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Gwyneth Paltrow

Netflix’s new Goop show: Not as whacky as you’d expect

TextAmelia Abraham

The Goop Lab actually makes us wonder: Is it time to stop giving Gwyneth Paltrow such a hard time?

When I think of Gwyneth Paltrow’s wellness company, Goop, it often conjures a cult-like image. I see a sleek and pristine pastel-hued universe. A soft-lit and ergonomic world where everyone is wearing £528 roll neck jumpers while harvesting cavolo nero and inhaling the scent of their own vaginas. I am not alone. Goop is thought of like a cult not just because it has the kind of overly-calming aesthetic that feels like it is lobotomising you, or a totally vague mantra (it’s all about “optimisation of self” says Paltrow), but because the organisation has been accused of scamming its customers more than once.

In 2018, Goop settled a false advertising after it claimed essential oils could fight depression, and it has never recovered from YoniGate – when it was sued for suggesting that you should slot a jade or rose quartz egg into your vagina, against the advice of gynecologists. Goop claimed the egg would help with hormonal balance, but this turned out to be false science. 

You have to hand it to Goop: since these events it has not succumbed to the pressure to look less woo woo to the outside world. I mean, it really did just release a candle that is supposed to smell like your vagina. (Or does it?) and now, it has launched its own show on Netflix, The Goop Lab, which promises to dive into the weird world of alternative therapies. We will “lead with curiosity” as we “look at psychedelics, energy work and other challenging wellness topics,” the people behind the show have claimed.

With Goop’s bad press and questionable track record, expectations for The Goop Lab have been high. Or low, depending on which way you look at it. The six-part series, which sees high priestess Paltrow mostly sit on the sidelines while her underlings (Goop staff) go off on whacky wellness sojourns, will premiere on Netflix next week and has already received a lot of press. There have been mocking reports about how Paltrow climbs into a giant vagina (naturally), and much conjecture about whether Netflix should have collaborated with the brand at all. “Netflix Giving Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop Lab A TV Show Is Irresponsible,” read one headline. “Gwyneth Paltrow’s Netflix Series Is a Nightmare – and a Terrible Bore,” read another. The Atlantic has even called the series “painful to watch”. 

Having watched a couple of preview episodes of The Goop Lab myself, for me, the disappointing reality was that, actually, endorsed by Netflix and packaged into a recognisable documentary formula, Goop suddenly didn’t look quite so crazy. In fact, the first episode is interesting, seemingly well researched and enjoyable, in the same kind of way as a lot of other low-energy lifestyle shows are, like Queer Eye or Tidying Up With Marie Kondo

The Goop Lab takes you to the frontier of a new(ish) wellness trend in each 30-minute episode. Episode one, “The Healing Trip” focuses on mushroom healing and other psychedelic therapies. It sees Goop staffers volunteer themselves to go to Jamaica for a retreat that offers you a controlled environment in which to explore psychedelics as a means to treat trauma, with one employee dealing with the loss of a parent who took their own life.

The Goop Lab – to be honest, and to my disappointment – just seems like an informative wellness documentary that could open up some new possibilities for people struggling with their physical or mental health”

What could possibly be more jarring than tripping balls and unearthing your deepest traumas with a random assortment of your colleagues on camera, you ask? Well, nothing. Which is why episode one of The Goop Lab actually makes for quite good television. First, experts explain the principles: psychedelics, by loosening you up, allow you to get closer to the trauma in your unconscious mind. Then, they all drink the mushroom tea (or Kool Aid – you decide). Then, they start to explore their feelings and the possibility of what happens when you “get out of the driver’s seat” in your mind. Hysterical laughing, crying, and freakouts ensue.

 The episode also offers helpful mini case studies on how other psychedelics might benefit our mental health. An ex-soldier explains how he took MDMA as part of a trial on PTSD, and it saved him from suicidal ideation. Another lady explains how she microdosed LSD for her depression, with life-saving consequences. The only downside of the episode is that – in classic American fashion – our hosts, Paltrow and her Goop chief content officer Elise Loehnen, don’t really really dwell on the negatives. What are the health risks? Who is this not appropriate for? 

Although Paltrow unsurprisingly sits the mushroom party out, she does conduct the expert interviews interspersed throughout the episode. My favourite moment of episode one is when she reminisces about how, this one time in Mexico, she took MDMA on the beach. Enough for a small laugh at her expense, yes, but other than that, she really doesn’t come off so bad. Which brings us to the crux of the series, or at least what I’ve seen so far. It makes us ask: is Goop as bad as the media makes out, or are we just revelling in the clickbait, the (see above) easy jibes?

When you watch old videos of Paltrow talking about her business in the past, she seems self-aware, humble. As she once joked with Jimmy Kimmel, about Goop, “I don’t know what the fuck we’re talking about”, before suggesting that she hasn’t tried a jade egg herself. Are we laughing at Paltrow or is she laughing at us? Yes, there is no denying that Goop has seriously fucked up with health advice and that it’s price tags mean its products are completely elitist and unaffordable to most people. But even if we could afford Goop, would most of us actually want to work out with $125,000 gold dumbbells, perform a coffee enema on ourselves, or own a candle that smells like our vagina? Probably not. 

Perhaps we are taking Goop too seriously. The Goop Lab provides an interesting moment to consider this question. In future episodes, it looks at cold exposure therapy, energy field massage, and psychic readings. With all of this in-store, maybe the show will get more off the wall. But for now, The Goop Lab – to be honest, and to my disappointment – just seems like an informative wellness documentary that could open up some new possibilities for people struggling with their physical or mental health. And ultimately, what’s so wrong with that?

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