The Fashion Magpie Goop Gwnyeth Paltrow

Goop Gossip.

I listened to an excellent podcast by The New York Times’ Still Processing series on Goop and Gwyneth Paltrow the other day, and it fed my fascination with and sometime aversion to the brand.  In the podcast (“We Got Goop’d”), two culture critics dissect how and why Gwyneth Paltrow has become the avatar for “wellness” and muse over what the hell “wellness” means anyway.  (They make the point that the term is so overused as to be diffuse and devoid of all meaning.  Nowadays, we unblinkingly see “wellness” as synonymous with anything from acai berry and oat milk to stretching and journaling to non-western medicinal practices.)  But perhaps the most interesting part of the podcast was their exploration of GP herself and why she is so deeply polarizing.  A few of their hypotheses that stood out (not sure that I agree with all of these):

+Culturally, we tend not to like when a woman stops doing one thing and assumes a new role.  In this case, we were comfortable with GP the actress (quite a good one, too) and upset when she reinvented herself as the wellness guru and entrepreneur she has become.

+GP’s tremendous privilege gets in the way of pretty much everything she does, and it undermines or obfuscates her message.  In one anecdote, a guest commentator recalls a conversation she once had with GP about her past struggles.  GP talks about the sudden death of her father but contextualizes her grief by noting that her father had taken her entire family on a luxury trip to Italy to celebrate her birthday when he fell ill.  The commentator notes that it’s difficult to get beyond the vision of being skirted off on an extravagant vacation in Italy for a birthday, and it undercuts the empathy she should feel.  Oprah, by contrast, has a well-known personal history of abuse and poverty, and so we are more likely to “forgive” or applaud her wealth than we would Gwyneth’s, especially when the latter tends to describe herself as “self-made.”

+Gwyneth’s entire business is predicated upon the fact that she has answers for you when your doctor does not.  An unexplained, persistent eye twitch?  A vague feeling of exhaustion no doctor seems able to diagnose?  A drop in libido?  GP has just the thing for you.  (Let’s set aside the fact that that thing bears a 1000% markup, or is a clever re-marketing or co-opting of a practice used for centuries elsewhere, possibly to dubious effect.)  This, in fact, seems to be the centerpoint of the success of the Goop brand: the desperate desire of many women to self-improve or to not be dismissed for their various anatomical concerns — and their simultaneous scorn for the ease and smugness of GP’s response.  (“B12!”; “Earthing!”; “More water!”)  I found this particular hypothesis the most stirring of the set, and it formed a nice extension of some of the early musings I had on her overpathologization.  Along these lines, one of the commentators in the podccast notes that she had a particularly traumatic birth experience for her first on, and she was distraught for months after.  She sought help from every doctor and practitioner and wellness expert she could find.  At one point, she went into someone’s office and laid on a table and without so much as laying a finger on her, the practitioner said: “Oh, I know the problem.   You still have anesthetics in your system.”  And she waved her hands over the woman’s body to extract the excess.  The woman said she left, and she felt better.  She felt better because it was the first time she hadn’t been written off or dismissed — she had been heard and acknowledged.  I can completely relate to this feeling, and to the general concept of a diagnosis being the second best thing to recovery/wellness.  GP affords many women that opportunity when traditional doctors come up short.  It’s just — at least in the estimation of these commentators — a bit offensive or offputting when the answer is delivered with the seeming self-assurance and palliative simplicity that GP represents.  (“It’s All Easy” is, after all, the title of her cookbook.)  For many of us, the commentators point out, it’s never that easy.

I found the podcast deeply perceptive and provoking.  I especially appreciated their head-on probe into the perception of Gwyneth’s privilege, and whether this in and of itself precludes her from being beloved by society, regardless of her achievements.  (It’s also interesting to think about whether she would be received differently if she were a man with the same kind of background and business.  What other actors and celebrities have switched careers, migrating into business or politics in a second life?  Do we treat men differently from women when they “break the rules” and reinvent?)

What were your thoughts on this?

(Alison, will be waiting patiently for your perspective on this in particular.)

Post-Scripts: A Perfect Fall Coat.

From the deeply provocative to the frivolous: let me know share some contenders for a new fall coat.

+My top pick is this pale blue plaid Ganni coat, which is literal perfection.  I love the pastel color, the length, the drama, the pattern.  SO CHIC.  Would also look great with uber-trendy white booties…

+For similar reasons, I love this lilac ALC beauty and this ballet slipper pink Veronica Beard statement.  Get the look for less with this or this!

+I LOVE THE SHAPE OF THIS COCOON COAT!!!!

+For something a bit more versatile, this brown nubby Ganni coat is a chic pick.  I also love this similar style from Tuckernuck and this affordable steal from TopShop.

+Sandro has a bunch of gorgeous coats on sale right now, including this crisp white one.

+For fun: this shearling cropped beauty!

+I love this in the dark plaid.

+This is elegant in shape and color (and under $150).

P.S.  A few of you have asked for a less expensive version of the kitten heel bootie I’m planning on buying for fall.  This is super similar, and even comes in stark white!  I also like these in the python print.

P.P.S.  Speaking of PUFF sleeves (!!!): I need this! And this sweater looks like heaven. Which colorway?!

