A platform for junk science, gibberish, and unproven health claims
January 17, 2020 12:37 PM   Subscribe

The review starts off with a disclaimer (more of a warning):
Disclaimer: This review contains detailed information about the Netflix series the goop lab with Gwyneth Paltrow. If you plan to watch the show (please, don't) and do not wish to know details in advance, this is not the review for you. Normally, we would refer to such information as "spoilers," but in our editorial opinion, nothing in this series is spoil-able.
- ArsTechnica reviews the Netflix series "The Goop Lab" in the style of the New York Times' review of Guy's American Kitchen & Bar in Times Square .
posted by jenkinsEar (37 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
"It's our favorite subject—vaginas!" Paltrow proclaims gleefully [Ep.3, 3:05]. Then the same guest, feminist sex educator Betty Dodson, corrects her: "The vagina is the birth canal—only. You want to talk about the vulva, which is the clitoris, and the inner lips, and all that good shit around it."

Paltrow giggles before responding, "The vagina is only the birth canal? Oh! See, I'm getting an anatomy lesson that I didn't—I thought that the vagina was the whole..."

"No, no, no, no," Dodson cuts her off.

Obligatory Dr. Jen Gunter:

So @goop and ⁦@GwynethPaltrow⁩ called me strangely confident about the vagina and yet Paltrow didn’t know the vagina from the vulva. Guess that jade egg practice and sex book were really useful

She's also written it up in longer form:

Goop’s pseudoscience ministry comes to Netflix
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 12:46 PM on January 17 [14 favorites]

Using the marketing title "the goop lab" is interesting on a certain level. The people behind it eschew if not talk down the expertise of scientists and medical professionals, while coöpting the same language to imply the company has a physical presence, where empirical research, study, controlled experimentation, and other aspects of science go on, where those processes are respected. It's Science™!
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 12:47 PM on January 17 [33 favorites]

ugh she is vile.

I was explaining to my husband the other night that so many women get bamboozled by these charlatans because they are so often failed by the western medical industry. so they are easy prey and vulnerable to the manipulations of those who would use their need to line their own pockets. GP seems a particularly despicable example of this, nearly trolling us as she laughs her way to the bank. maybe I'll send her a candle that smells like my ass.
posted by supermedusa at 1:08 PM on January 17 [42 favorites]

Netflix has been home to a bunch of pseudoscientific health documentaries for a while - they might as well commit.
posted by Selena777 at 1:09 PM on January 17 [7 favorites]

I’m seriously debating cancelling my Netflix sub over this show. I barely use my sub as is, I know they have a lot of trash already, but this being Netflix-branded just feels so, so bad.
posted by curious nu at 1:16 PM on January 17 [8 favorites]

Doctor Stephen Colbert (Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts) presents his own take : "Now if you cynics out there think the goop lab is some cash grab that exploits people's fear of aging and sacrifices their safety to peddle pseudo-scientific New-Agey garbage . . . well spotted."
posted by dannyboybell at 1:19 PM on January 17 [22 favorites]

Yeah, I had been gleefully looking forward to a hate-watch, but this is just...icky. There's nothing enjoyable at all in any of this.
posted by kalimac at 1:42 PM on January 17

I chortled with glee upon seeing this FPP and clicked on the link with the kind of anticipation I usually reserve for things like opening my Christmas or birthday presents, or a visit to the yarn store, or sexual congress with someone I know from experience especially does it for me, and I wasn't disappointed.

This is to say scathing factual critiques of Gwyneth Fucking Paltrow are extremely my shit.
posted by orange swan at 1:43 PM on January 17 [21 favorites]

The one good thing I see here is the discovery that Betty Dodson is still preaching her gospel at age 90. Talk about the wisdom of the elders!
posted by ALeaflikeStructure at 1:47 PM on January 17 [10 favorites]

monetizing the vagina

This is peak ... something.
posted by chavenet at 1:50 PM on January 17 [5 favorites]

So @goop and ⁦@GwynethPaltrow⁩ called me strangely confident about the vagina and yet Paltrow didn’t know the vagina from the vulva.

