The latest episodes of The Dream podcast have me so bummed out. After S1 went hard at exposing multi-level marketing (MLM) pyramid schemes, S2 takes on the wellness industry. I thought, “This is gonna be
goop good.” (Narrator voice: It isn’t.)
What even is Wellness?
The Dream host/creator Jane Marie promises to ask “What is wellness?” I always imageined wellness to be like obscenity: I know it when I see it. (We also know it because everyone slaps that label on everything. Five Below has a wellness section, now.)
The idea of self-care seems okay, right? That massage I just booked cost $150 plus tip. “All natural” seems okay, right? Until someone reminds you that cyanide is all natural.
Wellness — an industry Jane Marie says generates $7 billion a year — relies on buzzwords and influencers, and I am totally down to to hear the dirt on cryo-therapy or celery-based detox retreats in the Berkshires. Is all holistic health considered wellness or is all wellness considered holistic health? Lay it on me, Jane Marie.
Unfortunately, the first three S2 episodes don’t focus enough to define wellness or to expose the dastardly villains behind clean living. The show’s implication is that anything Jane Marie considers to be wellness is crap. Before he hosted the Golden Globes, Ricky Gervais must have worked as a consultant to the podcast. “Just be mean and annoyed by everything. It kills.” Insert the Kevin Sorbo gif, because I am disappointed.
Jane Marie does get kinda close to finding a holistic villain in the first episode, going after the Young Living MLM — based in Utah, natch — , as the company claims to heal disease with the right vibrations from the right essential oil.
(In one of the wildest moments of the Resurfacing documentary, Andy Murray, who is facing retirement due to injury, receives a letter from someone asking if he has tried essential oils instead of hip replacement. Titanium > rosemary extract.)
But her condemnation of the wellness grift fizzles by the next installment, and it seems that she’s more irritated with capitalism, especially when wellness is the product in demand.
During that second episode, Jane Marie takes look at crystals as a part of wellness.
Full disclosure: I like crystals. I’m typing this piece while looking over a pyrite and yellow calcite on my desk. I do refer to my chosen rocks as my “woo,” a term I totally stole from Roxane Gay. But I have a “gem lady, ” and I’m not going to pretend like the crystal episode didn’t make me a little defensive. I’m human. A human with a selenite wand that looks like a dildo.
Dann is Jean Marie’s partner, and he also likes crystals. Like me, he has a healthy appreciation of their power. By healthy, I mean he admits crystals are very pretty and, most likely, very placebo in their effects. If they do indeed help with your personal energy, then great! For me, crystals help me focus on a particular concern, the focus being what I need, not the energy from the rock. Do I charge my crystals in the light of the full moon? Yes. Woo woo. Do I ever skip my daily dose of prescribed Lexapro? Woo hell no.
Angry? There’s a crystal for that.
Jane Marie complains that wellness-related storefronts — tarot card reading, energy healing, weed — have helped gentrify the LA neighborhood where both she and Dann have lived, not noticing that she might be the gentrifier. Mom/pop stores in Atwater Village have been replaced stores that peddle CBD and kombucha micro-brews or by Dann’s favorite crystal shop — a store that is probably its own mom/pop operation whose proprietor buys non-toxic, empowerment deodorant online from Native (one of The Dream’s sponsors, promo code THEDREAM).
The podcast gets really uncomfortable when Jane Marie mocks Dann as he tries to explain what draws him to the stones, and then she asks listeners to raise their hands if they are making fun of Dann and his crystals.
But then in a vulnerable moment, Jane Marie admits to Dann that her open disdain of anything “woo” or “chill out”-related comes from her outlook on life, formed after a traumatic brain injury she suffered when she was young.
It’s heartbreaking to hear how a fall onto concrete had such a physical and emotional impact on Jane Marie as a child and teenager. Crippling migraines and a belief that tragedy is always lurking led her to avoid anything frivolous. She posits, why bother if you are going to get hit by a bus? Another full disclose: I have been hit by a bus — CTA Belmont 77 — and I love frivolity. It’s not a news flash to me that we are all going to die.
Rose Quartz can boost self awareness.
With so many things to be outraged about, I can’t be bothered about something with such low stakes and and as cheap as crystals — my pyrite cost two bucks. Nothing is harmed by Dan’s amethyst other than Jane Marie’s belief that people should not attempt to chill out. By her own admission, she hates chill. Why thrive on wellness when we could be thriving on stress? The grace she wants for her struggles does not seem to extend to those of us who manage a generalized anxiety diagnosis, I guess.
Jane Marie says, “[I] don’t want to spend my time on anything that has a sliver of inefficiency,” but her failure to see how that’s not a healthy way of thinking for a lot of folks makes the podcast fall flat. She also says, “If I waste time on something, I at least want to come out with a good story.” I call this the “Nicole Cliffe lifestyle.”
Lapis Lazuli is the stone for Truth.
I’m grumpy that S2 is a lost opportunity, especially considering how well done S1 is. Perhaps they rushed it, in a effort to build on the momentum of the delightful LuLaRoe take-down. Maybe the scope was too big? Maybe it’s hard to find a large criminal crystal enterprise, duping folks into believing in the power of gemstones — besides DeBeers.
Yet, I do think The Dream could narrow in on something the truly harmful sides of wellness. You want my outrage? Go after the diet industry. Talk about how people convicted of marijuana offenses are unable to be a part of the CBD/THC boom, while the pages of Vogue laud white marijuana moms. Talk about how the search for self-care is creating a new kind of financial stress in our lives. Investigate how wellness feeds on hysteria and peddles pseudoscience about GMO foods and food safety. Get listeners mad that food wellness is only available to certain demographics due to urban food desserts.
Hell, Goop Lab (Netflix) launches January 24. I would love to see Jane Marie discuss using exorcism to boost wellness. Do I have IBS or a demon in my belly? Stay tuned!
You can find The Dream S2 wherever you listen to podcasts. Apple. Stitcher. Spotify. Podcast Barn.
Amy takes pride in being a grumpy optimist. Want to talk sports ball? Amy is your girl. Her favorite New York Times crossword puzzle day is Tuesday. If your book is set in the former Soviet Union or World War 2, Amy will read it. As a recovered Southern Baptist, she is raising her daughter to be happy.