(Un)Well

TV review by
Marty Brown, Common Sense Media
(Un)Well TV Poster Image
Wellness industry docu may be an advertisement in disguise.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Sets out to investigate wellness and healing industry and its practices, but the success stories are always undermined by other cautionary tales.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Filled with stories of people who have healed (or believe they've healed) from illness or trauma, but the stories are always linked with the dubious health practices the show is investigating. Gives a platform to some practitioners who may not be trustworthy.

Violence

Violence, including violent murder, is described by interviewees, usually in relation to healing from trauma caused by violence. Pictures of violent acts are sometimes shown alongside the descriptions.

Sex

One episode is about tantric sex. Sexual abuse is mentioned in some other episodes, but not described in detail.

Language

Profanity is used here and there: "f--k," "s--t," etc.

Consumerism

Possibly some questionable motives behind (Un)Well. Even though show claims to show downside of certain health and wellness practices, when it talks about specific products, brand names are shown intentionally and clearly, products are filmed beautifully, and interview subjects give full testimonials. Feels more like an advertorial or even user's guide for its subjects, rather than a true educational documentary.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One episode focuses on ayahuasca, a psychedelic substance said to be used for healing purposes, and shows people using it and experiencing its effects. People are shown having positive experiences with it, but also negative one such as seizures and psychotic breaks. In many episodes, people describe addictions to drugs and alcohol that they were able to overcome by using the wellness practices.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that (Un)Well is a documentary series about controversial health practices. Subjects range from more common practices such as using essential oils to less, like bee sting therapy. There's an episode on tantric sex and one on the psychedelic substance ayahuasca. The show has been promoted as "taking on" the wellness industry, and each episode is framed as an investigation into its subject's dangers and downside, but the series gives a lot of airtime to testimonials and even product placement. A lot of the controversial products presented use that controversy to draw in customers. In a sense, (Un)Well feels more like an advertorial or even a user's manual for its subjects, promoting them despite its stated intention to the contrary.

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What's the story?

Each episode of (UN)WELL focuses on a specific part of the health and wellness industry. Its subjects range from practices that are fairly commonplace, like the use of essential oils, to some fringe practices like bee sting therapy and ayahuasca ceremonies. The show follows users and practitioners of these therapies in order to discover what draws people to them and whether they might ultimately do more harm than good.

Is it any good?

Though often compelling, this series is also very misleading. There's a conflict of interest at the heart of any documentary that seeks to entertain as well as educate. Even if its intentions are pure, (Un)Well treats its investigation into controversial wellness practices the way video games sometimes treat military combat (like an exciting adventure) or the way movies about addicts can sometimes make drugs look cool and fun.

A certain amount of airtime is given to the downsides of these practices, like someone having an extreme allergic reaction to essential oils, for example, or someone having a seizure during an ayahuasca ceremony. But even more emphasis is given to the testimonials by people who have used these practices to improve their lives. The lure of good health, beauty, contentment, or recovery from trauma might be tempting enough for some viewers to ignore the risks described. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about good health. What are some of the things you or your family do to stay healthy and happy? Exercise? Healthy foods? What else?

  • What do the people on this episode of (Un)Well do for their health and happiness? What drew them to this practice? How does practice help its users? What are the risks involved? 

  • Talk about the wellness industry. Who does it target? Is it helpful or harmful?

TV details

  • Premiere date: August 12, 2020
  • Network: Netflix
  • Genre: Educational
  • TV rating: TV-MA
  • Available on: Streaming
  • Last updated: September 20, 2020

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