Lavender can cure headaches and tea tree oil can clear your acne (and heal Covid/your whole life)? The cult of essential oils blurs the line between fact and fiction and this week, Amanda and Isa team up with a special guest, Buzzfeed reporter Stephanie McNeal, to learn about these controversial little potions, their “cult following,” and the snake oil salespeople who weaponize them.To support Sounds Like A Cult on Patreon, keep up with our live show dates, see Isa’s live comedy, buy a copy of Amanda’s book Cultish, donate to Isa?s fundraiser or visit our website, click here!Defrauded Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes has become the subject of countless books, podcasts, documentaries, and now the brand new scripted Hulu series, The Dropout, starring Amanda Seyfried. Holmes’s cult of personality—everything from her sociopath-chic Steve Jobs cosplay to her roster of Star Wars quotes (delivered in that mysteriously affected low voice) to her tyrannical lying and exploitation—has made her more than just your dime-a-dozen tech bro scammer. How did Holmes cultivate such a cult following among Silicon Valley investors, and now, why are true crime junkies so inordinately obsessed with her case? This week, with the help of listener call-ins, Amanda and Isa unpack the notorious grifter’s zealous qualities to determine whether she really was more of a cult leader than a con artist, and if so, was her “cult” a Live Your Life, a Watch Your Back, or a Get the Fuck Out? If you don?t worship at the altar of this week?s ?cult,? then simply sashay away! One of the most intense, vicious, fabulous reality TV fandoms in history is that of the competition show that put drag queens on the mainstream map: RuPaul?s Drag Race. Season 6 and All-Star queen BenDeLaCreme joins Isa and Amanda to offer an inside look at the most cult-like aspects of Drag Race, from the time she was physically stalked by a fan to the producers? truly bonkers manipulation techniques. The tea is piping hot!!!I was never good at telling jokes but the punchline goes: If Taylor told her Swifties to kill a man, they would. They would kill a man for Taylor, because her music means *that* much to them. But the ”cult” of country-pop sensation Taylor Swift is not just about the music. It’s about the Swiftie community, the rituals, the beliefs, the aesthetic, and (of course) Taylor’s cult of personality. This extreme fandom definitely seems classically culty, but is it dangerous just because it’s fanatical? That’s the question on Amanda and Isa’s agenda today, and they’ve solicited pop culture connoisseur Jill Gutowitz, author of the essay collection GIRLS CAN KISS NOW, to help them figure it out.
A flirty little topic for another installment of Cult Girl Summer: five weeks of bonus episodes where Isa and Amanda are airing unfiltered cult conversations, behind the scenes tidbits, much-requested Part 2s, and more. This week, Emma Gray and Claire Fallon, co-hosts of the bachelor recap podcast Love to See It, are joining for a truly *cathartic* conversation about a group that reels in its members with the promise of love and human connection, only to deceive them and make it next to impossible to leave. The cult of dating apps, of course!
A cabal of black-robed elites who preside, unquestioned, over all our rights and freedoms? hmmm? sounds like a dang cult to us! Isa and Amanda are getting *judicial* this week to analyze the ?cult? of The Supreme Court with NYU law professor and host of the Strict Scrutiny podcast, Melissa Murray. Just in time for voting season! Check out voting resources below for this year’s upcoming midterm elections.
We?re baaaaaaack! We can barely record an episode of this podcast without a snack, so how are millions of people supposed to escape the ”cult” of dieting when its mission is to keep everyone hungry, tired, and riddled with self-loathing? Let’s count the red flags: a strictly controlled eating regimen, shame and peer pressure up the wazoo, false promises, hidden costs, viciously addictive cycles that offer no exit strategy… um, how is diet culture *not* a cult? In our highly requested relaunch episode, Amanda and Isa analyze the dangerous (and highly profitable) ”cult” of dieting with special guest, actress and host of the I Weigh podcast, Jameela Jamil.Fame, wealth, fraud, backstabbing, plastic surgery, hidden power hierarchies… are we talking about one of reality television’s most successful franchises or a full-blown cult??? Host of the Reality Life podcast Kate Casey, an unscripted TV connoisseur who’s been analyzing The Real Housewives for years, joins Isa and Amanda this week to unpack the inner workings and potential damage of this notoriously clique-y ”cult.”
