The Goop Lab swaps out science for sparkle | Small Screen | Chicago Reader

The Goop Lab swaps out science for sparkle 

The latest addition to Gwyneth Paltrow’s empire is a spineless exploration of wellness wrapped in a glossy package.

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click to enlarge Forget a white lab coat, The Goop Lab is covered in pastels.

Forget a white lab coat, The Goop Lab is covered in pastels.

Adam Rose/Netflix

If you’ve been on the Internet at all in the last few years, you’re probably aware of Goop. Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle and wellness brand has been the subject of criticism since it came into the public eye, from jokes about their luxury vaginal jade eggs to more serious allegations of scientific misinformation. Paltrow’s critics liken her to a snake-oil salesman for the #girlboss generation, promoting pseudoscientific and capitalistic-minded answers to the very real gaps in women’s health care.

But amidst the controversy, Paltrow and Goop have remained staggeringly unscathed. Netflix’s The Goop Lab with Gwyneth Paltrow is a testament to the controversial brand’s unlikely staying power that is as glossy and uncritical as Goop itself.

The Goop Lab is not an inside look at Goop as a company. Rather, it’s a look at nontraditional wellness trends—psychedelics, energy healing, cold exposure therapy, among others—as tested by members of the Goop staff (nauseatingly referred to as “goopers”). More often than not, The Goop Lab feels like those popular challenge videos on YouTube where people try fads in order to dramatically change their lifestyle for views: “I went vegan for 30 days!” or “I tried waking up every day at 5 AM!”

The glaring problem with The Goop Lab is how little any of what they try is questioned. Each episode features researchers who study these trends or use them in their practice, but the audience is never given the chance to hear an alternate perspective. Sometimes there are questions raised from skeptics within Goop—in the sixth episode, “Are You Intuit,” one gooper has a hard time believing in psychic mediums and spiritual healing—but there are never any legitimate counter arguments made from scientists or other experts.

Each episode starts with a disclaimer that The Goop Lab is designed to entertain, not to give medical advice. It’s a pretty blanket “get out of jail free” card, but one that aptly evokes the frustrating philosophy of Goop, which is to try these trends with curiosity and an open mind. While a bit naive, it’s a harmless sentiment on the surface. It becomes a problem, though, when that blissful ignorance is turned towards women’s health care. Not only is women’s pain routinely underidentified and undertreated, but alternate solutions often come in the form of expensive cure-alls and dangerous health fads.

One of the most egregious episodes is “The Health-Span Plan,” in which Paltrow and her team try diets that mimic fasting in order to reverse their “biological age.” While there has been some research on the health benefits of intermittent fasting, the way it’s depicted as an anti-aging miracle treatment in The Goop Lab often feels like a gross glorification of disordered eating.

However, The Goop Lab isn’t all bad. The episode “The Pleasure Is Ours” is actually a quite refreshing examination of orgasms, negotiating consent, body image, and the shame that’s so often put on women for wanting sexual pleasure. What could have easily been a half hour’s worth of marketing for Goop’s $425 gold handcuffs (a real thing!) ended up provoking necessary conversations.

But any good that comes from The Goop Lab is ultimately undermined by its spinelessness. It’s hard to sit through glowing testimonials for jumping in freezing water as a way to reduce anxiety or expensive vampire blood facials when our health-care system is in crisis. It’s even more insulting to watch an affluent and successful woman like Paltrow tell you that the secret to wellness is something you can buy from her.

Goop is dangerous because of how nicely it packages its bullshit—masquerading expensive products backed by pseudoscience as vital forms of health care—and Netflix is complicit in the amplification of that message. More than anything, though, The Goop Lab feels like those long-winded commercials for medications that try to bury the long list of side effects with fun, harmless imagery.   v

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