education and rampant ignorance in the poor mining community by failing to edit out the absurd claims of one resident who asserts he doesn’t believe men landed on the moon. The resident goes on to ask why we never visited the sun, and then he claims there are closer planets than our moon and that the moon would be too cold for humans to visit. Less laughable than pitiable and even alarming, this vignette reveals the depths of desperation and need for educational opportunities in coal country and other parts of rural America where once good-paying manual labor jobs have vanished to leave behind little more than economic hardship and dangerously unstable infrastructure on the verge of collapse.

Before I go any further, and for the purpose of full disclosure, regular readers of my blog will know that I was once in a cult called Ordo Templi Orientis, and that I left that cult due to the abuses inflicted upon other members by their seniors. The pseudo-philosophy used by the investigators in Hellier is derived from the work of the highest ranking senior member of the cult in my area at the time I left. Allen Greenfield is well known to me and someone I personally do not trust and do not like. When I first met Greenfield, he presented himself to me as a doctor of philosophy, a claim that I later discovered was untrue, and his only credential was an honorary doctorate of divinity he purchased from the Universal Life Church. (For the record, I also have an honorary doctorate from the ULC but do not call myself a “doctor” because of it). While I voluntarily left the OTO, Greenfield was expelled from the same when, having exhausted his supply of local enemies, he turned his ire toward the upper echelons of the organization. There is a considerable difference between quitting a cult and being thrown out; the former shows good sense, while the latter reveals deep and disturbing flaws in character. Through his expulsion, Greenfield enjoys the company of disturbed individuals such as Augustus Sol Invictus and rightly so.

The biggest problem I have with Hellier thus far is its overt in-grouping of the ignorance and superstition displayed by the investigators and the out-grouping of the ignorance and superstition displayed by some of the residents of the town of Hellier. That is, the bourgeoise pseudo-science that advocates belief in ghosts, extraterrestrial abductions, and cryptids is elevated by the series, while the conspiratorial belief that man never walked on the moon (and the simply erroneous assertion that there are planets closer to the earth than our moon) are merely tools used to demonstrate the intellectual superiority of the group of wealthy strangers come-to-town. Hellier is a study in class disparity between people who have monetary resources and ample freetime to squander on a snipe hunt in a community where many people face grim economic hardship and few opportunities for either growth or escape.

Further, the Hellier team presents common psychological concepts in occult terms. Throughout season one, the investigators speak of synchronicities and even present a quote from Carl Jung about the phenomenon. Unfortunately, the quote is taken out of context and does not apply to mere coincidence. When Jung coined the term, he placed synchronicity within the context of psychoanalysis. While it is true that synchronicities are meaningful coincidences, they only emerge during therapy, when unconscious symbols encountered by the client begin to manifest in the life of the therapist. Outside of this context, synchronicity does not exist and such seemingly important coincidences are, in fact, merely that–coincidences. Moreover, such coincidences are almost immediate; the appearance of the tin can in the mouth of the mine shaft that gets touted as a synchronicity simply isn’t one at all.

Hellier does more harm than good in its ham-fisted approach to psychology, the occult, and the needs of vulnerable populations in impoverished regions of America. The investigators sport expensive haircuts and pricey toys, view the local residents with suspicion and even fear, and generally come off as entitled, privileged children who have no use for genuine education or compassion. It illuminates the arrogance of the wealth-privileged as they disdainfully judge and mock the citizens of small-town America.

Keep watching this blog. I will have much more to say about Hellier in the coming weeks.

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