The prescriptivists pretty much never much win this kind of fight, right?
posted by ODiV at 1:54 PM on January 17 [8 favorites]

This is a very reddit-like reaction to Goop, here.

Yes, it's a lot of pseudoscience. Yes, Paltrow is peak... something. But this article is full of bullshit hot takes. Getting mad at Paltrow for not knowing the difference between a vagina and a vulva? Is it possible that she is acting as avatar for the audience?

Paltrow is a smart businesswoman and she's built Goop into a serious and profitable entity. Everyone likes to dunk on her, and it uncomfortably reminds me of how much people like to dunk on the Kardashians and Paris Hilton (see a few threads down).

Meanwhile, this show is exploring some actually interesting stuff. Psychedelics on a major streaming platform? Hell yes!! Not everyone is a stoic academic, or a crusty hippy. This is a show for a different demographic, and I appreciate the things Goop is doing in that space.
posted by chuntered inelegantly from a sedentary position at 2:51 PM on January 17 [5 favorites]

But this article is full of bullshit hot takes. Getting mad at Paltrow for not knowing the difference between a vagina and a vulva? Is it possible that she is acting as avatar for the audience?

The article admits this itself, that lots of women don't know the difference. It doesn't change the factual basis of any of their points. Lots of what Goop sells aren't just snake oil but outright dangerous, like telling women to stick jade eggs inside themselves. It's like Infowars Life For Her.

Anyway, to respond to the post, how is this article "in the style of" Pete Wells' brilliant review of Guy Fieri's restaurant, other than in the sense that it's very negative?

Also, about Stephen Colbert's takes on Goop, I found them accurate and hilarious right up to the point where Colbert had Paltrow on his show to talk about Goop. After that, he's seemed a lot more subdued in his mockery of it, despite the fact that the products seem just as dangerous.
posted by JHarris at 3:01 PM on January 17 [19 favorites]

Paltrow is a smart businesswoman and she's built Goop into a serious and profitable entity.

Unfortunately, it's a serious and profitable entity that peddles overpriced, pseudo-scientific crap.

I don't see why I'm supposed to respect someone who does that.

The Olsen twins are just as female, but they don't get crap about their business ventures that have made them many millions of dollars, because they aren't peddling nonsense.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 3:04 PM on January 17 [43 favorites]

I think Dr Gunter's point about the vagina/vulva distinction is the important one (from article linked above): While this knowledge gap is common among women, I expected more from Paltrow, whose lifestyle business is partially built on monetizing the vagina.
posted by epersonae at 3:07 PM on January 17 [18 favorites]

I'm not going to knock myself out defending wealthy white women (casts meaningful glance at Paris Hilton discussion), but I do think it's hilarious that she is straight up trolling her critics with vagina candles. I'm not going to make any assumptions about Paltrow's knowledge, but it is pretty common for the part to stand in for the whole.

GOOP is what happens when poor sex education in the US meets an inadequate medical system.
posted by betweenthebars at 3:18 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]

Wait, Paltrow is somehow trolling critics with vagina candles, say what now?
posted by JHarris at 3:29 PM on January 17

Gwyneth Paltrow has released a vagina candle, naturally
According to Paltrow, her 'This Smells Like My Vagina' candle is a "funny, gorgeous, sexy, and beautifully unexpected scent", with "geranium, citrusy bergamot, and cedar absolutes juxtaposed with Damask rose and ambrette seed".
posted by betweenthebars at 3:47 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]

The problem with vagina candles is after you light one you want to light another one an hour later.
posted by valkane at 3:57 PM on January 17 [4 favorites]

The point is, if you're going to market yourself as an expert on something and take people's money on the basis of your supposed expertise, you need to know a bit more about it than your average uninformed person on the street. That's Not Being A Charlatan 101.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:01 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]

Ngl, the vagina candle is hilarious and makes me respect her more.