From his Jesus-like hair, erratic on-set antics, and fanatical 30 Seconds to Mars music fandom to his glazed-over sexual assault allegations and literal in-person cult compound, Jared Leto basically represents every possible meaning of the word “cult,” from the cheeky to the gravely serious. He may have Hollywood’s support in the way of an Oscar and desirable roles like the Joker, and many of his music stans worship him enough to follow him off the grid, but Jared Leto might be inching from “cult-followed” celebrity closer to full-blown cult leader. This week, with the help of listener tips, Isa and Amanda are here to untangle the story.Welcome to our life-changing, missional, intentional ministry for young people from all walks of life to strengthen their faith in Christ while having soooo much fun!! Evangelical youth groups (think: Young Life, Teen Mania Ministries, etc.) love-bomb vulnerable adolescent recruits into joining the Christian ?cool? kids?a place where they?re promised to find both earthly acceptance and heavenly salvation?only to manipulate and indoctrinate them with oppressive, homophobic, legitimately terrifying dogma and providing zero exit strategy. Sounds. Like. A. Damn. Cult!!! This week, Amanda and Isa chat with former youth group kid turned TikTok comedy sensation Kevin James Thornton to unpack the cult-like tactics and ideology of Christian youth organizations. (Don?t worry, culties, a Jewish youth groups episode is coming l8er!!)Did you know Dr. Phil is not actually a medical doctor?? When ?physicians? like Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz, and Dr. Drew are elevated to TV star status, followers flock to their ?wisdom? to feel safe in a society whose healthcare system is seriously lacking. But should doctors really be treated like rock stars? In pursuit of fame and fortune, these famous medical professionals def find themselves in a borderline cult leader-ish role. This week, Isa and Amanda chat with Buzzfeed culture reporter and host of the Scamfluencers podcast Scaachi Koul to figure out just how sus these docs really are.
Co-host Isa joined the “cult” of stand-up comedy four years ago in LA but didn’t realize until we started this podcast how culty it really was. Recorded live at the first-ever Netflix Is A Joke comedy festival, this week’s long-awaited episode features Isa and Amanda interviewing a very special guest—comedian and creator/star of “Feel Good” on Netflix, Mae Martin—about the hidden hierarchies, secret due-paying, exclusion, delusion, silencing, in-group lingo and rituals, AND (of course) the hilarity, magic, and close community of stand-up comedy.From voraciously consuming gruesome podcasts by the dozen to amateur sleuthing gone wrong to fetishizing dangerous killers, the world of true crime definitely has a cult following… but does it ever go too far? This episode was chosen by our listener giveaway winner and features New York Times true crime columnist and author Sarah Weinman to discuss the good, bad, and the culty of fanatical true crime fandom. (P.S. Amanda and Isa have newfound respect for true crime podcasters… turns out, violent butcherings are easy enough to listen to, but almost impossible to talk about in public without wanting to puke a wee bit.) (P.P.S! In honor of Sounds Like A Cult’s one-year anniversary, we’re hosting our very first ever live show! It’s virtual, meaning anyone from anywhere in the world can attend. On June 15th at 9 pm ET, join Isa and Amanda to ask questions, play games, hear us talk about never-before-discussed cults, and dive into alllllll other things culty. Details and ticket info can be found at momenthouse.com/soundslikeacult)How much would you risk in pursuit of perfection? It?s another installment of ?Cult Girl Summer? bonus content. This week, Amanda and Isa speak candidly (like reallllllly candidly) about a glamorous and life-threatening industry that sucks you in with promises of beauty and never lets you out: Plastic surgery?featuring very special guest, Emmy-nominated comedian/actress, Sydnee Washington! Motherhood is hard, lonely, and exhausting… except, apparently, if you’re a momfluencer. Since the mid-2000s, a crop of seemingly perfect, all-knowing mommy goddesses in billowy tunics have emerged on social media?and we can’t help but feel that their highly monetizable (often misinformation-ridden) internet presences basically exist to make other moms feel less than. This week, with the help of journalist and real-life mother Sara Petersen, author of the forthcoming book MOMFLUENCED, Isa and Amanda spill the (organic, non-toxic, totally baby-safe) tea about how famous internet moms have become their own kind of 21st Century cult leader. The end of the world… but make it cute and consumerist! ”Preppers” are the latest iteration of doomsday survivalists, who band together on social media to talk canning, stockpiling, and first aid, but also multi-million-dollar bunkers in rural New Zealand?? Um, yeah, there are also billionaire preppers, and if the apocalypse weren’t coming already, these guys are definitely speeding up the process. This week, Isa and Amanda are unpacking the so-called ”doom boom” to judge how cultishly bananas (freeze-dried, obvi) modern-day ”prepping” has gotten.We’ve all joked about Gwyneth Paltrow’s *candle.