Gwyneth Paltrow radiates towards me through the Netflix window, a blissful vision with honeyed reflections. “Your derailed life is the best thing that can happen to you,” she says. “This is not the end, this is the beginning.”
Pop quiz: is this a line of The Politician, Ryan murphyfrom the glossy series about a high performing player in Los Angeles? Or a motivational message from The Goop Lab with Gwyneth Paltrow, his glossy series about a high performing person in Los Angeles?
Yes, this is the first one, but it might as well be Goop’s mission statement small screen debut, an airy six-episode series that hits the streaming platform Friday. In the dozen or so years since Paltrow rebranded this bulky word as his own, what started out as a fancy newsletter has turned into a juggernaut of well-being. We know that Goop sells both expensive products (candy-colored vibrators, homemade supplements, clickbait candles) and advice backed by gurus known to trigger happy and occasional eliminations trial. We’re crammed into Goop: its website, podcast, print publications, pop-ups and summits. With so many good TVs vying for our attention, why throw a Netflix series into the mix?
Of course, there’s Paltrow’s incandescent presence, a corporate asset if ever there is one. But there is another reason this show exists. It’s as if the company is trying to troll the skeptics: seeing is believing.
Or perhaps it is more accurate to say that seeing is as good as it sells. Halfway through the first episode, which follows a contingent of Goop employees during a therapeutic psilocybin session in Jamaica, I was in it. The snow is breaking my front steps in Brooklyn; emotional catharsis against the backdrop of banana leaves has never sounded so good.
What do you get in a half hour dose of Goop? Each episode centers on one aspect of well-being that has been under-explored, whether infuriating or justified: therapeutic psychedelics, mind-breathing techniques on matter, female orgasms, anti-aging tips, bodywork based on energy and average readings. Like all things in the GP universe, The Goop laboratory is a pre-established lightning rod. (A critical declined to issue a spoiler alert as “nothing in this series is spoiled.”)
Is the show stereotypical? Sure. It’s a patchwork of televised tropes: the talking heads of news documentaries; the jokes from Paltrow’s morning show and her pixie-haired foil, content manager Élise Loehnen; the tearful breakthroughs and fireside recaps of reality TV. “Gwyneth Paltrow, GP, aka guinea pig,” Loehnen says in episode involving founder, 47, subjected to quick five-day impersonation meal plan (slim choices for $ 249) and a “vampire” facial. You know this last treatment: these are the same microinjections of your own platelet-rich plasma that Kim kardashian not yet-Where is shared in a 2013 selfies, to the bloody horror of the Internet. “I like it to be my own material. It’s not a toxin, ”says Paltrow, his skin painted with numbing cream. “People shoot weird stuff in their faces!
The other guinea pigs are a representative sample of Goop staff: accountant, IT administrator, private client manager (which implies an even higher level of privilege than that usually examined). We watch them channel psychic energy and stumble upon mushrooms; the expert in breathing that defies the cold Wim Hof, straight out of Aquatic life with Steve Zissou in his red knit cap, leads a pack in swimsuits through “snowga”.
Is the show spongy on concrete facts? Of course; what about the word semi-solid Hello would imply the opposite? Here, accredited physicians and handpicked case studies share their (usually unchallenged) views and experiences; news bulletins flash on screen as electronic arpeggios play. (“In 2005, the urologist Helen O’Connell was the first scientist to map the complete structure of the clitoris using MRI scans on living subjects, ”it reads, pointing to the backlog of research – particularly with regard to female bodies – which explains why unverified healing modalities have an audience.) I was impatient. with its airy approach to the material, a stark contrast to Vox’s intelligently dense sound Explain, elsewhere on Netflix, but I’m also impatient with critics expecting something else in the first place. The Goop Lab, as its warning clearly indicates, is not a substitute for your doctor; it is “designed to entertain and inform”. Goop’s power does not lie in rigorous fact-checking; it’s in a shaky cellphone video taken by an offscreen Apple (the girl, not the tech company) as her mom moans during a 500 calorie fast.