Dining With The Tofu Eating, Organic Cotton Wearing, Two Hours A Day Exercising Devil. Or, Learning To Appreciate Your Inner Gwyneth Paltrow.

March 9, 2015 4:15 pm

At some point in history, we’ll call them the pre-GOOP days, Gwyneth Paltrow was widely considered a pretty good egg. She had a series of critically and commercially successful films to her name, some of which have lasted the test of time and are still talked about with reverence today. She dated Brad Pitt and cut her hair to look exactly like his, a move which made most of mankind weep loudly into the mirror and despair at their own face’s lack of symmetry. When the tabloid pictures of the pair at ‘The Devil’s Own’ premiere emerged I am pretty sure that most of the general public were finally convinced that an alien race existed after all; how else would you explain them looking like that? She won an Oscar – which she accepted in a pink Ralph Lauren dress that, at least according to Wikipedia, was credited as starting a big trend in the late 90’s. She had a much raved about debut in the Westend with the highbrow play ‘Proof’. Tellingly, in 2000 she was featured in a Vanity Fair piece entitled ‘Today Belongs To Gwyneth’ which clearly positioned her as the modern day Grace Kelly – partly because of their astonishing visual likeness, but mostly because that was how she was seen by the general public (we will come back to Vanity Fair a little later.) She was the stylish, sophisticated, blonde haired, vaguely aristocratic heir to the Hollywood throne; Brad Pitt got it right when he called her “angel, (his) my love”.

And then something happened. Oh, boy did something happen. Gwyneth opened her mouth.

Today Paltrow is one of the most reviled, commented upon, joked about, retweeted, reblogged, critiqued, criticized and panned celebrities of the modern age. Actually, come to think of it, of any age. It doesn’t take much searching to find lists of the most ridiculous things that she has said, or articles about why she is the worst human being in existence or why she is single handedly causing world hunger, the demise of feminism and rising poverty levels. I am exaggerating, but only slightly. I dare you to wander onto any gossip website comment section, the modern world’s version of the Gladiator’s amphitheater, and find one positive thing. She is without doubt the media’s punching bag – in researching this article I have read think piece after think piece about why we, as a collective, are supposed to hate her. Four hundred and ninety thousand results come up for the search term ‘Gwyneth Paltrow annoying’. Four hundred and ninety thousand! And I get it; she’s pretentious and preachy and condescending. She said that people being mean about her online was the same as surviving a literal war environment. She is noted as saying that she would rather die than let her child eat a cup-a-soup (although as someone who works with people who consume cup-a-soup regularly I understand where she is coming from.) Also, she’d apparently rather do crack than eat cheese from a can – a totally sane and reasonable stance. On the Tracy Anderson Mat Method DVD (the fitness craze that she is a business partner in and whose virtues she espouses at every opportunity) she describes how busy mother’s tell her they don’t have time to work out two hours a day, six days a week and explains that she is also a busy mother and she manages to, so they should stop making excuses.

GwynethPaltrow

One of my favorite Gwyneth quotes is “I’ll never forget it. I was starting to hike up the red rocks, and honestly, it was as if I heard the rock say, “You have the answers. You are your teacher. I thought I was having an auditory hallucination.” Oh, and when she described being on a film set as infinitely more difficult than working nine to five. Oh, oh and when she declared “I am who I am. I can’t pretend to be somebody who makes $25,000 a year.” Who am I kidding, I love every single ludicrous thing that Ms. Paltrow has ever said. People can, and do, hurl abuse at her but there is no denying that she is being herself at all times. She exudes an authenticity that other stars simply don’t. And in an age when celebrities with the bodies of highly trained and steroided athletes tell us that they eat hamburgers all the time and simply walk around a lot, isn’t it refreshing to hear how much work it requires to be the size two, lily white all American dream? Why are we so publically horrified when we hear that being exactly what the public demands she be, takes Gwyneth time, energy and money? If we subscribe to the idea that honesty is the best policy, and we are willing to tear down any privacies that celebrities would like to maintain to get to the truth, then we have to accept that we might not like the things that we hear.

It is difficult to say exactly when the halcyon days of Gywnny love ended, but it almost certainly has something to do with the advent of “GOOP” the lifestyle blog and brand. For the uninitiated GOOP.COM began as a weekly newsletter direct from Gwyneth’s heart to your internet inbox. Here she would endorse vacation spots, spa treatments, methods to become more mindful and recommend worldwide eateries. It was all very Gatsby; a kind of scrapbook for the over privileged and under stimulated with a friendly but reserved white and grey design. It was like being at a restaurant, where you can only afford a side salad, and overhearing the meandering thoughts of the yummy mummies who begin drinking Belinis after the schoolyard drop-off. It was inane and fascinating, frustrating and addictive. She would share pictures of her elaborate international getaways, ludicrously expensive locally sourced meals and beautifully appointed dinner tables and people, it seems, gobbled it up. “Goop” has practically become an adjective for a certain kind of person (I have heard people in furniture stores describe things as ‘very GOOP’ and had to swallow my rage.) The newsletter has now become a full blown website with articles, recipes, advice, health tips, beauty tricks, city guides and, most hilariously of all, a well-stocked online store. The prices in the GOOP store range from outrageous to awe-inspiring (there is currently a very ordinary looking shirt priced, rather reasonably, at 295 dollars.) The whole thing is silly, frivolous and irksome to a lot of people. But here is the true kicker: it’s also kind of profound, moving and, whether it knows it or not, truly funny.

