Dear 99% Invisible

Thanks to your curious reporters, quarantine was a lot less boring for this road warrior (yep, that’s me) who could not go anywhere for more than a year due to travel restrictions. As I whipped up yet another lockdown dinner, I listened to your episode on bridge building gone wrong and could imagine the bats flying above Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin, TX. As your reporters chatted about the design of skyway systems, I joined them in traipsing along the elevated paths in the Minnesota Skyway System. I love your podcast for teaching me how design can lead to anything from unexpected visual feasts, to race and class tension. No more excuses for poor visibility (okay, that was a lame pun) once anyone listens to your podcast. 

Dear Deadline City,

Not just any podcast regularly makes me stop to ask myself, “What on god’s green earth did I just hear?” and I hope you take that as a compliment. A MasterClass meets a brunch gone wrong, your podcast is the ultimate 21st century guide to book publishing for writers. I’ve learned just as much about craft, contracts, and community as I have about the middle-aged male actors you’re obsessed with—I will admit, Oscar Isaac is swoon-worthy. You tackle difficult topics like writer’s block, professional jealousy, and burnout with humor so deftly that, for a moment, I forget about my own existential dread. Your topics range widely, from honest chats about the low lows of being an author to passionate renditions of beloved ‘80s tracks. The emotional whiplash is real, but I enjoy every moment, and most days, I can be found adding your reading recommendations to my to-be-read list instead of actually writing. Thanks for the distraction.

With love,
Dear The goop Podcast,

Where is one to begin with goop? The vagina candle? I want it. Charcoal oat waffles topped with spirulina yogurt? Tragic. You, the podcast? It’s complicated. I started listening in 2018, when you launched with an Oprah interview, as only you would. At the time, podcasts were new to me and #girlboss somehow still remained my hollow benchmark of personal success and collective feminist progress. Gwyneth Paltrow (or as you affectionately call her, GP) modeled just that, so I tuned in. But it was your other host, the company’s CCO, Elise Loehnen, that I found myself coming back for week after week. She held spirituality, wellness, and politics in tension and tandem—an exciting amalgamation, and not something I was finding elsewhere. Even now, four years later, it’s rare. I haven’t quit you yet, but in 2020 Loehnen did, and then left the company completely. Recently, she said on Instagram that “wellness culture can be toxic,” the very reason that my feelings about you remain conflicted. When I remember that goop is not just a podcast, but a digital magazine and shop that has done some truly inappropriate things—such as push fasting during a pandemic year when 42 million people in America were food insecure—I’m reminded of the failures of corporate wellness. While one could argue that goop merely exemplifies the modern struggle between content and commerce, it’s one that leaves me particularly unsettled. That said, I can’t deny the truth: as far as you’re concerned, I keep coming back.

Dear Morbid

I was driving from Durango, CO to Laguna Beach, CA while listening to “The Smiley Face Killings Part 2,” an episode on your show about a series of drownings happening across the country. Someone was running all over the US drowning young men, and then tagging the drowning sites with a spray-painted smiley face. Strangely, I was unfazed as I listened to the episode on my long drive through the parched desert. After sunset, I was alone on the road and alone in my car, but I didn’t think about how alone I was at all. I used to listen to an episode of your show every day before work, making your grisly, cruel retellings a part of my morning routine. At the time, I didn’t understand the ways that I had become desensitized to my own mortality. Or maybe, it was less about desensitization, and more about oversaturation. Hearing stories about all sorts of crime—murder, torture, serial killers—paradoxically, kept me from thinking about my own mortality, and from dwelling on the overwhelming feeling of being alone and vulnerable. A few months later, as I walked along the East River in New York City enjoying my solitude, I looked back to those times when I had loved your podcast and realized how numb I had become. Now, when I’m driving or walking alone, I listen to cheesy murder mysteries, and think about how horrible it would be to drown. I hope the Smiley Face Killer was caught. I haven’t listened to an episode since. 

Quinn Luthy
Dear Elvis Duran and the Morning Show,

When I think about podcasting, I invariably think of the transition from radio to podcasts. I fondly look back on the days when I would listen to Radio Disney and other stations, remembering the popularity of radio with a bittersweet nostalgia. Calling in and requesting songs or hearing winners get free tickets made music and culture a community experience that I loved to be a part of. Many things have changed, grown, and adapted to this new way of living online; however, your show should have died long before it had the chance to become a podcast. Nothing makes my blood boil more than the thought of having to sit down and listen to one more “Phone Taps” segment wherein the hosts call someone, pretending to be someone else, to make that person angry/hurt/scared/upset, then broadcast it on one of the largest radio stations in the country. It’s like watching Impractical Jokers, but worse because the jokes aren’t even remotely funny, they’re just cringey and mean. Your show had its place years ago, and yeah, it was (and is) incredibly popular. But now, the conversations feel dated, the chemistry between hosts feels forced (there has been a lot of staff turnover), and dare I say it, the commentary is cheugy. Even with the flexibility of the podcast format, you choose to include all the awkward silences, flat jokes, and uncomfortable comments. They say that video killed the radio star but the Morning Show is stubbornly alive. All we can hope is that you will eventually be so drunk off the power you once had, that you’ll finally fall. 

Reluctantly (for I never wanted to give the Morning Show this much time and energy),
Dear Fresh&Fit Podcast

I, along with thousands of women on the internet, have a problem with you. On top of hawking vile opinions, you’re also liars. Your podcast is neither Fresh, nor Fit. The ideas you spread are by definition archaic. Now, thanks to you, they enjoy new lives from your mics to our ears in the form of “women are asking for it if they wear short dresses” and “men can’t help themselves, cheating is just a part of their biology.” Listening to your podcast feels like standing in a crammed frat house basement, unwillingly smushed up against the frat president as he whisper-screams a 40-minute lecture about the “behavior” of “females” directly into my ear. I get it, at this point, you love to be hated, we’ve all been there. The only good thing to come from your podcast is the swarm of female TikTokers mocking you. Unfortunately, if I found myself on the wrong TikTok FYP, I wouldn’t be feeling vindicated by female creators calling you out, but actually terrified by incels who call themselves “alpha males,” hopped up on pre-workout, planning their next harassment or assault. You’re not funny, or insightful. I hope you throw your mics away.

Oh so sincerely,
Madeleine Janz