Knowing I had to write about Gwyneth Paltrow’s new Netflix series the goop lab, I tried to recruit a couple of pals to watch it with me.
“I’d rather not,” was one friend’s response.
I upped the ante with the promise of snacks and wine to accompany the viewing.
“Nah, truly mate, I’d rather gouge my eyes out with a rusty spoon,” was the firmer reply.
Anti-Gwyneth sentiment has been rolling around the internet for some time now.
She is considered Hollywood royalty (Steven Spielberg is her godfather) and it was always going to be very easy to envy – and eventually loathe – Gwyneth.
It started when she stole everyone’s ultimate boyfriend Brad Pitt in the mid-1990s.
That was followed by her now-iconic emotional speech following her (head-scratching) Academy Award win for Shakespeare in Love.
Then she started her lifestyle brand goop and began selling a lot of overpriced new-age BS like Moon Juice Brain Dust.
The piece de resistance was when she split from Chris Martin and announced on the goop website that they were “consciously uncoupling”. The world rolled its eyes collectively.
So it’s little wonder a large portion of the population has started off on the wrong foot with her six-part Netflix series that is “dedicated to exploring ideas that may seem out there or too scary”.
We tried to watch the first episode of that Goop / Gwyneth Paltrow show on Netflix and honestly, human extinction isn't such a bad idea.
— WG Saraband 🏴🇵🇹🏳️🌈 (@wgsaraband) January 24, 2020
I'm glad Netflix has added stuff like Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop and David Lynch talking shite to a monkey because I was running out of things to make fun of
— Name cannot be blank (@gamesareshite) January 20, 2020
Some of the topics that Paltrow and her goop staffers explore in the series include whether a cold shock to your body can improve your immune system, if you can reduce your biological age through diet, whether having your energy field massaged can heal your body and mind, and if everyone has undiscovered psychic abilities.
As soon as the series landed, reviews have described the series as “a nightmare and a terrible bore”, “a high-end infomercial masquerading as an investigative docuseries,” and “a demented paean to self-indulgence”.
- Related story: Gwyneth Paltrow’s guide to Christmas gifts
One of the biggest criticisms is that the show spruiks pseudoscience in a hugely irresponsible manner.
Despite each episode beginning with a disclaimer that “the series is designed to entertain and inform, not provide medical advice”, it still parades as scientifically sound (let’s not forget that it has “lab” in its title).
Goop staffers are sent to take part in flawed “experiments” where they road-test the therapies.
It becomes clear that a staged sceptic has been cast as part of the group to make the experiments seem more credible.
Emotional testimonials from everyday people who swear by the remedies are also featured throughout – in the episode about cold therapy we meet a man diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome, who was told he had a 50:50 chance of being paralysed, and who claims he avoided paralysis by hyperventilating like the episode’s coach taught him.
But as scientist Jonathan Jarry so eloquently points out, “anecdotes are dirty data: they are contaminated by a dozen variables we know and many more we can’t even imagine. This is why goop’s emphasis on trying things out to see if they work is so problematic and potentially dangerous”.
- Related story: Gwyneth and hubby’s peculiar living arrangement
The series is not entirely without merit though (besides the fact that it’s mildly entertaining hearing Paltrow say the F-word every now and then … presumably to show that she’s a “real” person, just like us).
The use of psychedelics to treat certain psychological disorders is gaining traction in the scientific community and extensive research is being done into it.
In one episode the goop lab explores this topic.
Opening up the conversation around psychedelics is not a bad thing – though it is admittedly done in a fairly unscientific manner.
But perhaps the most worthy episode is the one that discusses female pleasure.
Sex educator Betty Dodson has worked hard to break down the taboos and subsequent misinformation that surrounds the female orgasm.
The episode points out that many women are not familiar with the fact that female genitalia varies wildly in appearance, and there is no “normal”.
This lack of understanding has most likely contributed to the rise in labiaplasty surgery around the world, from women who are scared their vulvas look wrong in some way. And so viewers are shown a series of photos of labias up close, to demonstrate the extraordinary variation.
It’s a shining moment in the series that is bold, educational and positive … in what is otherwise a sea of goop.