As with everything Gwyneth Paltrow does, the marketing materials for her new info-tainment series on Netflix has led to titters around social media and beyond. For The Goop Lab, the half-hour extension of Paltrow's Goop newsletter and lifestyle brand, Netflix tweeted a premiere date announcement with a poster featuring Paltrow in front of a pink geometric pattern that really reminded people of something...
Gwyneth Paltrow welcomes you to The Goop Lab on January 24 pic.twitter.com/ZzeEEbAy9L— See What's Next (@seewhatsnext) January 6, 2020
Almost immediately, the chatter bubbled up around how heavily the Goop Lab poster leaned on vaginal imagery. This gave the internet the chance to engage in one of its fondest pastimes: dunking on Gwyneth. Whether she's recommending something frivolous yet terrifically expensive in her newsletter, or blithely forgetting which Marvel movies she's appeared in (look, all her scenes are with Tony Stark, so it makes sense to assume they're all Iron Man!), Gwyneth has long been a figure of gentle (and sometimes not very gentle) ribbing. Goop has been fertile ground in that regard, and so it was with the new posters.
Only here's the thing: not only do those vaginal posters — which according to Paltrow are entirely intentional — communicate something crucial and true about the TV show Goop Lab, but they also point to what is definitely the strongest episode of this better-than-expected first season.
Goop Lab is going to have its share of detractors, and it probably should. Its focus on wellness through a series of varyingly outlandish methods, from the benign (lotta yoga; the benefits of a vegan diet) to the extreme (psychadelics; mediums) to some that feel genuinely potentially dangerous, like when she brings out the Wener Herzog sound-alike out to preach about his ability to fight off disease with the healing power of jumping into cold water. At every step are Paltrow's team of willing producers, researchers, writers, and editors who willingly jump headlong into these experiences, each armed with a personal narrative of self-healing or wellness that they want to advance within themselves. It's all very Goop, yes. But it's also a lot less … well, goopy than you might imagine a self-help series starring Gwyneth Paltrow would be. Paltrow and her team enter each experience with a blend of skepticism and anticipation that feels appropriate to each endeavor. Also, the self-help language, for lack of a better term, feels a lot more toned down than it does on, say, an Oprah program on similar subjects. Now, whether that's just Paltrow putting a cool-girl veneer of rigorous skepticism on a a series of products she looking to endorse? That's up to how cynical you're feeling as you watch, in which case Goop Lab might end up seeming awfully insidious. Personally, it appeals to the part of me that every once in a while thinks I could be susceptible to cults. Not like the crazy suicide cults. But I'd be lying if I said I didn't give a lot of thought to how nice it would be to Jamaica and drink mushroom tea and hug people and have a transformative experience. It's fun to imagine that for 30 minutes, which is the appeal of Goop Lab.
Anyway, back to the vagina posters, which would be more accurately described as vulva posters, which you'd know if you watched the best and most unambiguously good-for-people episode of Goop Lab, which focuses on female sexual pleasure. Correcting myths about female genitalia and reclaiming sexual pleasure for women is not a new idea, but Goop Lab packs a lot of truth into 30 minutes, most of it thanks to its 90-year-old orgasm coach, Betty. The episode is frank, entertaining and respectful, while also inroducing the phrase "run the fuck" into the lexicon in a way I truly hope catches on. Almost as much as I hope that some enterprising Netflix social-media manager commissions a supercut of Gwyneth Paltrow saying "vulva" about a million times, which she absolutely does.
So laugh it up at all those pink folds, buddy. All you're doing is advertising the very best version of Goop Labs that exists. And you're playing right into Gwyneth Paltrow's naturally healthy hands.
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Joe Reid is the senior writer at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.