* But does this boho Hollywood elitist girlboss ever go too far? (As in, cult leader far?) This week, Amanda and Isa unpack the charismatic movie star?s ever-roastable wellness empire, Goop, and how its ”cult” status may be a cause for concern, with extremely special guests Kirbie Johnson and Sara Tan, hosts of the Gloss Angeles podcast (glossangelespod.com / @glossangelespod). POV: You work at Denny’s. It’s 12 AM. You want to go home. And from outside you hear it… your worst nightmare: 40 pairs of hungry footsteps and an acapella intro to Grease’s Summer Nights. In this episode, with the help of stage actor and Tik Tok sensation Tyler Joseph Ellis, Isa and Amanda dig into Theatre Kid (yes, spelled “re”) culture—the rituals and superstitions, the cliques and power structures—to see just how far a teenager will go to live out their High School Musical dream. A podcast about the modern-day ?cults? we all follow. Hosts Isa Medina and Amanda Montell ask the culty questions we?re all wondering? Do you think SoulCycle is a cult? What about Elon Musk stans? Or the Royal Family? What about spiritual influencers? Is Instagram itself a cult? We?re Sounds Like A Cult, a podcast that analyzes a different zeitgeisty group every week to try and answer the big question: This group sounds like a cult, but is it really? And if so, how bad is it?As Keenan Thompson said in a recent SNL parody of the Miss Universe pageant, ”Welcome back to Miss Universe, one of several shows still on the air where we rank women. But it’s not what you think?we do it based off of looks.” Welp when you put it that way :/ In our humble little opinion, it’s hard to believe that the conformist, objectifying, and sometimes downright exploitative ”beauty contest” business?perpetuated by the likes of Donald Trump and P.T. Barnum (yep, the circus guy)?is still a thing. Beauty pageants can be prettyyyyyyy cringe, but are they dangerously cultish? This week, Amanda and Isa aim to figure that out! Stocks? The economy?? Don’t get us started! Look, any industry that allowed the biggest Ponzi scheme in history, aka Bernie Madoff, to literally *thrive* is an automatic sounds like a cult to us. Members willing to ”sell their soul” to Wall Street in exchange for the American Dream enter a world ripe for corruption, deception, and exclusivity, and this week, ex-trader turned ”finfluencer” Vivian Tu (aka, Your Rich BFF) joins Isa and Amanda to spill all the *insider trading* on what makes Wall Street such a cult. Be sure to check out Vivian’s new podcast, Networth and Chill, dropping March 22nd!Weddings: Filled to the brim with ritualistic ceremonies, patriarchal traditions, power abuse, bank-breaking costs, conformist uniforms, and false promises galore…sound familiar? Sounds like a freakin CULT to us. This week: Amanda and Isa discuss wedding ceremonies and the lengths people will go to for the ”best day of their life” with writer, author of ”Trick Mirror,” and professional wedding critic, Jia Tolentino.Did the first episode of HBO Max’s Sex And The City reboot turn you off of Peloton? That makes one of us. This week, Amanda and Isa unpack the fanatical riders, worshipped instructors, and dystopian nature of the highly fetishized fitness brand that h
as been described as ?SoulCycle via Zoom.? Peloton is definitely hardcore, but does that make it dangerous? With the help of insightful listener call-ins, your hosts explore just that.Serums, lasers, influencer skincare routines, oh my! There seems to be no end to how many expensive products and techniques are promised to keep us looking “eternally youthful”… but are these products *really* the miracles they claim to be? Do we *need* skincare at all? And isn’t the promise of aesthetic immortality kinda culty in the first place? This week, co-hosts Amanda (recovering beauty editor) and Isa (often forgets to wash her face) are joined by skincare critic Jessica DeFino and celebrity skincare expert Renée Rouleau to discuss the pros and cons of skincare’s “cult following.”Summer 2022, it seemed like everyone and their cult leader was *devouring* the TV show The Bear: an inside look at the hierarchical, co-dependent, misfit-ridden, sometimes downright abusive?but also totally transcendent??cult? of restaurant kitchen culture. This week, Amanda and Isa are chatting with Matty Matheson, a big-time chef and cast member of the show, for a no holds barred analysis of the culty power dynamics and rituals found in the world of knives, remoulades, shift drinks, ?family meal,? and everyone screaming ?behind!!!!?
