Bronze-level article

Personality cult

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A personality cult or cult of personality is a system in which a leader is able to control a group of people through the sheer force of his or her personality and is often portrayed as a god-like figure.

Where the personality cult is about a head of state, criticism of that person is generally prohibited, and state-sponsored media are employed to ensure that the masses are given a consistent picture of the person's perfection. That picture is likely to be a literal picture, and the image of the leader is typically plastered over much of the visual landscape.

New surfaces may be produced for no other reason than to present that image, as satirized with the balloon bearing Joseph Stalin's image in an empty field in the 1994 Russian film Burnt by the Sun.[1]

Personality cults are often found in totalitarian regimes. Although it is very rare to see them in democratic countries, they do occur from time to time.


In pop culture[edit]

For various reasons, the idea of a personality cult is entering pop culture spheres, sometimes as just another set piece (such as in "Cult of Personality" by Living Colour in 1988), but sometimes it's a major element of a movie. An example is the German film The Wave (originally made in 1981 and remade in 2008). The movie was based on the social experiment called "Third Wave" created by Ron Jones,Wikipedia's W.svg and is about a German teacher who attempts to show his high school students what fascism is. As a result, he accidentally creates a personality cult that leads to large amounts of vandalism, an attempted murder, and a suicide when the instructor (Wenger) tells his students that the experiment is over. The 2001 German thriller film Das Experiment is somewhat similar. The Emperor of Mankind is also a fine example.

External links[edit]


  1. Burnt by the Sun, IMDB
  2. Personality vs. Party, National Review
  3. "Xi Jinping: the growing cult of China's 'Big Daddy Xi'". 8 December 2014. Retrieved on 5 October 2015.
  4. Muriel Mirak-Weissbach (1 May 2012). Madmen at the Helm: Pathology and Politics in the Arab Spring. Garnet Publishing Ltd. p. 2. ISBN 978-0-86372-457-2. 
  5. Neville Teller (28 September 2014). The Search for Détente:: Israel and Palestine 2012-2014. Troubador Publishing Ltd. p. 315. ISBN 978-1-78306-592-9. 
  6. Is Castro’s battle to avoid a personality cult destined to fail? (2016-12-05) France 24.
  7. A portion of people reading this article will be probably thinking "Why not Obama?" Simple: looking back from today, it was a very short one. The most important element of a personality cult is the usage of authority to perpetuate artificial 'apotheosis'; you don't want videos [, such] as these lying around. American society has an unusual tendency to mythologize Presidents (ironically, even worse than today's constitutional monarchies), and over time ignore the very things which make them human. But who knows what will happen in 50 years to the legacy of the first POTUS who transcended the barriers of race. (We'd like an objective account, thanks.)