Be advised: this podcast—and therefore, this article—contains discussions of suicide
It’s very rare that a podcast has a little something for everyone, despite being absolutely not for everyone. Are you into somewhat laughable descriptions of new age-y woo-woo bullshit? THE GATEWAY’s got it. Do you like character studies of larger-than-life personalities and what makes them tick? THE GATEWAY’s got it. Do you want to hear cringe-inducing interviews where someone just completely puts their foot in their mouth and says some real crazy shit? Look no further. Do you hate social media and want to ruminate on its many evils? Donezo. Ya like Satan? THE GATEWAY’s got Satan.
Are you sensitive at all to extremely frank and sometimes graphic descriptions of depression, self-harm, abuse, and suicide? Run far, far away.
If you’re not familiar with the wild world of YouTube self-help guru Teal Swan, buckle up. She reaches her audience through strange, hypnotic YouTube videos—openly targeting folks in their worst moments in the privacy of their own homes. Discussions of Teal have popped up on the various heavy-hitting true crime podcasts, but Jennings Brown’s deep dive into the world of Teal provides an unprecedented look into the following and philosophy of this bizarre figure.
Called “The Suicide Catalyst” by her critics, Teal has some… interesting ideas about how we can all live our best lives. One of the biggest surprises of this podcast comes right off the bat when Jennings talks one-on-one with Teal for the first time. He was prepared for a fight, but on the contrary, she just launches unprompted into a discussion of these claims that goes on for hours. And the strangeness doesn’t stop there—it just gets weirder, and weirder, and more and more upsetting.
Jennings provides an unflinching look into Teal’s world, sourcing from his own experiences, those of her devotees and critics, and from Teal herself. He is measured and fair as he grapples with the deeper questions Teal poses through her philosophies and methods. Rather than simply declaring “thing bad” (though—spoiler alert—thing pretty bad) or gawking at a strange phenomenon a la the shortcomings of MISSING RICHARD SIMMONS, Jennings uses his investigation to make larger statements on the mental health system and the crawling influence of social media on our lives.
From the jungles of Costa Rica to the Satanic Panic of the 1980s to the backchannels of YouTube, THE GATEWAY is nothing if not a wild ride. If this recommendation seems vague it’s because I’m loath to spoil any of the surprises along the way. Heed that content warning, though. I’m not someone sensitive to these types of things, and even I was a little thrown at parts. But if you feel you’re up to it, THE GATEWAY is a journey well-worth your time.