The Goop Lab with Gwyneth Paltrow is a new Netflix show that premiered Friday. It follows company employees as they experiment with various wellness techniques and cures for various ills.
The show begins with a medical disclaimer, which immediately sets off my skepticism. Goop is well known for its expensive, pseudo-scientific cures for various ailments and complaints, as well as its other absurd products. The medical disclaimer seemed to confirm that The Goop Lab was going to be more of the same. However, as I kept watching, my skepticism was somewhat (but not entirely) diminished.
The show explores various experimental wellness ideas with the ultimate aim of helping people live a better life. It relies very heavily on anecdotal evidence and the experiences of the Goop staff as they explore these various methods. Many of these methods are definitely pseudo-scientific. There are mentions of scientific studies but also of spiritual elements.
The Episodes: The Good
In the first episode, psychedelics, especially magic mushrooms, are put forth as a potential treatment for trauma, anxiety, and depression. Various members of the Goop staff revealed their struggles and went to Jamaica where such treatments are legal to experiment. It seemed to work for them, but it was nothing particularly new and exciting.
Next, the Goop staff explores cold water as a treatment for stress. The theory is by putting the body in a state of stress through cold water you teach the body how to respond to stress in a productive way. This idea gives people a sense of control. There is value in feeling like you have control over your own body, even if it’s scientifically questionable. Assuming, of course, there are no dangerous side effects, which certainly seem possible.
The third episode explores female pleasure and exercises on self-love, intimacy, and communication. The experts and the Goop team explore the idea that women are allowed to feel good in their own bodies, and how body image and sex conflate for women. Unlike the other wellness adventures, there seems to be no downside to this one, no false hope, no dangerous side, effects just self-love and empowerment.
The Episodes: Not So Good
The Goop Lab then moves into the world of diets, anti-aging and beauty solutions. This is an annoying leap from the self-love and empowerment espoused in the previous episode but I can’t say I’m shocked that Goop chose to go in this direction. This episode is all about diet, biological age, and “health.” Some of the diets seemed fine, but others were clearly disordered eating under the guise of healthy living. I’m worried about Gwyneth Paltrow after watching her eat that little for 5 days and talk about all the other dramatic cleanses she’s done. After the meaningful subject matter, however nonsensical, of the first three episodes, this just seems shallow.
The last two episodes are all about energy and psychic readings, and by this time they’d lost me a little. It’s a lot of “wellness” to get through in 24 hours. Like the rest of these treatments, the purpose seems well-intentioned and poorly researched. For the first half of the show, the treatments made some sort of sense. The second half was all the Goop-tastic eye-roll-inducing stuff I was expecting from the beginning.
It’s not clear to me why people are hating on this so much. Yes, some of the “wellness” discussed in The Goop Lab is total nonsense, but it’s just not that deep. Does Gwyneth Paltrow live in a bubble of a wealthy white woman’s privilege? Obviously. However, many of the stories are truly moving. These stories come from good people just trying to find health and healing in a difficult world.
That begs the question, is this exploiting trauma for profit? Probably. But what isn’t these days? Watching the show did not seem exploitative, silly at times, misguided at others, but certainly not malicious.
There are upsides and downsides to The Goop Lab. Just like everything else, if you want to find something to hate on, you’ll find it. If you take a step back from it all, the show is not all bad and not all good. Goop as a company has issues in terms of dangerous, unresearched cures, sure, but after watching The Goop Lab, it all seems well-intentioned. It’s certainly not for everyone. It requires an open mind, but it’s just not as bad as everyone seems to think.