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Gwyneth Paltrow's The Goop Lab is difficult to watch because it's perfectly suited to our post-fact times

  • Yes, Paltrow's six-episode docuseries on her wellness company Goop looks like an infomercial. "To watch The Goop Lab as a series, with its arcing assumptions about the limitations of medical science, is also to wonder where to locate the line between open-mindedness and gullibility," says Megan Garber. "It is to wonder why Gwyneth Paltrow, celebrity and salesperson, should be trusted as an arbiter of health. To have a body is to live in a constant state of uncertainty. Goop transforms that anxiety into a sales pitch." Garber adds: "The Goop Lab is streaming into a moment in America that finds Medicare for All under discussion and the Affordable Care Act under attack," says Garber. "It presents itself as airy infotainment even as many Americans are unable to access even the most basic forms of medical care. That makes the show deeply uncomfortable to watch. So does The Goop Lab’s just-asking-questions approach to health—its breezy mistrust of expertise itself. The show, like the online store from which it is spun, is perfectly calibrated to the post-fact cynicisms of 2020. Can you improve your immune system through breathing techniques? Can you lower your biological age, even if you cannot control your chronological one? Maybe. But it is telling that Goop, the lifestyle brand that treats health as a luxury good, is the one asking those questions."


    • The Goop Lab isn’t particularly hateable -- some of the episodes are even helpful: "Is Paltrow portrayed in the shiniest of lights at all times, both literally (she looks magnificent always) and figuratively (whenever she must compete against her co-workers, she always wins)? Of course," says Jen Chaney. "But the half-hour installments, which each focus on a specific wellness topic and recruit Goop employees to try out various treatments and therapies, are actually interesting and informative. My chief complaint about The Goop Lab, believe it or not, is that its episodes need to be a little longer. I just wrote that sentence and meant it. I know: It’s unbelievable to me, too!"
    • The worst thing about The Goop Lab is how reasonable it seems: "It may be either a relief or a disappointment to learn that The Goop Lab feels like it comes from a different, much tamer (and less product-led) point of view than the Goop brand overall," says Scaachi Koul. "And that’s actually the biggest problem with The Goop Lab: There really isn’t one. The recommendations dispensed are largely reasonable, if a bit unorthodox when compared to traditional medicine — microdosing mushrooms to help with PTSD, psychic readings, looking at your own vagina, jumping into cold water to keep yourself feeling young. Any science The Goop Lab presents is generally flimsy, but it’s really not about the science. The various slightly woo-woo topics explored have been covered many times before, sometimes by this very media company. The trouble comes when you compare the series with Goop’s broader branding and strategy. Paltrow and her staff have built a business on pseudoscience that targets women where our anxieties are: Am I getting enough sleep? Am I attractive? Am I thin? Am I sexually fulfilled? How’s my skin? How’s my hair? How’s my overall sense of self?"
    • The Goop Lab is a high-end infomercial masquerading as an investigative docuseries: On her Netflix docuseries, Paltrow "comes off as neither a judgy, spin-class mean girl nor a stereotypical Hollywood airhead, but as sharp, wry, skeptical, energetic, irreverent and mostly self-aware," says Judy Berman. "(She has a tendency to declare especially woo-woo comments 'goopy.') As with the brand itself, what’s disturbing about the show is that when you combine Gwyneth’s aura of trustworthiness with a mishmash of real science, New Age nonsense, vague female empowerment rhetoric, naked commercialism and some startling knowledge gaps in areas where Goop claims expertise, the result has its unique dangers."
    • The Goop Lab is everything that wellness skeptics feared it would be: "A fancy infomercial for Paltrow's company, with high production values, unconvincing generalizations about women's experiences, a sinister suspicion of 'conventional doctors' and a dizzying array of opportunities to part women from their money under the guise of feminism and health," says Inkoo Kang. "It's QVC for one-percenters. (If you have to ask how much the services advertised on the show cost, you probably can't afford it.) Shot largely at Goop's minimalist, Instagram-ready Santa Monica office, The Goop Lab alternates between interviews with the guru du jour (conducted by Paltrow and her right-hand woman, Elise Loehnen) and scenes of various Goop staffers trying out psychedelics, energy healing, ESP training and the like. If you think there might be an inherent conflict of interest in employees of a company giving testimonials about the efficacy of the products and services that company endorses, well, yeah."
    • Our perception of Paltrow may not be positive, but The Goop Lab makes clear we’re swimming in the culture she personifies: "Paltrow is a compelling host — not giving too much of herself away, ever stopping short of pure endorsement of any topic even as she gives it air — on what is a carefully structured, elegantly built, compulsively watchable show about, mainly, complete nonsense," says Daniel D'Addario. "No wonder she makes people so very mad, and too bad getting mad at someone who insists she’s just trying to figure things out like you are is about the least effective tactic available. Paltrow may still be on her quest. But she’s got a few things totally figured out."
    • In addition to being potentially dangerous, The Goop Lab is also boring television: "There’s a good TV show to be made about the widespread proliferation of kooky wellness products and practices," says Hazel Cills, "...but you need a journalist, not an actor, to guide viewers through it. Is it really so exciting to watch someone like Paltrow who has done many, many cleanses do yet another one for television. For her, it appears to be just another day at work, no matter how much she yearns for a burrito. Show me a real person doing any of this, please, I wanted to scream." Cills adds that The Goop Lab is "the kind of thinly veiled advertisement you might stumble upon on television at 3 a.m., replete with teary testimonials from average folks talking about how taking psychedelics cured their anxiety, except this time with prettier cinematography and a designer clothing budget."
    • The Goop Lab is exactly what you'd expect based on what we already know about the Goop brand: "The series provides a platform for junk science, gibberish, and unproven health claims from snake-oil-salesmen guests," says Beth Mole. "It's a platform on which respected, trained medical experts are not considered the authorities on health and medical topics; where logic and critical thinking are enemies of open-mindedness; where anecdotes about undefined health improvements are considered evidence for specific medical treatment claims; where the subjective experiences of a few select individuals are equivalent to the results of randomized, controlled clinical trials; and where promoting unproven, potentially dangerous health claims is a means to empower women. But, beyond all of that, the show is just, well, boring."
    • The Goop Lab feels revolutionary for being unafraid to show lots of vaginas
    • There’s not all that much of Gwyneth Paltrow in the series’ six episodes, and the show is better for it
    • Here's every episode of The Goop Lab, graded for scientific legitimacy

    TOPICS: The Goop Lab with Gwyneth Paltrow, Netflix, Gwyneth Paltrow, Documentaries, Goop

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