Gwyneth Paltrow showed up at the Golden Globes on Sunday, in support of The Politician which garnered two nominations. (Has anyone watched the entire series? I couldn’t make it.) She wore a very purposeful gown, one she knew would get her on best and worst dressed lists, which is exactly where she wants to be. Gwyneth doesn’t need everyone to get it, just the right people.
It’s also good timing because we are now getting the first look at her Netflix series, The Goop Lab. You can watch it here:
This seems extremely Gwyneth in its aesthetic: light, airy, everyone is dressed in neutral clothing, lots of white women. There’s mention of energy healing, psychedelics, psychic mediums, cold therapy, and orgasms. There’s definitely a female pleasure aspect to it, because the image accompanying the show is Gwyneth, in a pink dress, ensconced in a vagina (or is it a vulva?). It’s not subtle.
While we all associate Goop with Gwyneth, she has said over the last few years that she is trying to shift the company to a standalone brand not reliant on her celebrity. This is presumably why Elise Loehnen, Chief Content Officer of Goop, is heavily featured. She also hosts the Goop podcast (unless G pops in to interview a celebrity friend) and is the voice of the brand at conferences. I’m sure Elise is very good at her job, but this is a huge disconnect from a brand perspective.
Gwyneth is the reason the haters and the fans show up, and she knows this. She has often said Goop uses editorial to create controversy (and drive clicks) and has joked that she doesn’t know what the site writes about or sells anymore. But they can’t troll without Gwyneth because she is what gets the headlines and attention. While they’ve grown Goop to be a strong commerce site, it has not evolved past the point that it doesn’t need her. Netflix did not sign Goop’s editorial prowess, it signed with Gwyneth. No one is watching this show for Elise Loehnen.
To that point, I’m curious to see how much of this stuff G actually tries. A facial or some stretching, fine, but is she going to microdose on mushrooms, on camera? Or is it Goop employees who test, then report back? Because that will get old, real quick. Think of it like a celebrity chef – no one is tuning in to see the sous chef chop vegetables, even though that is a valuable job. We want Gordon Ramsay screaming about the wellington because that is TV. And because this show is essentially reality TV, friction is necessary, so where is that coming from on The Goop Lab?
From this short preview, it looks like they are using curiosity and maybe a little indignation to draw in an audience, much like they do with the website. Goop has positioned itself as the bold truthteller of wellness, even though at the same time they admittedly do not fact check and usually repeat dubious claims without a counter opinion. In the preview, Elise says that they are trying things people might be scared of. This is what they are banking on: that they are too ahead-of-the-curve for people to really “get” it, thus making people angry for “not getting it.”
To operate in the wellness field as successfully as Goop does takes a willful determination to not examine blindspots. This is an industry that aims to answer questions like “why do I always feel like sh-t?” or “why am I always tired?” without examining barriers to self-care (ie: working longer hours, tech fatigue, lack of access to nutritional food, preventive medicine, lack of sleep, lack of post-natal support, caregiver burnout). In Goop’s world, health exists in a vacuum and every woman is directly responsible for her circumstances. As we know, health is not that simple. People who live healthy lives can get sick and/or find themselves taking care of someone who is sick, and it’s sh-tty and scary and it’s not because they aren’t bold (or rich) enough to try cryotherapy.
And while Goop loves having a controversial Internet moment, it’s less invested in having the hard conversation. The company is based in the US, but you’d be hard pressed to find any info on health care or medical debt on the site. It’s not that Goop needs to come down on one side or the other politically, but by ignoring this massive, pressing issue, it mutes a big part of the health conversation for its readers. For a site that promotes itself as an advocate for women’s health in particular, there is no mention of pregnancy termination; the last article on birth control I could find was several years old.
But let’s get back to the preview clip and what it means to have G headlining her own show. She was on Planet of the Apps when Apple TV launched the first time (iTunes might forget, but I don’t!) and it was a flop. The Politician’s reviews were lukewarm. Gwyneth is a very good actress, even if she doesn’t do it a lot anymore, but an overconfident “reality” personality.
In the Goop videos, she plays herself as an irreverent and well-heeled WASP who can mix a martini and make a joke about warm nuts. I assume this is similar to what she will be doing on Netflix, but she thinks it’s a lot saucier than it is. (Trust me, I watch a lot of reality TV and know exactly the persona she is trying to project because there’s often a character on a reality TV show who thinks she is too smart/rich/sophisticated for reality TV.)
Will The Goop Lab draw an audience? Her video with Kate Hudson has garnered about 165k views on YouTube. Her makeup video with Gucci Westman has about 72k. In its first day, The Goop Lab preview has about 50k viewers. A famous YouTuber can get 5 million views brushing their teeth so contextually, this isn’t a lot. The bulk of traction on YouTube happens up front for most videos and the longer it stays up, the less views it receives. It’s nearly impossible to do Cats numbers (8 million) so let’s compare it to another show on Netflix, You. Even if The Goop Lab maintained 50k/day number, it would do about half of the season 2 preview of You (which is at 1.5 million since December 16).
Yes there will always be a space for G in pop culture and she can probably present at an award show any time she wants, but our Netflix queues are very competitive and booked up weeks in advance. For the first time in her life, Gwyneth might have to wait in line. Behind Penn Badgley.