6 Comments

  1. I was rolling up my sleeves before I even got to your comment. I. have. some. thoughts!

    On privilege: this has always been an issue for her, but I would argue that she is the one who puts it on the agenda (at least subconsciously). Her narrative was “to the manor born” Upper East Side princess, and that’s because she has always acted the part. It was her vibe – overconfident, judgmental, competitive. She was a rich kid and she loved it, because in the mid-90s that wasn’t considered a bad thing. Think about some of her peers – Kate Hudson, Bryce Dallas Howard – who grew up just as wealthy, if not wealthier (nothing against Bruce Paltrow but have you seen the Howard family CT compound)? Their connections and privilege are just as significant, but people don’t hold it against them in the same way. GP has been forever putting her privilege on display while simultaneously refusing to acknowledge it (#selfmade), and that rubs the wrong way.
    On her talent: I would quibble just a bit with characterizing her as a very good actress, and I wonder if this doesn’t also come into play. She has natural talent and showed quite a bit of promise (many of her pre-SIL roles were good and interesting), but she won an Oscar that didn’t feel totally deserved (thanks Harvey) and then seemed more interested in being famous than being an actress. She’s made more terrible movies than good ones, and sometimes I think this is where the resentment of her comes from – it’s not just #haters, her greatness was awarded prematurely, and all of the good things that have come her way since then feel inauthentic. Kate Hudson never won that Oscar, and I think we can all agree that was for the best.
    On career changes: I think there’s a resistance to celebrities who trade on their success in one platform to build success in a completely different platform. If GP had gone off and built Goop organically, without putting her name and face on it, and then after a few years of success had popped up and said, “surprise, look what I did!”, I think the reaction might have been different. I think she would have gotten more credit for just putting her head down, doing the work, and then translating it into success. But Goop isn’t much without Gwyneth and her complicated public image. There’s also the problem that many times, a celebrity’s “second act” is often a mediocre vanity project driven by a good PR machine (GP’s singing career is a good example; she has a nice tone to her voice and can certainly carry a tune, but giving her lead singing roles is grading her on a quite a curve).
    On “wellness”: I think you (and the podcast) have it exactly right. GP seems to have it all figured out, and she wants to help you do the same…for just three easy payments of $49.99. That is the one thing I will give her credit for – she realized at some point that people either hated or loved her, and since they are kind of two sides of the same coin she figured she could monetize all of that energy. And she was right!

    I think I’m pretty sensitive and perceptive, and if this was just a pile-on to GP because of pettiness or jealousy I would have no problem pointing that out. I think that she is disliked and criticized for good reason. A lot of what she’s peddling is baloney. That bit in the NYT Mag profile about parting ways with Conde Nast because of fact-checking? Yikes. That’s a bad look. The similarities between her snake oil and what’s pushed by Alex Jones? Not a coincidence. She traffics in fear (just like the Infowars crowd). I she has really taken to heart that Machiavellian edict that it’s better to be feared than loved. Her singular goal has been to have the most covetable life – she has to be the blondest, the tallest, the thinnest, dating the hottest guy, was literally best friends with Madonna and then Beyonce, now she has to be the healthiest, the cleanest eater, the most “well” …all in service to people either worshiping her or hating/fearing her, and I don’t think she much cares which.

    That’s probably enough GP chatter for one day, though perhaps a bit appropriate because today might be her wedding day? It’s this weekend we’re assuming, yes? All these years later and she finally ended up with Brad…well, a Brad. Mazel tov!

    1. YES! This was all so well-observed. In sum, your reaction mirrors my own: uneasiness with her success coupled with a sense of caution/self-awareness (i.e., where do these feelings come from?) Because on the surface it’s great to see a successful woman who has not only “made it” in a BIG WAY in one line of work but TWO, with a company so focused on women’s issues — but then there are so many troubling aspects to her story that it becomes rather sticky.

      Thanks for all of this. Lovely food for thought during lunchtime around here!

      xo

    2. Alison, brava on this comment — you touched on so much of what I was thinking/feeling/wanting to say, but in a much more eloquent way than I would have!

  2. I agree with some of the podcast statements, but am a little saddened by them. The comment on assuming a new role especially rings true. For example, I have heard that people are furious with Cynthia Nixon’s political run despite her being involved in the social and political scene her entire life. Society likes to fit women in these little boxes and when they try to assume a new role, it confuses people at best. Yet I don’t see the same happening to men. It’s interesting and something that I for one a, happy is being discussed.

    I also do believe there is a prejudice against wealth. Growing up in poverty, I have even been guilty of feeling it myself. But as an adult I know the grief of losing a parent feels the same no matter where you are. And again, yes this wealth factor seems like an issue felt more by women than men.

    I LOVED your thoughts on overpathologization – really valid points! I also think it’s great to see women feel empowered enough to insist on finding that answer and perhaps the medical community needs to do a better job of keeping up with women’s needs so we are not easily dismissed with oh you just had a baby, that’s why you’re tired/etc, or given some quick fix.

    And now that I’ve written a book here (I’m sorry) I will leave it at that. Enjoy the weekend!

    1. Hi Amy — I was saddened by the same things. I also feel — and maybe this is a dicy thing to say out loud — that women can be especially critical of other women, and I do think that there’s a lot of women who are “allergic” to GP whereas men just shrug her off. The same goes for the reaction to Cynthia Nixon. More often than not, it’s women who express censure and shock at the “audacity” of her running for office. (Maybe this is in part because women were more likely to have known her as Miranda, though…) Anyway, completely agree with all of your observations here, especially in re: the dismissiveness of doctors when it comes to women’s health. I listened to a Forever35 podcast recently where Angela Garbes makes the point that while babies get check-ups every month for their first year of life, women only get one post partum checkup at 6 weeks — and that says A LOT about how our medical system treats post partum mothers! Our bodies are completely out of wack for weeks and even months and years after giving birth and so often there are these lingering issues that women kind of just live with and shrug off, and yet there’s not much attention given to the recovery process. I certainly knew NOTHING about post partum health except for the emphasis on weight loss and the fact that you bleed for a month after. Beyond that — no clue! But it’s a lot! Your body is going nuts! Anyway, that’s a digression but a lot to dissect here so I appreciate your novel 🙂

      Enjoy the weekend! xoxoxo

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