Goop, the lifestyle brand founded by Gwyneth Paltrow, is brilliant at generating headlines. It is a company synonymous with perfectly outrageous phrases like ‘vaginal steaming’, ‘Moon Juice Brain Dust’, and ‘psychic vampire repellent’ – just three of the things the brand has advocated in the name of ‘wellness’. And, when the image for its new Netflix series The Goop Lab appeared in January – Paltrow standing in front of a series of pink and purple lines designed to look like a vulva – the internet did exactly what Goop wanted, and talked about the programme loudly and incessantly. Since the show came out on January 24, many have criticised the pseudoscience at the heart of the techniques featured in the show – including the head of the NHS – but others have pointed out that it also manages to communicate positive messages about things like sexuality and contemplation.
Generally speaking, there are two main stances on Goop: it’s harmless bollocks or it’s harmful bollocks. The company is the subject of constant parody; Toni Collette’s character in Rian Johnson’s very recent film Knives Out, for example, runs a similarly vacuous company called ‘Flam’. Since its inception in 2011, Goop has had to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in lawsuit settlement costs and admit that the claims it made about its infamous ‘Jade Egg’ – an egg that is inserted into the vagina and is supposed to help strengthen the pelvic floor – had no basis in science. It has also been reported to advertising authorities and roundly criticised for advocating bogus science and making its products so outrageously expensive.
In The Goop Lab, each of the six episodes examines one subject. These six are: psychedelic psychotherapy; cold water swimming; getting to know one’s genitalia; biological ageing; energy fields; and mediums. Paltrow and her CCO Elise Loehnen interview spokespeople for the various techniques and either ask the Goop staff members to be prodded, drugged up and probed, or volunteer to undergo the experiences themselves. There is an awful lot of hugging, heavy breathing, and sentences like “Wow. I feel like I really connected with myself there?” If it’s not your kind of thing, it’s going to be really not your kind of thing.
But, while the show undoubtedly features a colossal amount of nauseating new-age California wellness crap, there are valuable messages to be found. The episode in which women embrace their sexuality and get to know their bodies more intimately could be shown in schools; and there is a lot of evidence suggesting that psychedelic drugs should be used to combat various problems like PTSD. So, if you can stomach Paltrow and her colleagues banging on about the transformative power of speaking to the dead or having a man manipulate your energy fields while waving his hands high above your body, you might find some interesting stuff in there.
On which note: here are 15 quotes that are either legitimately from The Goop Lab or have been made up to fool you. Can you guess which is which in the NME Goop Lab quiz?