In the age of social media, we are confronted with the concept of wellness every day. In between posts about meal prep and influencers pushing flat tummy teas, we see comment sections full of recommendations for essential oils and ads for radical laser therapies. Just last month, Netflix released a docu-series following Gwyneth Paltrow’s company, Goop, as they research unorthodox treatments.
Most of these “wellness” products seem like various packagings of snake oil. But, the wellness industry is massive. In 2018, the dietary supplement industry was valued to be over $100 billion. Goop has received a brand valuation of $250 million.
So, who’s buying into these products? Are there any real benefits? Are there tangible harms? And while we’re at it, what does wellness even mean?
These are the questions that the second season of the podcast “The Dream” explores and attempts to answer. Throughout the season, which just released its final episode Feb. 24, examines the power of the Food & Drug Administration, scrutinizes the culture around pregnancy, and even tries out a couple of fringe therapies – magnetic resonance therapy anyone?
“The Dream” is a series that explores the ways capitalism exploits the concept of the “American Dream” and our innate optimism and trust in others. The Podcast is co-hosted by Jane Marie – a Peabody and Emmy award-winning journalist who used to work on This American Life – and Dan Gallucci – a Grammy-nominated audio engineer and former member of The Cold War Kids. Marie is the major player within the show providing the signature rants that provide the bed of the show.
The first season of “The Dream” caused quite a stir, taking on a controversial subject. The podcast’s debut season focused on multi-level marketing – a business model that utilizes a vast network of nonsalaried salespeople and often strongly resembles the structure of a pyramid scheme. The season dove into the history of the business model and some companies that currently utilize it like the infamous clothing company LulaRoe.
The second season’s exploration of wellness feels like a natural extension of the first. There is quite a bit of crossover in these two fields of interest. The concept of wellness is far more expansive though, and there is much for Marie and Gallucci to explore. They spend a large portion of the season looking into dietary supplements and their relationship with regulation and pharmaceuticals.
This season also gets far more personal. Marie and Gallucci talk about their personal wellness beliefs and regimens, and Marie tries a handful of therapies and supplements on herself. Marie also explores her family’s dedication to essential oils and explores how a traumatic incident during her childhood has influenced her stringent views on optimism.
If you are looking for an unbiased exploration on the topic of wellness, “The Dream” is not where you should look – it’s basically the antithesis of “The Goop Lab.” Jane Marie comes into her research and the show with a concrete view and there is not much that will convince her she could be wrong. This can be a problem for the show. Though it does its journalistic due diligence, Marie’s uncompromising distrust of the industry is likely to put some listeners in an uncomfortable position.
At the same time, however, Marie’s nihilism and righteousness are what keep the podcast interesting. She is a strong antidote to the pipedream verbiage of the industry. Her reprehension creates an engaging tension that keeps you listening to the series as she discusses the frequencies of lemongrass with her aunt and tests whether magnets can heal her sore knee.
Whether you are a wellness cynic like Marie or just surrounded by the industry’s messaging, “The Dream” will guide you on a fascinating exploration of what people will do to feel or seem healthier. And it might just make you think twice before picking up that bottle of “vitamins.”