Thursday, October 16, 2008


Something deeply unpleasant happens to the character played by Gwyneth Paltrow in David Fincher's serial killer movie Se7en. I have yet to meet anybody who didn't find this the single most pleasing aspect of the film.

Gwyneth Paltrow seems to inspire a unique level of dislike, outstripping even Kiera Knightley, because, unlike Kiera, even men don't liker her. What is it? Is it the blubbing at the Oscars? The friendship with Madonna? The unimaginable horror of her and Chris Martin's organic wheat free lifestyle?

Whatever it is, it isn't going to get any better with the arrival of her website. It's called GOOP and it's subtitled: Nourish the Inner Aspect. It gets worse. But it gets worse in a very particular way, carrying with it so many 21st century myths, buzzwords and half baked philosophies that its like a crash course in the most vacuous aspects of contemporary culture.

First there is the depoliticised solipsistic positivity - the notion that one's success and happiness is entirely optional and that a bit of strength of mind and sense of purpose will net us all a life as fabulous as Gwyneth Paltrow's. "My life is good because I am not passive about it", she writes. Centuries of political struggle are washed away with this staunch rebuke. Of course! The rest of us are just being passive lumps of inertia. Get a hold of yourself, you too can be a successful movie star says Gwynnwth Paltrow "the daughter of Blythe Danner, an actress, and the late Bruce Paltrow, a film and television director, writer, and producer".

Then there's the endless referral to a spurious notion of the authentic, as if certain objects and activities can be more real than others. More often than not this is simply a kind of chi chi good taste dressed up as a quest for essence. Aesthetic taste based on class and cultural aspiration is justified as somehow ethically superior to other choices and other products. Frequently the economic exclusivity of these products is brushed off as an inconvenient illusion, as if we might all be able to afford them were we to have less poverty of the mind. The altruistic hand of help offered here is really just a way of reaffirming the aesthetic preferences of the well off.

The name Goop is no doubt intended to summon up the messy vitality of her life in a self consciously cute and non-threatening way: a kind of "it's all here, unmediated, just like my crazy old life" conceit. Maybe it was her and Chris' euphemism for what came out of Apple's bottom, the kind of smug aesthetic objectification of mess that only those whose lives are otherwise super clean and neurotic could make.

And, of course, there are the disingenuous attempts at philosophical questioning that only serve to illustrate how centred, happy and spiritual Gwyneth Paltrow herself is. People who describe themselves as spiritual make one pine for the ideological conviction of organised religion. To badly paraphrase Adorno, the problem here is not that there isn't enough spiritual contentment in the world, but that there is already too much.

If you join the site's mailing list you will get treated to a weekly newsletter. Each of these comes under a subject heading such as Be, Make, Go, See etc. This week Gwyneth tackles the ethereal category of Be. This takes the form of a question addressed to some of the world's leading thinkers. No not Stephen Fry but Michael Berg of the Kabbalah Centre and "New York psychologist Karen Binder-Brynes" amongst others. Here is Gwyneth's burning question:

I have a friend who sees the world in a pessimistic light. This person is highly suspicious of people and situations, and sees, as well as experiences negativity at most turns. Why is this and what does it mean? What can be done to help someone of this nature?

The question is angled so heavily towards the kind of soft gloop of positivist tolerance-speak as to be utterly pointless. It is obviously only really meant to articulate Gwyneth's sense of compassion and the exulted plane of spiritual happiness she herself has ascended to. Somehow you just know that none of the answers are going to say:

"Your friend is right, the world IS a piece of shit".


"Stop interfering you arrogant overbearing tosser".

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Anonymous said...

I love you. thank you thank you for being around.

- admirer

BG said...

Does "nourish the inner aspect" actually mean anything? It's an incredible phrase.

I've been staring at the wall for 16 minutes, trying to find a meaning.

Yes, I realise that's probably longer than Gwyneth spent on it. But it must yield a meaning soon or later. Right?

Anonymous said...

I loathe Gwyneth Paltrow. Oh god, how I long to slap her serene face perched atop its scrawny greyhound neck. I remember when, travesty of travesties, she was cast as Sylvia Plath, she claimed to have great insight into depression because, after her own father's death, she was "clinically depressed for a couple of days". Ahahahahahah!!!

Charles Holland said...

B.G. More mal-nourished isn't it really?

Aloof, she is supremely unpopular. It's actually quite impressive in an odd way.

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