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Mushrooms Going Mainstream

Mushrooms Going Mainstream

The Rise of Psychedelic Content on Streaming Platforms

Caution: May contain spoilers

Over the past few years, we have seen an increased acceptance of psychedelic mushrooms in mainstream society. One area that this can be observed is the decriminalization of magic mushrooms in cities across the United States including DC, Seattle, and Ann Arbor

Another area we can see an acceptance of mushrooms is in the increased amount of psychedelic related content hosted on some of the largest streaming platforms in the world, Netflix and Hulu.  

While psychedelic mushrooms have appeared before in movies like Super Troopers (2001), Tenacious D In The Pick Of Destiny (2006), and Shrooms (2007),  the latest crop of mushroom content takes a serious and robust approach to the subject. 

Psychedelic Documentaries

Some of the most beneficial pieces of content to help shape public opinion are scientific documentaries and docuseries that discuss mushrooms. Two of which we cover in this article, Fantastic Fungi and How to Change Your Mind

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Fantastic Fungi (2019)

Fantastic Fungi, a film by Louie Schwartzberg, came out in 2019 but only started streaming on Netflix very recently. The documentary follows famed mycologist Paul Stamets as he teaches about the incredible powers of fungi. 

This artfully done film shows the beauty and complexity of mushrooms in a way that has never been captured before. With a combination of time lapse videography and CGI graphics, Fantastic Fungi gives a closeup look at the life cycle of fungi; from spores to fruit. The film also does a great job of explaining the role of fungi in their ecosystems. 

Throughout the documentary, Stamets provides examples of how fungi can be used to help solve a variety of problems humans are currently facing. From soaking up oil spills, saving the bees, to curing cancer, fungi have proven to be a useful tool that have only recently started to be explored.

One of the most impressive ways fungi can help us, is the therapeutic potential of psilocybin containing mushrooms. The documentary focuses particularly on how therapy with psychedelic mushrooms can help ease end of life anxiety in patients with terminal cancer. 

The potential benefits from using psychedelic mushrooms expands to other mental health problems in addition to end of life anxiety.  For example, Paul Stamets also recounts how he was able to cure his speech impediment after his first psilocybin mushroom experience. 

Fantastic Fungi is one of the most comprehensive documentaries on mushrooms currently available on streaming services and is a great documentary to introduce friends or family to the variety of benefits mushrooms can offer.

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How To Change Your Mind (2022)

In Netflix’s latest psychedelic docuseries, How To Change Your Mind, Michael Pollan explores the science and history behind some of the most popular psychedelics including LSD, psilocybe mushrooms, MDMA, and peyote. Based on the book by Pollan with the same title, the series takes a scientific approach at researching these chemicals to see how they can be used to change your mind. 

The series starts out with Pollan, who appears in Fantastic Fungi, explaining how he wasn’t introduced to psychedelics until much later in life. 

“I’m really a late bloomer when it comes to psychedelics. I’m now 65. I have a successful career as a writer and a professor. At this age, sometimes you need to be shaken out of your groove and take a chance and surrender.” – Michael Pollan 

The second episode of the series focuses specifically on psilocybe mushrooms and how they can be used therapeutically. During the episode, several unsuspecting people share their stories of how their lives were improved by undergoing psilocybin therapy. 

One of these people was an elderly catholic woman who you would not typically think would try psychedelic therapy. However, after her session, she was able to overcome her end of life anxiety. Another average person who benefited from a psilocybin treatment was a man who struggled with OCD. Once he received a single dose of psilocybin, he was able to calm his brain and treat his OCD. 

In the fourth episode of the series, Melissa Lavasani, who is the Chairwoman of Decriminalize Nature DC, tells her story of treating her postpartum depression with psilocybin mushrooms in a matter of 2-3 days. After running out of options, she learned how to grow her own medicine at home. 

“Buying the spores is completely legal, but as soon as you start cultivating them, that’s when it gets a little iffy.” – Melissa Lavansi

How To Change Your Mind further also expands upon the history of psilocybe mushrooms that is briefly touched upon in Fantastic Fungi. Throughout the episode, Pollan discusses some of the most influential people in popularizing magic mushrooms including Maria Sabina, R. Gordon Wasson, Terence McKenna, and Timothy Leary. You also see many familiar faces such as Paul Stamets who appeared in Fantastic Fungi.

How To Change Your Mind is a great series in that it shows how average, everyday people can benefit from psychedelic mushrooms and that it isn’t just used by the counterculture.

Magic Mushrooms In Fictional Series

Documentaries aren’t the only types of content that are showing more positive usage of magic mushrooms. Streaming services are creating more and more fictional content where characters portraying average, everyday people consume magic mushrooms.  

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Nine Perfect Strangers (2021)

Based on the premise that psychedelics can help treat mental disorders such as grief, ptsd, addiction, and more, Nine Perfect Strangers follows a group of people from different walks of life as they attend an experimental wellness retreat. The wellness retreat, run by Nicole Kidman’s character Masha, specializes in psychedelic therapy to heal their guests. 

The first time the guests are administered psychedelics, the host sneaks a microdose of magic mushrooms into their smoothies. At first the guests are hesitant with the unconventional methods. But after experiencing the positive effects of the microdose, the guests become open to following through with the retreat and diving deeper into psychedelics in an attempt to cure their mental health problems.

Nine Perfect Strangers is a thought provoking series that highlights the potential healing powers of psychedelics in a therapeutic setting. In doing so, it also touches on the ethical and legal challenges facing psychedelic therapy.

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Life & Beth (2022)

Hulu’s original series Life & Beth is a comedic drama loosely based on Amy Schumer’s life. In the series, Amy Schumer plays Beth who is a fairly average woman dealing with standard life issues. While the show is not overtly about psychedelics, mushrooms are grown and consumed for therapeutic purposes which play along with the theme of healing.  

In the third episode, Beth’s sister Ann, who is played by Susannah Flood, is seen casually tending to what appears to be p. Cubensis mushrooms that she is growing in her apartment. During the scene, Ann is on the phone with her sister Beth and she does not mention what she is doing.

Ann from Life & Beth growing mushrooms in episode 3 Out On The Island

The mushrooms don’t come up again until later in the series during episode 6. In the episode, Ann invites Beth and her love interest, John, who is played by Michael Cera, to try some of the mushrooms she grew. When Beth questions why Ann would be growing mushrooms, she simply responds that it is to help with her anxiety. 

The three characters then proceed to consume the mushrooms on a small boat in a lake. With help from the psychedelic mushrooms, they start to overcome some past traumas that had been weighing on them.  

Mushrooms play a fairly insignificant role in the series, however, it gives the audience a deeper look into the characters’ personalities.  The way the writers so casually weaved psychedelic mushrooms into the show highlights a changing attitude towards psychedelics in the mainstream media.

Mushrooms Becoming Less Taboo

As magic mushrooms become less taboo in mainstream media, it is likely that we will continue to see more shows and documentaries about psychedelic mushrooms. By consuming a mix of educational and entertaining content about psychedelic mushrooms, the average viewer is more likely to develop a better understanding of the subject. 

The value of portraying psychedelic mushrooms in media as a therapeutic tool instead of a silly party drug is that it can lead to more open conversations about the benefits of psilocybin. We hope that in time, more people will be exposed to these types of educational content on psilocybin mushrooms to help further shift the public’s opinion on psychedelics.

Want to help destigmatize Psychedelics?

Recommend some of these shows, documentaries, and movies mentioned in this article to friends and family who may not know the positive benefits of psychedelics. 

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