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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

It is with a heavy heart that Gwyneth Paltrow has decided to fact-check Goop's wellness claims

Illustration for article titled It is with a heavy heart that Gwyneth Paltrow has decided to fact-check Goop's wellness claims
Photo: Mat Hayward (Getty Images)

One-time actress and full-time “wellness” guru Gwyneth Paltrow is the subject of a lengthy and cerebral New York Times Magazine profile from writer Taffy Brodesser-Akner, who finds herself both fascinated and overwhelmed by the manicured beauty encompassing seemingly every physical aspect of Paltrow’s life. That seems appropriate, as Paltrow’s lifestyle brand, Goop, is, despite its mission to provide extravagant and alternative wellness options, more of an aesthetic venture than a scientific one.


This information is nothing new. We’ve previously reported on the watchdog group that filed a formal complaint on the company’s “deceptive health and disease-treatment claims,” as well as the study that proved how Goop’s product line is every bit as deceptive as carnival barker Alex Jones’ vacuous supplements. Now, it would be one thing if Goop were just stealing your money by selling snake oil (which they are), but, earlier this year, a woman died after subjecting herself to “bee sting therapy,” which Goop has previously recommended. A wide swath of Goop’s treatments are legit psychotic.

What is new, however, is the revelation that Paltrow and Goop surprisingly aren’t deluding themselves about the effectiveness of these treatments. The piece notes that a print partnership with Condé Nast fell through after Goop decided it didn’t want its interviews and articles fact-checked.

“They’re a company that’s really in transition and do things in a very old-school way,” Paltrow says in the article. “But it was amazing to work with Anna. I love her. She’s a total idol of mine. We realized we could just do a better job of it ourselves in-house. I think for us it was really like we like to work where we are in an expansive space. Somewhere like Condé, understandably, there are a lot of rules.”

Oh, those pesky rules regarding the publishing of words that are both true and not harmful.

The piece continues:

Goop wanted Goop magazine to be like the Goop website in another way: to allow the Goop family of doctors and healers to go unchallenged in their recommendations via the kinds of Q. and A.s published, and that just didn’t pass Condé Nast standards. Those standards require traditional backup for scientific claims, like double-blind, peer-reviewed studies. The stories Loehnen, now Goop’s chief content officer, wanted to publish had to be quickly replaced at the last minute by packages like the one on “clean” getaways.

G.P. didn’t understand the problem. “We’re never making statements,” she said. Meaning, they’re never asserting anything like a fact. They’re just asking unconventional sources some interesting questions. (Loehnen told me, “We’re just asking questions.”) But what is “making a statement”? Some would argue — her former partners at Condé Nast, for sure — that it is giving an unfiltered platform to quackery or witchery. O.K., O.K., but what is quackery? What is witchery? Is it claims that have been observed but not the subject of double-blind, peer-reviewed studies? Yes? Right. O.K., G.P. would say, then what is science, and is it all-encompassing and altruistic and without error and always acting in the interests of humanity?


Journalist Clive Thompson was quick to point out just how much Paltrow’s words echo those of people like the aforementioned Jones. Statements about “just asking questions” sound a lot like what you’ll hear from people who think the earth if flat or that the Clintons are running a pedophile ring outside of a pizzeria basement.


Asking questions, of course, is fine, but presenting unverified, illogical, and harmful answers as some kind of definitive truth is the problem.

Thompson sums it up:


The good news is that the company seems to be evolving, if begrudgingly so. The piece notes that, in September, Goop will hire its first fact checker. Paltrow, being the insulated, out-of-touch celebrity that she is, sees it as “a necessary growing pain.”

Randall Colburn is The A.V. Club's Internet Culture Editor. He lives in Chicago, occasionally writes plays, and was a talking head in Best Worst Movie, the documentary about Troll 2.