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