Gwyneth Paltrow: is her life a work of performance art?

RGwyneth Paltrow’s Goop gift list has been a media spotlight for years, to the point that the website even gives it a title: “The Ridiculous But Awesome Gift Guide”. Still, even those not driven by well-documented animus toward Paltrow (there should be a healing crystal for this, it’s that intense) have taken issue with the $15,000 vibrator encased in 24-karat gold. I’ve spent ages down a rabbit hole trying to figure out what kind of person might need a gold vibrator, and the closest I can come up with is someone whose kink is obscenely rich. But that’s definitely not anyone’s kink.

Others have taken issue with the oddities: a gong fascination that includes not only a $2,000 gong but also gong workshops with a personal gong trainer. A nearly $400 Parmesan cheese looks like a standard slap in the face to impoverished morals everywhere. The most expensive gift, nearly $40,000 for a single night at an eco-resort in Fiji, hit all the buttons of Great Gatsby debauchery and a rich culture so untethered to state or nation that the place became a backdrop and the locals was just an extra. It’s Marie Antoinette’s fake village rebooted: the eco-resort.

But one comment on Reddit stood out to me: “If (Gwyneth) comes out one day and says this whole persona was an elaborate piece of performance art, I’d support her getting an Oscar for that alone.” Performance art, defined in the broadest sense of the word by theorist Jonah Westerman in 2016, is “not (and never was) a medium, not something that a work of art can do.” are, but rather a set of questions and concerns about how art relates to people and the broader social world.”

Obscenely rich kink… the gold vibrator featured in Goop’s gift guide. Photo: Goop

Paltrow started Goop in 2008 as a portal for the informed, ambitious, global consumer. It was never paid for, so it wasn’t elitist in that sense, and it always had things on it, recipes and such, that most people could afford. Yet it was completely brazen, as Paltrow has been in interviews and seminars, in selling goods at the highest conceivable price and often the lowest conceivable actual value. New era parking woo-woo for a moment (the seven-day detox cures, the barefoot walking to cure depression, the vaginal steaming) there is a provocation here or at least a disconnect – it was 2008. For the first time, especially since Paltrow was alive, a global financial crisis had led many to question whether capitalism could survive. There was a genuine feeling, which did not materialize – you may have noticed – that the system could radically reform itself during that crisis. Into that maelstrom, Paltrow dropped her vision of luxury, which was so ridiculous that it’s surprising we didn’t immediately see it as a critique of consumption itself. Did she express a series of questions and concerns about how meaningless things relate to people and the wider world? Hell, yeah.

The wellness content on Goop grew, and over time it began to irritate and then infuriate clinicians, especially Dr. Jen Gunter, the Canadian gynecologist and specialist in chronic pain and vulvovaginal disorders. Concerned for public health, Gunter dedicated himself to debunking Gwyneth’s nonsense online: “Tampons are not vaginal death sticks, vegetables with lectins do not kill us, vaginas do not need to be steamed, the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) causes not every thyroid disease. and for God’s sake no one needs to know their latex farmer; what they need to know is that the only thing standing between them and HIV or gonorrhea is a few millimeters of latex.”

One thing Paltrow emphatically is not is a reputable source of public health information. The New York Times journalist Taffy Brodesser-Akner attended a Goop conference and described her mission: “Everyone from an acupuncturist to a clairvoyant to an endocrinologist to a psychologist was asking questions that the modern woman seemed unable to answer: Why am I so unhappy? Why am I so tired? Why am I so fat? Why don’t I want to have sex anymore?” Which, laid out flatly, doesn’t even seem like a new-age medical intervention, but a chainsaw for another pillar of capitalism: that all your problems, if you just look inside with some expert guidance, are yours to solve. unload. That is clearly not the case; Sometimes you have to hear a psychic say something to realize it’s not true.

Gong galore... a $2000 gong.
Gong galore… a $2000 gong. Photo: Goop

Paltrow performed a kind of jiu-jitsu move after the obs-gynaes came after her, describing all the criticism as a “cultural firestorm,” as it always will be “when it comes to a woman’s vagina.” It’s true that she’s talked a lot about vaginas, not just about steaming, but also about the jade egg — which got Goop facing legal action for its unscientific claim that sticking it there was a good idea — and the candle called This Smells Like My Vagina. The outrage over the candle wasn’t mainly about medical accuracy — some of it was more about disgust for women’s bodies — which got back to Paltrow’s point that the problem was the territory, not the content. Because what’s it to you if Paltrow likes a candle that smells like her vagina? No one said you had to buy it.

