Stop what you’re doing and head straight for brilliant Jewish writer Molly Young’s New York Times Magazine story on wellness entrepreneur and “lifestyle guru” Amanda Chantal Bacon, the woman behind the Moon Juice brand of purportedly lifestyle-enhancing juices, “dusts” (“jarred herb powders” that are “marketed as a beauty supplement”), and more. Come for the writing (“As a housekeeper vacuumed nearby, Bacon kicked into her origin story.”); stay for the insightful analysis of the politics of contemporary American pseudoscience:
We tend to think of “wellness” as the province of swoony liberal elites, but it does, in fact, blossom at both cultural poles. The far-right conspiracy theorist and radio host Alex Jones sells some of the same supplements as Moon Juice on his Infowars website. Jones’s organic fair-trade coffee can be purchased in an “Immune Support” variety that includes cordyceps and reishi mushroom extracts; Moon Juice sells cordyceps and reishi powders with similar claims attached. The “Super Female Vitality” supplement at the Infowars shop shares a number of ingredients with the Moon Juice Dusts: maca, epimedium, shilajit. Alex Jones and Amanda Chantal Bacon each sell probiotics. They each warn against the encroachment of “toxins.” Bacon has a recipe for strawberry milk with drops of colloidal silver in it; Alex Jones pushes tiny bottles of colloidal silver online for $19.95. Perhaps the biggest difference between the two purveyors is context. Alex Jones sells his merchandise alongside tactical body armor and Trump shirts; Bacon sells hers next to chia pudding.
What unifies the two is the subtext of their pitches — a seeming conviction that widespread forces are acting on benighted consumers, who can thwart harm only by venturing to the fringes and buying non-F.D.A. approved supplements with which to purify themselves. For Jones, the treachery comes in the form of fluoridated water and chemtrails. For Bacon, it’s Western medicine and the standard American diet. One brand is designed to look like an ashram and the other to look like an underground bunker, but you walk away from each with the same conclusion — that the only way out is way, way, out, in a land of mystical mushrooms and miracle herbs. The valor of separatism, after all, is our founding myth.
Those insights take a profile that might have (and to some, I suppose, still did) read as a clever but familiar take-down of a woman entrepreneur with a rich and much-mocked (female) clientele, and make it about something bigger. It’s clear, I think, when you reach the end of the piece that you’ve read a critique of pseudoscience, no matter its origins, and not of female ambition.
Phoebe Maltz Bovy is a former editor of the Sisterhood blog at the Forward. Her writing has appeared in several publications, including The New Republic and The Atlantic. Her book, “The Perils of ‘Privilege,’” was published by St. Martin’s Press in March 2017. She has a PhD in French and French Studies from New York University, and has read a lot of 19th century French Jewish newspapers for a 21st century American.