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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

A Podcast That Raises Concerns About the American Dream

Springtime in Los Angeles found podcaster Jane Marie meeting her new life coach, Jessie Monroy, for their first exercise on the patio outside her Silver Lake rental house. Monroy, dressed as a cheery drill sergeant and sporting glittery nail varnish, had Marie do squats, planks, and push-ups.

Marie’s true intention behind the exercises, dietary counselling, and full moon ceremonies was to rectify the sedentary lifestyle she had developed during the epidemic. And in the third season of her podcast with Dann Gallucci, “The Dream,” the coaching sessions were a major plot point.

Season after season, the podcast takes a critical look at various aspects of the American ideal and the scams and organisations that purport to help make that goal a reality.

More than 20 million people have downloaded “The Dream,” which questions the idea that we can achieve success in life with nothing more than perseverance and, maybe, a $99 direct sales beginning kit. The first season’s concentration on MLM was so successful that it inspired a book, “Selling the Dream,” which will be published by Simon & Schuster in March. Season 2 focused on the health and wellness business as Marie experimented with alternative treatments (magnets, tuning forks). Season 3 started on Wednesday, and it focuses on the growing trend of coaching.

The seed for “The Dream” was planted in 2017 when a Stitcher executive contacted Marie and Gallucci about creating a podcast about MLMs. Previously, Marie (now 45) worked as a producer for “This American Life.” Gallucci, at 48 years old, is an accomplished audio producer and former guitarist for the band Modest Mouse. They were in a committed relationship and had just launched their own studio called Little Everywhere. Marie and Gallucci found the concept intriguing, and they ultimately decided they wanted to host in addition to producing. This was in part because to Marie’s extensive network of MLM-affiliated relatives and family.

Marie admits she is not a fan of her frequent appearances. “I’m sick of my voice,” she said. But the key is her singing voice. Her irritation is not an absence of compassion, however. The central question in “The Dream” is not how or why people fall for frauds, but rather why they do. The programmes don’t pass judgement on or make fun of the folks who fall for these scams. Marie understands their need and the ways in which traditional means of achieving financial security or happiness may have let them down. Instead, the programme is genuinely curious in the reasons why people fell for scams and which authorities failed to safeguard them.

However, Gallucci’s presence is diminished in this season, most likely as a result of the breakup he and Marie discuss in the pilot. There are fewer back-and-forths between him and the other host, and he’s responsible for less episodes overall.

Marie took on some of her ex-partner’s candour in order to pull off the season. In the spring, she had believed that coaching would be the answer.

She discovered Monroy with Pushkin’s backing and encouragement and really tried to implement her coach’s teachings into her life. She had a mostly favourable encounter with Monroy on “The Dream,” with the exception of “the woo-woo stuff.” She had thought that by March she would feel less overwhelmed by existential dread and have more energy. She had questioned rhetorically, “Once I’m hot and fit, am I going to feel better about the universe?”

This inquiry was no longer rhetorical after six months. She had stopped using a Juul, changed her eating habits, had surgery to remove a fibroid from her uterus, begun taking hormones, and even permed her hair at Monroy’s insistence.

Despite her good fortune in finding Monroy, she has mixed feelings about coaching because of its high price tag, the privilege it implies, and the companies that keep the industry going (especially those that teach coaches how to recruit other coaches). The show’s signature healthy scepticism and a certain amount of grumpiness persist. This season has been filled with scathing indictments of the hustling mentality and the American fixation on achievement at any cost. Despite her attractiveness and physical fitness, she still has some doubts.

Jonathan James
Jonathan James
I serve as a Senior Executive Journalist of The National Era
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