Friday, September 26, 2008

I Hate Gwyneth Paltrow

I have a strange attitude towards celebrity culture--I hate it, but I can't seem to tear my eyes away from the stray bits of copy I might by chance encounter via Jezebel or the supermarket checkout line. It is not unlike watching a trainwreck. But while we may feel some obligation to look on the plight of our fellow man and sympathize and help (kind of like why some suggest making eye contact with a stranger during a crisis in order to get them to help you), there is nothing redeemable and everything awful with paying attention to celebrities.

Except when you can make fun of them. For being completely outside of the societal mainstream and exemplifying privilege of all sorts, and in the case of Gwyneth Paltrow, the ultimate white privilege. Like, her habitus is not our habitus. Her doxa is not our doxa. And by "our," I mean the great majority of us who do not eat macrobiotic rice and do two hours of yoga a day and then get all fucking sanctimonious about it.

I should disclose that I have long hated Gwyneth Paltrow, ever since she won the Oscar for her breathy portrayal in Shakespeare In Love ("and I shall have poh-ehtry in my life...and adventchah...") when clearly Cate Blanchett should have won for Elizabeth. But I sort of got over that, as awards clearly mean nothing. I also hated her for being a Yoko Ono type that made Coldplay suck hard with a turn towards the maudlin ("Green Eyes,"), but then I realized that they always sucked and so really, hard to pinpoint the blame here. So anyway, former bases of hate, were probably fallacious, but now, my friends, I have found a new basis of hate:

Her lifestyle site. Called "Goop", which reminds you, alternately, of unctuous, viscous black substances that either devour human flesh or form the basis of America's fossil fuel dependence (is there a distinction?); poop (heh); or the pejorative "gook," in which case I am offended! It's not an acronym. It's just a word. Launched last week, amidst the economic crisis, her exhortations to all Americans for reclaiming the good life just as everywhere everyone sinks into pre-Daddy Warbucks Annie days (although I prefer the Jay-Z version):

My life is good because I am not passive about it. I want to nourish what is real, and I want to do it without wasting time. I love to travel, to cook, to eat, to take care of my body and mind, to work hard. I love being a mother who has to overcome my bad qualities to be a good mother. I love being in spaces that are clean and feel nice.

Over the years, I have tried lots of different things. I have made lots of mistakes. But I have figured some things out in the process and would like to share them with you. Whether you want a good place to east in London, some advice on where to stay in Austin, the recipe I made up this week, or some thoughts from one of my sages, GOOP is a little bit of everything that makes up my life.

Make your life good. Invest in what's real. Cook a meal for someone you love. Pause before reacting. Clean out your space. Read something beautiful. Treat yourself to something. Go to a city you've never been to. Learn something new. Don't be lazy. Workout and stick with it. GOOP. Make it great.

(Tagline: nourish the inner aspect. unfortunately, aspects are the outer countenance, Gwyn).

Gah. Yes, I expect the rest of the site, when it finally launches, to be as asinine and full of Deepak Chopra + Paolo Coehlo + The Secret plattitudes. Clearly, most people's lives suck because they are lazy, not because of the economy, barriers to entry and advancement, the rising costs of basic household needs, the unavailability of universal health care and family care options...if only they were not passive about their lives sucking! Being proactive about your happiness would bring that organic produce market to their impoverished neighborhood, so that they don't have to go to McDonald's after their second shift or the little bodega across the street!

The classist myopia of "good life" proselytizers like Paltrow, Alice Waters, the "slow food" movement, etc., really irks me. Read also this post by Dana McCourt on the problems with Michael Pollan's book The Omnivore's Dilemma. It says everything I would like to say, but better. Next week, I'll post a roundup of coverage on Steven Greenhouse's The Big Squeeze, for more on the socioeconmic aspects of this deepening stratification between the haves-plenty and the haves-not.

But for more Gwyn-bashing, read this post at Jezebel, and this article devoted to explaining the "unsurprising" backlash at the LA Times.