Some celebrities incite backlash via truly awful things like domestic abuse, anti-Semitism, or rape. Gwyneth Paltrow needs only talk about outdoor wood-burning pizza ovens, conscious uncoupling, and $425 cleanses.
Since launching her lifestyle blog and e-commerce site goop six years ago, Paltrow has been the subject of constant mocking and a regular fixture on Star magazine's most-hated celebrity list. Nevertheless, she remains committed to dispensing advice on a well-lived life replete with private trainers, supple leather coats, and artisanal Hampton's brunches. Paltrow just hired Lisa Gersh, formerly of Oxygen Media and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, as CEO of goop. She is also launching a goop clothing line.
So now that our future seems like it might be goopier than ever, I think this is a good time to pause the Paltrow backlash for some reflection. Why, exactly, does her particular brand of casual elitism manage to burrow itself so deeply under our skin? As Paltrow once explained, "when anybody criticizes anyone, it's revealing more about where they are in time and space as opposed to where you are in time and space. ...it's usually a reflection of something else." She said this in response to criticism from Martha Stewart, but I suspect it applies to us all.
Consider the Paltrow alternative. Paltrow could be a 26-inch waist, impeccably dressed, dewy skinned multi-millionaire who swears she loves shopping at Target and eating cheeseburgers. She could pretend that she lost her baby weight by running after her kids. In interviews, she could insist that fame hasn't changed her and that the simple things in life like family, friends, and health, are all that really matter.
This isn't Gwyneth Paltrow. The real Paltrow wears her privilege right on that soft cashmere sleeve. Never for one second does she pretend that she has anything in common with regular folks like us. This doesn't make her out of touch; this makes her honest.
Thanks to carefully-maintained Instagram and Twitter feeds, as well as easily-manipulated tabloid magazines, it's become all too easy to feel as though we really know celebrities. We get to see them getting ready for awards nights, enjoying a lazy Sunday, and even breastfeeding their newborns. The result is a sense of artificial intimacy that makes us believe that maybe US Weekly is right; stars really are just like us.
Paltrow is one of the few celebrities who seems unwilling to take part in this little pact. She isn't anything like us. She is rich and famous and beautiful and sleeps in pajamas more expensive than our nicest winter coats. We might balk at spending $1200 on a decorative box, but she doesn't. (She's said to be worth $140 million.) If you can't afford a $495 wooden skateboard, you just aren't her intended audience and it might be time to unsubscribe.
Though before giving up on goop, it's worth taking one last glance at the "do" section. There you will find a litany of diet and exercise tips that illustrate exactly how much money and time goes into looking like a movie star. It's a lot. From a story about how to make your legs longer by working out your fascia (connective tissue), to one about why honey is preferable to agave syrup as a sugar replacement, it's clear that Paltrow doesn't look the way she does through a combination of cheeseburgers and chasing around her kids. Much thought is put into every bite she takes, and doesn't take, and a lot of work goes into those toned arms and flat abs.
Paltrow isn't any more or less your friend than beloved stars like Jennifer Lawrence or Cameron Diaz; she is just less in the business of making us feel like she is. Though if I were looking for a gal pal among the Hollywood elite, I'd rather find someone who owns her privilege rather than hides it behind a Target shopping cart.