Maybe it's just contrariness, but lately I've been feeling sort of defensive about Gwyneth Paltrow: the recent vitriol - including charges of plagiarism - seems out of proportion. Anna disagrees. Both sides, after the jump!
Sadie: No. I know GOOP can be risibly tone-deaf, and I know we're all in high dudgeon about the economy...but is she really that bad? I mean, really? Let's look the plus side: she's made some decent movies. Say what you will about her Oscar win, Shakespeare in Love remains a solid view; Emma was pretty good; she was funny on SNL; and who doesn't like Margot Tenenbaum?
And let's play devil's advocate here: is what she does on GOOP really that different from the recommendations and musings we get from Oprah or Martha Stewart? The difference may be that she was raised in privilege; but because she had advantages doesn't mean she's lazy - there are a lot of celeb spawn out there doing a lot less. We resent her taking the time to instruct us on attaining her perfection, but in a way, don't we want it both ways? It's annoying when stars are mysterious and elusive a la Angelina, yet when someone spills - and obviously she's going to be rich and oblivious and out of touch when she does! - we pillory her.
I guess the main thing, for me, is that apparently she's pretty nice. The few people I know who've had dealings with her (one of them's a teacher of mine who taught her in high school) have all said she was kind, generous, and genuinely interested in non-celebs in a way most stars simply are not. We hear so much about celebrities who are assholes, that should count for something. At the end of the day, can you really fault someone for obliviousness? Well, yes: no one likes to be patronized. But the thing is, she really seems to think she's offering useful information to people, and is hurt and baffled by the backlash. And let's be frank: GOOP is the gift that keeps on giving, and I for one like presents.
Anna: Yes. Sadie, let me say first off that you are a far more generous person on the subject of celebrities - and Gwyneth Paltrow in particular - than I will ever be. The woman has long come off like a phony, as evidenced by this self-satisfied, overly smiley appearance at the Grammys last night:
Okay, the wink at the end to her husband was cute.
Listen, I've had an admittedly strange dislike for Ms. Paltrow and her offscreen image for a long time, from back in the mid '90s when I was an assistant at an entertainment magazine and was assigned to cover numerous parties and events, many of which she attended. These were usually small, "private", Miramax-run functions - this was the era in which Harvey Weinstein was grooming her for A-list status and Oscar glory, the era right before Emma and Shakespeare in Love; when she had just begun dating Brad Pitt and when NY Mag tattooed a large, virtual target on her back by putting her on the cover and deeming her the "Luckiest Girl In The World" - and Gwyneth Paltrow, while "nice", never struck me as particularly authentic or sincere. Maybe it was the stint at Spence, or the fact that her entree into Hollywood came courtesy of her parents, or maybe it was that she was more fabulous than I ever would be, but there was something about her mannerisms both on and off-screen - condecension? snobbery? actually, I'd describe it as "smugness" - that always rubbed me the wrong way.
[On a somewhat-related note, I went into my closet yesterday and dug out a paparazzi picture of her (that's me in the background trying to pretend I am unaware of the camera) from a private screening back in March 1996. I "defaced" it and put it up in my cubicle at the time. Yeah, the bad blood runs deep.]
I disagree with you: Celebrities of her caliber are not always going to be "rich and oblivious and out of touch" when they spill, and Gwyneth Paltrow has had the poor judgment to share her elitist, oblivious and out of touch opinions with the world at a time when no one wants to hear them. And comparing her to Oprah or Martha Stewart is giving her way too much credit; I fear for a world in which women are on a first name basis with Gwyneth Paltrow and sent into fits of screaming, consumptive ecstasy at every mention of her Favorite Things. The difference between Gwyneth Paltrow and Oprah and Martha is that the latter two built their audience - and their audience's trust in them - slowly, surely, and with sincerity. They are also self-made women. This GOOP and gym stuff seems random, arrogant, presumptuous and, at the same time, obvious... exactly what you'd expect a privileged, native New Yorker with an uptown pedigree and a downtown designs to say and do. (Sometimes I think Gwyneth Paltrow is an animated version of the worst parts of the NY Times' "Styles" and "Metro" sections.) But this isn't just about GOOP and designer gyms; it's about the years and years of her saying stupid and/or snotty stuff ("I can't pretend to be someone who makes $25,000 a year" - note to casting directors, this Oscar winner can't hack a Monster's Ball type role!); it's about that friendship with Madonna; it's about the ice queen image she's done little or nothing to counteract; it's about those pictures of her sunning herself on Valentino Garavani's yacht; it's about that rumored indiscretion while she was engaged to Brad Pitt; that "I Am African" advertisement; oh, and did I mention Madonna? It's about the sorts of things that are well-documented and widely reviled, and the sorts of things you hear whispered among friends who know more than you do, and, of course, it's about me.
Because the problem is, even though I didn't like Gwyneth Paltrow when she was the ice queen who never made an effort to thaw out, my hatred of this new iteration makes it clear that I don't like her when she tries something new. I guess the woman can't win.