Only Gwyneth could write a bestselling cookbook that includes recipes with, as it says on the back cover, “no coffee, no alcohol, no dairy, no eggs, no sugar, no shellfish, no deep-water fish, no wheat, no meat, no soy, nothing processed at all!” That is to say that she crafted a culinary tome that is more defined by what you cannot cook than what you can. The whole introduction to “It’s All Good”, which explains how Gwynny nearly died from eating French fries and ketchup, reads like one of the best spoof articles ever written. It’s one grand prank; a little like she is mocking anyone who has ever eaten an inorganic carrot or a non-Kale crisp. The pictures show her ethereal, makeup free, linen draped and pulling zucchini’s from the grounds of her private farm land; you, know like we all do on a Monday. It’s all mindless, until you try it. The vegan pancakes actually work. The meal plans are genuinely well managed to provide a personal with their complete nutritional needs – even when they are on a restrictive diet like vegan or gluten free. It is, like everything she produces, professional, thought out, ridiculous, lavish, elitist and funny. In her book “I’ll Have What She’s Having: My Adventures In Celebrity Diets” Rebecca Harrington comments that following Gwyneth’s diet plan really does change how she looks, entertains and feels about herself. Rachel Bertsche comes to a similar conclusion in her sort-of-memoir “Jennifer, Gwyneth and Me: The Pursuit of Happiness One Celebrity At A Time.”

The book and the blog are the logical extension of what the world celebrated Paltrow for in the yesteryear. The media manifested, and then lapped up, the image of Paltrow as Hollywood hierarchy but we just don’t seem to like the glimpse behind the throne. We rewarded her for being privileged and poised and are now berating her for being privileged and poised. She acts like an advantaged snob – because she is an advantaged snob, something we helped her become, but that doesn’t mean that she doesn’t have anything valuable to say. I don’t want to turn this into a gender debate; but I think it’s instructive to look at Paltrow’s costar in the wildly successful Ironman movies. Robert Downey Jnr grew up in a similarly connected entertainment adjacent and well-off family and had a similar run of early hits. Between the years of 2012 and 2013 it was estimated that he earned over seventy million dollars; a fact that he had mentioned frequently in interviews and has put in place financial demands which are apparently putting the future of an Ironman 4 at risk. He can have a similarly preachy edge – yet he is presented as an empowered soldier, battling against the insurmountable forces of Disney and Marvel. Would this be the same if GOOP where in this position?

Much was made of the conscious uncoupling of the Paltrow-Martin’s, there was ridicule and scorn everywhere. But what should they have done? Divorced in an unpleasant and publicly upsetting way? From paparazzi pictures it looks as though Chris and Gwyneth are genuinely affectionate and friendly to each other, even during the heartache of a breakup. She introduced him as “father of the year” at a charity gala months after they split. They’ve been spotted having dinner with their kids together. Sure, to consciously uncouple sounds hokey and stupid – but can we really argue with the results of it? Her diet sounds torturous, but with 437 five star reviews from real people taking steps to empower themselves through healthy eating, rather than snarky journalists, can we really say that she isn’t doing a good thing by spreading the GOOP health laws? She is often photographed with her female Hollywood friends and seems, at least from the outside, to be one of the truest supporters of other woman in the industry. If she encourages people to have an inner peace as muscular as her Tracy Anderson honed arms, are we really in a position to bitch about her. As a side note, please do yourself a favor and Youtube ‘Tracy Anderson’s arm workouts’ it looks like someone being hit by an industrial strength Taser. When she says that ‘life is a balance between tofu and cigarettes’ isn’t that sort of profound? The idea that everybody, from the very most privileged to the very least, have to find a balance in their lives that make them feel honored and secure and fulfilled.

Back to Vanity Fair briefly. Last year Graydon Carter, the magazine’s editor at large, had to rescind a proposed editorial takedown of Gwyneth. It was suggested that they had secrets about her that would positively change the way the public viewed her –as if they could hate her anymore. The article never materialized. Because truthfully, that’s not what we want. When you read about Paltrow, buy one of her books, watch one of her films or click on her website you are liable to laugh at the absurdity of it all. But you are also buying into a lifestyle that probably doesn’t actually exist. You are taking solace in the white washed world of the rich and the poreless. She produces lifestyle porn and like the real thing it is a fantasy rather than any representation of true life. You can hate all you like, but be aware that you might just end up with GOOP on your face.

 

 

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