A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this podcast.
Frequent discussions of biotech industry, including medical procedures, but podcast doesn't aim to educate listeners about the science involved. Covers the drama and deceit committed by the creators of Theranos and promotes critical thinking.
Themes of coercion, corruption, and manipulation of employees. Representations of lies, deceit, and questionable morals, with little acknowledgement and accountability. A sense of privilege to be dishonest and get what you want. When you see something wrong, it's important to speak up. Highlights importance of critical thinking, not judging a book by its cover, always asking questions before committing and coming to conclusions. Strong showing of journalism and investigative skills. Shows how money and greed can cause people to lie and do harmful things.
Positive Role Models
Holmes is at first portrayed as a brilliant student who worked hard to attend Stanford and who felt like her calling was to change the world. This perception changes as former employees say she created a culture of fear through bullying behavior and threats of lawsuits and firing. Her actions put innocent and sick people at risk. Once corruption becomes evident, many former employees fight to do the right thing and reveal Theranos' lies, even though it puts them and their jobs at risk.
Elizabeth's partner, Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani, is a man of Pakistani descent. Occasional discussion of the struggles women in the biotech industry face. Holmes' privileged upbringing contributes to the choices she makes.
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Violence & Scariness
In court proceedings, Elizabeth reveals that she was raped on Stanford's campus. She tells the court that Sunny was physically and emotionally abusive toward her. An employee dies by suicide, overdosing on prescription medication. Employees are threatened, interrogated, fear for their lives.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Elizabeth has a long-term romantic relationship with Sunny, who's 19 years older than her. Brief nongraphic discussion of their relationship as it relates to the trial and the timeline at Theranos.
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Elizabeth is called mild insults by former employees ("psychopath," "crazy"). Any profanity retold through reading text messages and other communication is bleeped out.
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Products & Purchases
One or two ads per episode. Ads are all-age appropriate.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Brief mentions of drinking wine and liquor socially.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Dropout is the podcast that inspired the limited TV series of the same name. It follows the investigation, aftermath, and trial of Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes and tells a larger story of corruption and greed in the biotech industry. Themes of coercion, corruption, and manipulation are highlighted through interviews with former employees and investigators. The fraud committed by Theranos affected vulnerable communities, like cancer patients and pregnant women. By no means does this podcast display Theranos' manipulation in a positive manner, teaching younger listeners that actions have consequences. Discussion of physical, verbal, and emotional abuse is present but not graphic. Themes and topics may be too mature for younger listeners, but this investigative podcast is sure to entrance teens and adults alike, offering opportunity for discussion and critical thinking and teaching valuable lessons about consequences.
Is It Any Good?
ABC News correspondent Rebecca Jarvis provides a uniquely clear and organized explanation of the rise and fall of Theranos and Elizabeth Holmes. The Dropout will delight fans of true crime and mystery podcasts, with a similar tone and structure to Serial. While Jarvis runs the show, she couples her expertise with interviews from former employees, family members, and investigators who bring life to the story and keep it captivating for listeners. Every inch of the Theranos downfall is covered in this podcast, making it intriguing, informational, and shocking all at once.
Giving this riveting podcast a listen before watching the Hulu series may be preferred, as this podcast provides excellent context and builds an environment that makes watching the series even more enjoyable. While the immoral actions of Holmes, Balwani, and Theranos are less than admirable, the show does a great job of highlighting the character strengths Holmes initially displays, as well as the consequences she's handed for her wrongdoings, giving tweens, teens, and adults a lot to discuss after listening.
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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