This is a very reddit-like reaction to Goop, here.

Speaking of conflating a part with the whole...
posted by inire at 4:16 PM on January 17 [3 favorites]

it is pretty common for the part to stand in for the whole

I think there is a difference between casually using the word "vagina" as a synecdoche for vulva and actually not knowing the distinction, which is what GP is doing (or at least pretending to do) here.
posted by naoko at 4:27 PM on January 17 [3 favorites]

Gwyneth Paltrow is a ding-dong.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:48 PM on January 17 [8 favorites]

I'm sure Paltrow deserves to be mocked for her sins, but on a TV show like this, when the host says, "What? X is actually Y! I didn't know that, expert guest! Please explain!" they definitely already knew that or at the very least found out before the cameras started rolling.
posted by straight at 6:23 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]

I burned the wrong end of Gwyneth Paltrow’s vagina candle, now my house smells like shit.
posted by dr_dank at 6:25 PM on January 17 [6 favorites]

Paltrow is a smart businesswoman and she's built Goop into a serious and profitable entity.

She was already filthy rich, and she used that power to start a huge scam. She’s immune from the consequences because she’s rich and famous. She’s actively, deliberately doing harm for money she doesn’t even need.

There is nearly nothing less worthy of respect.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:21 PM on January 17 [72 favorites]

I suspect the name of her candle should be interpreted along the lines of modern "gimmick" fragrance names like Juliette Has a Gun - Not a Perfume or Etat Libre d'Orange - Don't Get Me Wrong Baby I Don't Swallow.

It doesn't take away from the violence done to the truth by this snake oil empire, but it's really no stranger than the rest of our modern world of fancy smells.
posted by traveler_ at 8:53 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]

A different demographic?!

Pseudoscience and woo literally kill people. This stuff is seriously dangerous and putting it on Netflix encourages people to believe it.

You've clearly never seen a massive fungating tumour from a needlessly neglected cancer, or for that matter smelled one - and smelled it on yourself for hours later.

These bastards peddle their wishful thinking and lies on the poorly educated, the scared and the vulnerable. They delude themselves and lie to everyone they meet. They offer certainty where the only certainty is that they're wrong and that they're getting rich from your suffering.

Medicine is not perfect and big pharma has its problems, but it's really not the same scale as the people peddling Snow-ga, ice baths, paleo diets, acid diets, homeopathy, mistletoe, reiki etc. (Although there are plenty of surgical and medical interventions which are no better then placebo - eg. knee arthroscopy - we don't get anywhere by adding stuff we know can't better than placebo.) Yes, chemo is poison but it wouldn't be used if it didn't at least have some chance.

The psychotropics stuff is also seriously dangerous - encouraging people to poorly self-medicate their PTSD or psychotic disorders has clear downsides.
posted by zeripath at 12:29 AM on January 18 [19 favorites]

So wait, does the candle smell like her vagina, or her vulva?
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 1:02 AM on January 18 [6 favorites]

Explains why vaginal steaming doesn’t kill her.
posted by Monday at 1:15 AM on January 18

Don't get hung up on the vagina thing, the fake science bullshit scams in that series are the focus.

While there's certainly evidence that breathing and meditation methods can help improve well-being, particularly for people suffering anxiety or depression, Hof is well-known for making unsupported medical claims and spewing pseudoscientific gobbledygook about his strategy. For instance, he's suggested that his method can cure cancer.
In the end, none of them dies, and one of them says it helped her manage a panic disorder. The former point is important given that there have been several reported deaths among people using Hof's method. This, of course, is not mentioned in the Goop episode.
At Goop headquarters, Paltrow and Loehnen interview chiropractor and "body worker" John Amaral. He claims to influence how energy moves through the body by changing the frequency of a person, or something-something, quantum physics.
Throughout the episode, Amaral spouts nonsense and claims that quantum physics proves what he's doing is real. For instance, he states that the double-slit experiment proves "without a shadow of a doubt that our consciousness actually shifts or alters, in some way shape or form, physical reality." [Ep. 5, 5:30]
The sixth and final episode is about psychics—who are given a bad name by the charlatans of the industry, obviously.

