There are exactly two distinct things that can happen in your brain after watching the 1995 martial arts/video game masterpiece Mortal Kombat right in the thick of bingeing all two seasons of Leah Remini: Scientology & the Aftermath on Hulu. Maybe nothing happens, because you’d be hard-pressed to find two things further apart on the content spectrum. Even Fuller House and HBO’s Succession have more in common (#familydrama)! Or maybe the other option happens, and all the right synapses fire and you finally see Mortal Kombat for what it truly is: a metaphor for the dangers posed by Scientology, a metaphor with a whole lot of spin kicks set to the other worldly sound of ’90s industrial/techno.
I know I’m probably alone in this, as not many people have braved a double feature of Mortal Kombat and Scientology & the Aftermath. But if you do what I did and drop 90 minutes of heavily-dated action-movie excess in-between episodes of Leah Remini listening to truly upsetting, at time horrific tales of family trauma, you might come around to my way of thinking, especially now that you know what to look for. You won’t even have to watch that much of Mortal Kombat! It’s all laid out in the opening scene.
Someone screams “Mortal Kombat,” kicking off the greatest movie song in history as the video game’s logo is forged in fire. That logo? A dragon. What do thetans look like? Googling “what do thetans look like” yielded no satisfactory conclusions, so they don’t not look like dragons. In Scientology, alien souls (or thetans) were blown up by hydrogen bombs at the base of volcanos on prehistoric Earth. In the Mortal Kombat opening title sequence, a dragon (or a thetan, you never know) is engulfed in flames. Parallels.
The opening scene takes place in a distant, nightmarish dreamscape (Scientology’s massive HQ is in Florida so, parallel). The enigmatic ruler of Outworld, Shang Tsung, does battle with a child in order to defeat him and add another soul to his collection.
Let’s break down this scenario, using the Mortal-Kombat-As-Scientology-Allegory glasses I just built from scratch. Enigmatic leader? Shang Tsung could be a stand-in Scientology’s charismatic founder L. Ron Hubbard or even current controversial leader David Miscavige. Fighting a child? While there’s no proof that Hubbard or Miscavige ever fist fought a child, Hubbard did kidnap his daughter Alexis in 1951 and lied to her mother that he’d cut the girl up into pieces and dumped them into a river. Sounds like a real life super-villain to me! And all of Leah Remini: Scientology & the Aftermath Season 2 gets into the absolutely horrible living conditions for children raised in the religious organization, which includes family separation. It’s very troubling! These are troubling parallels!
Then comes Shang Tsung’s final move and the threat he makes that reverberates through our sleeping hero Liu Kang’s mind:
This one’s pretty on the nose: if you sign up for Sea Org, kinda like Scientology’s clergy except they have to do a whole lot of janitorial work, you sign a billion year contract. You, as far as you believe, are signing your soul over to serve the religion. And look at how Tsung’s declaration is phrased: he’s talking about Liu Kang’s brother’s soul. Scientology splits up families all the time, declaring non-believers and those that question the religion as “suppressive” and forcing them to cut off all contact. Your brother’s (or sister or father or mother’s) soul is theirs until they denounce the church and are summarily excommunicated. Parallels are right there on the screen, people! Screenwriter Kevin Droney wrote this script a solid 20 years before Leah Remini’s revelatory A&E series but, you know, he knew.
From there the rest of the movie plays as an infiltration mission as Kang teams up with the government (hi, Sonya Blade!) in order to take down Tsung from within. That means traveling all the way to Outworld and getting right in the thick of it. Come on, doesn’t sound like Operation Snow White, the case in the late’ 70s that necessitated the government’s involvement and intervention in all things Scientology? The government raided a whole bunch of church locations and discovered a ton of evidence of conspiracy, among them Scientology’s nearly successful attempt to frame writer Paulette Cooper for bomb threats. Were any of the government agents named Sonya Blade, or perhaps Johnny Cage or Raiden? Again, a Google search for “are there any FBI agents named Raiden” comes up with nothing, but that doesn’t dissuade me!
Is Mortal Kombat a very thickly veiled metaphor for all the accusations made against Scientology over the last 40 years? I admit, probably not. But much like you can’t Google Image search a thetan, you also can’t prove that it’s not. Depending on when and how you watch Mortal Kombat, you may be able to reach whatever the Outworld equivalent of OT III (which is subtitled The Wall of Fire, by the way–and Mortal Kombat opens with a literal wall of fire?!). All I know for sure is this: writing this will definitely cause someone at Scientology to send a defensive email to my editor and probably make them skim through the Mortal Kombat wiki page.
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