The Turning: The Sisters Who Left
There are complications associated with any iconic figure, even religious saints — or so argues a new podcast from Rococo Punch and iHeartMedia that trains its sight on the Missionaries of Charity, the hallowed Catholic order established by Mother Teresa.
But as the subtitle indicates, this series isn’t really about Mother Teresa, per se. Rather, the podcast focuses on narratives primarily told from the perspective of women who had left the order for a multitude of reasons, and in doing so, it sheds light on the nature of life within the order and the kinds of people who were compelled to devote their lives to its highly demanding religious environment, one where members are made to devote their entire beings to tenets of suffering and absolute service to God.
Based on the first three episodes made available for preview, The Turning is rich with enough curious, compelling details to warrant interest. The series is also much less sordid and melodramatic than the title initially suggests it to be. Between host Erika Lantz’s careful handling of the narration and the sensitivity of the script, the production approaches its tricky subject matter with admirable care. (Quick disclaimer: I used to partner with Rococo Punch on my now-defunct podcast, Servant of Pod.)
The Turning is quite interested in the larger questions, like “What’s the line between religious devotion and something that we can credibly call abuse?” and “What’s the line between a religious order and a cult?” These are weighty, potentially controversial swings to take, and there’s a way in which a lackluster attempt at an answer can do more harm than good. It remains to be seen whether the series will ultimately be successful in fully meeting the gravity of those questions, but as it stands, it’s off to a compelling enough start.
For research purposes, I’ve spent the past week dipping my toe into an assortment of shows made using Spotify’s “Music and Talk” format, which the company rolled out last October. The format, still very much in its earliest stages, serves up exactly what the name describes: audio show experiences that offer creators the opportunity to stitch together music and talk segments, drawing from songs available in Spotify’s catalogue.
I’m working a longer piece thinking through the potential of the format for publication at some point, but for now, I find the format intriguing enough to make a few recommendations. To begin with, fans of How Long Gone, the popular bicoastal elite “bro-cast” featuring men of a certain age talking about brands (scenes, vibes, and aesthetics, I guess?), should probably know that they have a music-focused spin-off, How Long Gone Radio, where they deliver much of the same banter but around new music releases. (As a side note, I feel compelled to confess that I’m a fairly ardent consumer of How Long Gone proper, somewhat inexplicably, as I’m still not quite a man of a certain age, nor am I terribly literate in, uh, brands.)
Meanwhile, while I find Spotify’s in-house creations using the format just okay for the most part, I did find it intriguing that Parcast, the pulpy genre pod factory, is responsible for some of the more unexpected ideas in this format. One particular example: Our Love Song, which builds entire episodes around love songs favored by anonymous couples.
Finally, being a connoisseur of banal lo-fi hip-hop livestreams as background work muzak, I appreciated Bobby Lyte’s Flow State, which fills a curation need that I probably would never do on my own.
• Passenger List, the mystery thriller fiction podcast starring Kelly Marie Tran, returned for a second season earlier this month.
• This is a super random pick, but I really enjoyed this hour-long late-April episode of Bloomberg’s Odd Lots about why the price of lumber is soaring. I don’t expect most people to listen to this, or find any of this interesting, but I’m mostly flagging this episode to reiterate one of my long-held beliefs: podcasting is at its very best when it’s very, very, very specific.
And that’s a wrap for 1.5x Speed! Hope you enjoyed it. We’re back next week, but in the meantime: Send podcast recommendations, feedback, or just say hello at email@example.com.
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