HBO caused a major stir on social media with Sunday night’s broadcast of “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief,” a blistering documentary about the Church of Scientology and its celebrity devotees.
People Magazine published a teaser for the film Sunday, which was first screened in January at the Sundance Film Festival.
Sensational in content but not in tone, Going Clear has been making headlines since its first screening at Sundance in January. It has also upset that secretive, combative and often embattled Church, which in a lengthy statement attacked the film as “insidious religious persecution by bullies toting cameras” and the ex-Scientologists who participated as “the usual collection of obsessive, disgruntled former Church members.”
Such invective from the Scientology crowd, which includes such luminaries as John Travolta and Tom Cruise, almost guaranteed a huge audience tuning in.
In a story published just minutes before the HBO debut, Director Alex Gibney told TheWrap that some of the Hollywood people interviewed in the film received physical and legal threats.
Spanky Taylor, a publicist for stars such as Johnny Depp and Edward Norton, told her story of having to escape a church building in Los Angeles after being physically restrained from leaving.
“I will tell you that the threats that have been visited on her have been particularly brutal,” Gibney said. “A major thing the church got by on for many years was intimidating people into silence, based on their threats of litigation and brutish psychological games.”
The hashtag #goingclear generated an online buzz, becoming one of the top trends on Twitter. Most Twitter users reacted predictably to the exposé.
“If you want to get rich, you start a religion.” ~L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Church of Scientology. #GoingClear
— Yo Gabba Guppy (@iResistAll) March 30, 2015
— EntertainmentTonight (@etnow) March 30, 2015
— First In Last Out (@4gen234) March 30, 2015
#GoingClear is the must-see horror film of the year. But seriously.
— Carlos Valdes (@Tha_Los) March 30, 2015
Don’t believe that new HBO documentary about me. They didn’t tell me the mic was on when I was using the bathroom. #GoingClear
— Lord Xenu (@therealxenu) March 30, 2015
— Andrea Rene (@andrearene) March 30, 2015
— Mark McKinney (@Mark_DMcKinney) March 30, 2015
— Amy M. (@Ammerk) March 30, 2015
Some were a bit concerned that the Church of Scientology might be listening in on their tweets.
Listen. #GoingClear on HBO is a MUST SEE. I fully understand that I’m now on a “list” because of this tweet.
— Joey Richter (@JoeyRichter) March 30, 2015
— Leonora Pitts (@leeleepitts) March 30, 2015
So who already got a cease & desist letter for tweeting jokes about David Miscaivige? #GoingClear @MarkEbner59?
— Ben Schwartz (@benschwartzy) March 30, 2015
And some felt validated by the film.
#GoingClear To my long-suffering friends to whom I rambled on about the cult for years…so now do you believe me?
— UncleStabby (@UncleStabby1) March 30, 2015
#GoingClear is interesting. A lot of this I know since I’ve done so much research into this cult. They’re dangerous. Simple as that.
— Jay Caruso (@JayCaruso) March 30, 2015
Maybe the IRS will look into Scientology’s tax status, if it’s not too busy targeting conservatives?
— Dawn Catherine (@DAWNCATHERINE) March 30, 2015