Anyone who really thinks about the definition of cult and who understands even a modicum of Apple’s history knows better, but I understand the sentiment and the need for tech writers to gin up some clever word play and comparative analogy. Apple is a cult? The movie ‘Steve Jobs’ proves it not to be so.
‘It’s A Movie’
It’s not that Apple’s storied history, specifically the segments where Jobs was running the show, is not an interesting topic to hundreds of thousands of people, customers, and industry gurus. It is. Immensely so. That explains the many books written about Jobs (few made the bestseller lists, so what does that say?).
The word cult has varied meanings and usage in modern culture. Christianity was a cult. There can be religious cults, cult followings, and many more ways we humans can identify with something specific while others do not.
Traditionally, and how cult is used when describing Apple, a cult is defined as a religious or social group with socially deviant or novel beliefs and practices, especially those that may blindly follow a cult leader.
Does Apple fit that definition? If you don’t mind shoving a square peg into a round hole. While early Christianity was socially deviant from Jewish society, and Jesus was the model leader, hence Christians were members of a cult, how is it that Apple’s products or the company is imbued with deviant or novel beliefs and practices?
Again, I understand the sentiment and perspective, but proof is shallow and fleeting. Apple customers line up at Apple stores to get the company’s latest and greatest. That does not happen at a Microsoft store. But is the devotion of Apple’s customers truly cult-like, or merely representative of a few hundred million people who appreciate quality products that integrate well into a useful, attractive ecosystem?
Proof that Steve Jobs was not a cult leader should be evident from the movie ‘Steve Jobs’ which is schizophrenic at best, opportunistic at worst, and an example of how so many truly did not understand Jobs, his life, or his place within Apple’s culture (and tried to profit from it).
Walter Isaacson’s book on Steve Jobs was a narrow, one-sided view of Jobs, a sensationalist hatchet job which, despite access to all the right people at the right time, couldn’t balance what Jobs truly was. A highly brilliant, but very flawed human being.
As you would expect with a cult, Isaacson’s book was roundly criticized by some in the blogosphere as being inaccurate and sensationalist, and rightly so. There was far more to Jobs than his portrayal. In a true cult, wouldn’t all members line up to protest Isaacson’s book? Yes. But they did not.
The movie Steve Jobs was based upon Isaacson’s book, and the response seems to fall along three basic lines. The first line was obvious. The movie got many facts wrong, and like the book, did not display Jobs accurately or in a balanced way. It’s a movie, so it’s difficult to condense a life into a couple of hours, but most who saw it and who knew something about Jobs’ life, agreed that it was merely entertaining fiction, and not worthy of a protest.
The second line and third lines were, well, a lack of lines. Few people bothered to view the movie, so, no long lines and little box office revenue, and nobody bothered to protest the movie (which is what you would expect cult members to do when their leader is trashed in a sensationalist and obviously inaccurate movie) other that to say it wasn’t accurate, contained plenty of timeline errors, and was mostly fiction.
Was Steve Jobs a cult leader? No. Steve Jobs the movie proves it. What Steve Jobs truly was as a human being and an iconic figure in modern technology has yet to be captured in book form or movie form and perhaps that is the way it should be.
Jobs and Apple’s stories are forever intertwined, yes, worthy of interest, yes, but nothing more. That’s why the movie quickly became a cinematic bomb. Jobs is interesting only to the technorati elite and the relatively few of us who follow Apple too closely. Nobody else cares; ipso facto, no cult.