A deliberate promotion of the actual… Goop's 'biofrequency' stickers.
A deliberate promotion of the actual… Goop’s ‘biofrequency’ stickers. Photo: BodyVibes

In fact, these provocations appear to go online, but are faked soon after. Take rectal ozone therapy, which, for those who haven’t been keeping track, involves delivering gas through a catheter into the colon, something she said on this year’s podcast The Art of Being Well as being the weirdest wellness procedure she’s ever done. ever had. . The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says ozone is a toxic gas with no known useful medical use in specific, complementary or preventive therapy. In 2017, Goop promoted “biofrequency” stickers that apparently “rebalance the energy frequency in our bodies” and were reportedly made from NASA spacesuit material. Almost immediately, NASA said it was not using such materials in its spacesuits. “Wow, what a load of BS this is,” said former NASA scientist Mark Shelhamer. told Gizmodo.

This isn’t just woo-woo, but more of a deliberate promotion of the factual. It’s only explainable in literal terms if we assume Paltrow is a dumbass, which I don’t think is possible. After all (I keep forgetting) she is also an actor, and a much better one than most.

If, on the other hand, we assume that Paltrow is engaged in an elaborate cultural invective, then it recalls almost all of Susan Sontag’s description of the Events from the sixties. These performances, mainly by artists and some by academics, had, she wrote, “no plot… eschewing sustained rational discourse, even if they included words like ‘help’”. This was perhaps the origin of the performance art form (Dadaists, we can take this up another time). The Happening often seems to “tease and abuse the audience,” Sontag noted. It can sprinkle water on them, surround them with atonal sound, pelt them with gravel or manure, deny them full view of the action, certainly deny them any logic or story. “This insulting audience involvement seems, in the absence of anything else, to form the dramatic backbone of the Happening.” Seriously, what is rectal ozone therapy if it is not an event? What is the insult to reason but its dramatic backbone?

Another important element of a happening is that it involves the person ‘as a material object’ (Sontag again), rather than a character – people were often made to look like objects, wrapped in muslin or paper – and this too has echoes. from Goop. Of the $135 coffee enema to the bee sting therapythese practices – objectively meaningless and psychologically coercive – ultimately treat the body as a material object, rather than as an organism.

And of course the hallmark of performance art, the one thing we all know: it cannot be bought, it can only be experienced. That’s true, if not for all the junk, then maybe for the gift guide: Does anyone really drop $15,000 on a vibrator?

Even her divorce was beautiful... Paltrow and Chris Martin pictured together in 2014.
Even her divorce was beautiful… Paltrow and Chris Martin pictured together in 2014. Photo: Colin Young-Wolff/Invision/AP

By 2013, Paltrow was an established love-hate figure, especially in the US, where Vanity Fair commissioned a cover story on her to discuss why she was so ‘polarising’. But the magazine’s editor, Graydon Carter, withdrew the piece, not just because Paltrow reportedly got wind of it and told her famous friends to “never do this magazine again,” but because the piece was, said Carter: “So far away. from the almost mythical story that people now expected – the ‘epic takedown’ full of ‘bombshell’ revelations – that it would inevitably be a disappointment.’ It was almost an apology: sorry folks, we simply haven’t found the evidence to support that you hate her as much as you do.

People often try to trace the roots of this animus back to Paltrow’s sheer perfection. She owes who she is, all her success (according to the theory), to the fact that we all want to be her, and she flogs us with that dream, knowing that we can never achieve it, that she is just too extraordinary. Everything about her, her lifestyle, her wealth, her children, her skin, her body, everything, up to her divorce from Coldplay frontman Chris Martin, is beautiful (they had a divorce ceremony where they threw pebbles into the sea.) was beautiful !). It’s a kind of Ponzi scheme, in that it takes a lot of us to believe in it, to assure her that she is the one and only winner. I think that would create a certain amount of resentment.

But what if she turned into money not the hopeless dreams of fools, but the spectacle of ridiculousness itself? While she has clearly made a decent profit from the US wellness industry, which is estimated to be worth $450 billion and growing, it seems unlikely that she did it all for the money (I refer back to the acting career, which did just fine ). I wouldn’t be surprised if she set everything on fire, like the KLF. I wouldn’t be surprised if she thought billionaires were tacky. I wouldn’t be surprised by anything unless it turns out she really means it.

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