Not that this is remotely shocking news, but the new HBO documentary Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief reportedly outs John Travolta for the
sixth ninth fifteenth time. We’ve stopped counting.
The film, based on Lawrence Wright’s 2013 book of the same name, details Travolta’s involvement in the church dating back to the early part of his acting career. Back then, he was a halfhearted supporter at best. Why, then, is he now one of Scientology’s most outspoke zealots?
The film strongly suggests that the church is essentially blackmailing him by threatening to out him if he ever betrays them.
Again, this isn’t anything entirely new per se, but the weight of Alex Gibney’s new film adds a heaping dose of gasoline to the John-Travolta-is-trapped-in-the-closet fire.
This passage from Wright’s book says it all:
“The church hierarchy was desperately concerned that their most valuable member would be revealed as gay; at the same time, the hierarchy was prepared to use that against him.”
The book also describes Scientology’s current leader, David Miscavige, as extremely duplicitous on the subject. In 1980, as he wined and dined Travolta to become involved in the church, he is reported to have said behind his back, “The guy is a faggot. We’re going to out him.”
While the film never says the word “gay,” they use Travolta’s case to highlight the practice of “auditing” — the church’s one-on-one therapy-style counseling — as a way of amassing a collection of personal information about its members.
“An auditor learns to keep notes contemporaneously as he is doing a session,” Marty Rathbun, an ex-Scientologist who was Miscavige’s right hand, says in Going Clear. “It’s the most intimate detail. You’re always encouraged, you’re always threatened to disclose more and more and more. And all of it’s recorded.”
“It’s not my business,” Gibney told BuzzFeed News about his decision to single out Travolta’s sexuality in his film. “We just know that the church made it its business to collect private details and threaten to reveal them. That’s really the relevant detail.”
It really makes us wonder though — how could coming out in today’s social and political landscape really be worse than living at the beck and call of Scientology? It seems like there must be more than meets the eye.
Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief airs on HBO on March 29.