When Gwyneth Paltrow made the random-seeming decision in October to start a weekly series of lifestyle newsletters, we — like almost everyone else — greeted the first wave of them with scorn. Critics deemed the venture irrelevant and patronizing, and we personally weren’t sure we wanted life lessons from someone who once publicly sported angry bruises resembling incompetent hickeys because she’d undergone an obscure detoxification procedure. However, six months into the life of Goop.com, here’s the dirty little secret we have to confess: It’s totally addictive.
Make no mistake, Gwynnie’s missives are not helpful. At all. Want a dinner idea? Try this cool thing called “pesto.” Need a vegetable dish? Gwynnie dug deep to produce a steamed-peas recipe that involves — wait for it — steaming some peas. In a travel primer about Paris, she tipped us off to some joint called the Ritz; for Los Angeles, the Beverly Hills Hotel. In short, 95 percent of what she will ever mention has already occurred to you, and you’ve been crying for months about being unable to afford most of it. And the cherry on top is the dreadful name: Gwyneth claims GOOP was her childhood nickname and swears she didn’t know its alternate meaning, but we don’t believe her, because we are certain she was not raised in a cave. For most of us, it evokes a botched recipe or something you’d scrape off your shoe — hardly a positive association for self-improvement advice.
But little by little, GOOP’s relentless obliviousness sneaks up on you and becomes oddly charming. Once you realize you’re reading it not for the information, but for the peek into how Gwyneth ticks, it becomes hilarious — not annoying — when Gwyneth blithely exalts rare hibiscus-flavored Majorcan salt, or recommends giving someone a $1,400 leather weekend-getaway bag for Christmas. You react with an amused, “Of course” when a pal of the woman who once evangelized macrobiotic living produces a recipe called “Dino Meat,” made of unappetizing lumps of obscure meat substitute served with mushy grains arranged in the shape of a cow (the awesome photo of which single-handedly validated our continued membership). Entertainingly, even the tongue baths Gwyneth gives to the celebrity pals she’s roped into contributing feel like she thinks they’re cute insider dish. Christy Turlington is an “amazing mother” who recommends Jane Austen, while “great dresser” Wes Anderson suggests a Japanese cartoon he says “could spawn something like Scientology.” There’s something endearing about the image of Gwyneth sitting in a garret somewhere banging out a few paragraphs about the butt exercises she does when her trainer goes on tour with Madonna, or nagging Steven Spielberg to boost our cultural education with a list of his favorite flicks. (That he actually did it is also rather sweet.) Indeed, as vanity projects go, at least Gwyneth’s intentions are good, if perhaps condescending — like when she had Deepak Chopra proffer tips on how to be grateful at Thanksgiving, as if we Philistines couldn’t figure that out otherwise. On the other hand, obviously Deepak is one of her go-to gurus; we’re actually shocked the Dalai Lama has escaped her reach.
So although GOOP may fail in its stated objective of “nourishing the inner aspect” — sorry, we are not self-loathing enough to do a seven-day cleanse for speedy weight loss — it succeeds as a snapshot of who Gwyneth is, believes she is, or aspires to be. Just as The Martha Stewart Show taught us that Martha is a big ol’ flirt who loves potato vodka, GOOP is at least as revealing as any Vanity Fair interview, and more honest than anything we’d expect to come from a celebrity of Gwyneth Paltrow’s stature. So in the spirit of that bravery — intentional or otherwise — we hope she continues to ignore her detractors and forges ahead unchanged. After all, it certainly beats trying to sell us leggings or spray-tanner.
Related: Smart Goop: Depression-era Health Regimes Return [NYM]
For more of the Fug Girls, check out Go Fug Yourself.