People are charged quite a lot of money for this bollocks. It may not be legal fraud in the US*, but that's what it is - taking money under false pretences of being able to deliver something it never could. And Goop is front and centre of this sort of scam, using Paltrow's fame to convince (mostly) women that these 'health products and services' are safe, effective and worth money when they absolutely aren't.

* The amount of lies people can legally get away with selling things over there is frankly astonishing to a non-murican.
posted by Absolutely No You-Know-What at 2:53 AM on January 18 [12 favorites]

Paltrow is a smart businesswoman and she's built Goop into a serious and profitable entity.

Capatalistic success is not inherently worthy of respect. Being a business person who can make a profit is not inherently worthy of respect. Making a lot of money doesn't make you a good person and doesn't make your product ethical - quite possibly the opposite is true. I'm a little surprised to have to explain this on Metafilter in 2020.
posted by See you tomorrow, saguaro at 7:12 AM on January 18 [31 favorites]

Re: vagina vs. vulva: She could have said, "so many people, including me! say vagina when they mean vulva" and had a good discussion about the topic that would inform and also not make people think she's dumb or that they are dumb for using the wrong term.
posted by vespabelle at 8:52 AM on January 18 [4 favorites]

Not trying to defend Paltrow here, but it seems to me that many people would more easily learn and be less likely to feel dumb if they see modeled a celebrity having their same misconception and enjoying learning the more accurate terminology.

But you'd probably need to actually test it to see whether that way or something more like your face-saving "I (we?) knew that, sometimes we say X when we mean Y" suggestion works better.
posted by straight at 11:09 AM on January 18

I mean, sure, caveat emptor and all that, as far as that goes.

But are people literally saying that because people have been dumb enough to believe the snake oil works, that magically transforms the salesman into an intelligent, respectable character? This is no P.T. Barnum, here. It doesn't take a genius to hear someone say, "I'd do anything to feel better" and come back with, "For $100 I'll give you this rock that will make you feel great." It takes a little more than that to get my respect.

And anyone who tries to sell me a product to use on and benefit any part of my body had damn well better be able to be 100% clear, with no ambiguity, on exactly what part of my body they're talking about. "Well, of course if you've been putting the elbow cream on that joint in the middle of your arm, no wonder it hasn't worked!"
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:11 PM on January 18 [2 favorites]

And mind you, I'm not saying I don't understand the despair that drives suffering people to try whatever patent cure is being offered. Nothing could be further from the truth. And I'm the absolute last person to deny that the Western medical establishment routinely lets women and other groups down. Those facts make me less likely to respect someone who takes advantage.

(NB I'm also not saying every Western physician is a quack; systemic problems don't necessarily mean everybody in the field is incompetent or has bad intentions. It just means there's a lot of work still to do, especially because lives are at stake.*)

*And by "lives" I don't just mean simply being alive versus being dead; I also mean people being able to live the lives they have.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:41 PM on January 18 [2 favorites]

It's not just her and her merch- she lifts up other problematic pseudoscience. One article on her site featured a guy who says that wearing a too-tight bra can give you cancer. A panel at one of her (madly expensive) events featured an anti-vaxxer. (Although that created a fallout that prompted a pro-vaccine article on her site.) I don't criticize Kim Kardashian - she is 100% open about who she is and what she's selling. The Kardashians actually ARE probably world experts in what they sell!

But I have criticized Jenny McCarthy... and Gwyneth Paltrow is WORSE. Jenny McCarthy is a mom who apparently saw her kid going through something really tough, and who likely believes she is helping people learn something important. In contrast, Gwyneth has publicly gleefully explained that she doesn't care whether any what she peddles is true or false (or harmful individually or socially) because it all makes her money.
posted by BlueBlueElectricBlue at 5:20 PM on January 18 [6 favorites]

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