Selena Gomez, Drew Barrymore, and Daniel Radcliffe are all survivors of today’s ”cult,” and so is our guest, Mara Wilson, star of 1990s cinematic classics like Matilda and Mrs. Doubtfire. Mara was only five years old when she started appearing in major commercials, and the next ten years of her life were a dream come true?full of glamour and accolades… and intense pressures, isolation, creepy stalkers, and other shocking experiences that make the world of child stars seem VERY culty. This week, with Mara’s help, Amanda and Isa attempt to figure out if this secretive wing of the entertainment industry?responsible for what former child star Alyson Stoner once called the ”toddler to trainwreck pipeline”?is as cult-like as it seems.One of our fav episodes to date tbh. The promises include acceptance, stability, and fertility, but the reality = rigidity, conformity, and oftentimes outright shunning. Thinking about heterosexual culture as a ”cult” might seem far out at first, but teasing it out with comedian Ashley Gavin, whose hilarious comedy special is viewable April 23 on YouTube, Isa and Amanda unpack sooooo much culty oppression that comes with our society’s narrow standards for sexual expression (and also how the insidious ”cult” of hetersexuality empowers some of the most f*cked religious cults of all time)!Allegations of right-wing dogma, unquestioned power dynamics, charismatic leaders, freaky rituals, and physical abuse… are we talking about a serious cult or the Boy Scouts of America? Potato, po-tah-toe? That’s the question on the docket this week, as Amanda and Isa dissect this prestigious but potentially sinister after-school organization for all-American boys. Fast Fashion (think: brands like Forever21, Zara, and Shein) could be described as an industry that takes high-end clothing designs and makes them quick and cheap for the masses. Or, if you look at it from a cult angle, it could be described as an international conspiracy that preys on the dreams, insecurities, and pleasure-seeking brain chemistry of mostly young women, while weaponizing social media to create a bottomless sense of co-dependence in order to make as much money as possible and will stop at nothing—worker exploitation, environmental destruction—in order to keep people in that profitable vicious cycle. Which one is closer to the truth? This week, Isa and Amanda interview Leah Thomas, the founder and author of The Intersectional Environmentalist, to find out…What began as a Woodstock-esque alt music fest in the ’90s for fans of indie electronica to get freaky in the California desert has swiftly morphed into more of a celebrity horror show/Instagram museum, where people pay thousands of dollars to gather on a hot slab of corporate-sponsored land, wear disposable outfits, and pretend to have fun. Has Coachella just become obnoxious or something more like a cult?? As we come down from the festival hype this month, with the help of no-holds-barred listener call-ins, Isa and Amanda aim to find out!
me” way of life to determine what the cultiest aspects of veganism really are (especially in the age of social media) and what they say about us all.A much-requested Part 2 to continue Cult Girl Summer. Our 12-Step Program episode sparked much debate, and we quickly determined we?d need to continue the conversation about how ?culty? these addiction recovery groups can be. Inspired by our most engaged culties, here is our first-ever follow-up episode. Many thanks to the listeners who generously called in for this one! For further reading on this subject, check out the study, ?Exiting Alcoholics Anonymous disappointed: A qualitative analysis of the experiences of ex-members of AA? (there?s a free PDF version on ResearchGate) and the 2018 Vox article, ?Why some people swear by Alcoholics Anonymous ? and others despise it.?