I'm not going to lie, when it was announced that Gwyneth Paltrow's "lifestyle website" Goop was getting its own Netflix show, I was pretty excited. Not because I like Goop, but because I knew that as Cracked's resident conspiracy-buster, I could probably get some decent content out of whatever garbage fire flared up. You know what I'm talking about. "She said this, here's why it's wrong/dangerous. Her guest said this, here's why it's wrong/dangerous." Vagina joke. MCU joke. Milquetoast conclusion about how these new-agey pseudo-conspiracies can be harmful. Vagina joke. Plug the ol' Twitter and we're out. So this last weekend, I binged all six episodes of The Goop Lab ... and that's when my plan fell apart.
That's not to say that The Goop Lab isn't pseudoscientific garbage. It is, and everyone involved in its production should feel bad. But in an apparent effort to bolster its credentials, the show tries (wherever possible) to ground its claims in real science.
The first episode, for instance, explores how psychedelics like LSD and DMT, when used in a therapeutic context, can help alleviate trauma -- something which, as the show points out, has been observed in clinical trials. The second episode focuses on Wim Hof and his scientifically recognized ability to withstand extreme cold (something we wrote about a few years back).
Once these episodes are underway, however, the scientific pretext is abandoned. The first episode isn't about the use of psychedelics in a therapeutic context; it's about four goopers tripping on mushrooms in a tea room. And while two are doing so in the hopes of resolving personal traumas, the other two are doing it to find their "authentic self" and have a "psychospiritual experience," respectively. As for the episode on Wim Hof, the science behind his metabolism soon gives way to an extended infomercial for the meditational practices which "allow" him to perform such feats. But that's not entirely true. While his breathing exercises do play a role in him being able to withstand the cold, so do the larger-than-average amounts of 'brown fat' that he and his twin brother share as a result of their unique genetics. That little fact is never mentioned, presumably because it would've cut into the scene wherein a bunch of goopers jump into a frigid Lake Tahoe.
The third episode is centered on female sexuality, and it's fine, but only because the scientific content is kept to a minimum. There's a lot of mythbusting and masturbating, and despite what the poster might suggest, the episode doesn't end with Gwenyth Paltrow's vagina reenacting the Looney Tunes "That's All Folks!" closer.
But the first three episodes of the show are its best, and that says a lot. Or maybe it's not saying much at all. The remaining three (which deal with anti-aging, energy healing, and psychics) have the scientific rigor of a flaccid penis and all the health benefits of eating a sponge. The episode on anti-aging sees the team try out a variety of "cures," from diets to vampire facials to plastic surgery, while the episodes about energy healing and psychics are -- hot take -- very bad.
Goop: The Website: The TV Show is interesting, though. Not for what the show itself says, but for what its very existence implies. It's three hours of a celebrity exploiting her influence to shill garbage under the guise of "feeling good about yourself." If this show was truly about boosting self-esteem while countering popular beliefs about health, the episode about anti-aging wouldn't exist. Instead of trying to sell her audience on diets and plastic surgery, Paltrow would've used this opportunity to explore how women's fears about their aging looks are rooted in a society that values beauty over all else. She would've addressed how these fears are exploited by the beauty industry to sell products. But doing that might've damaged sales of their extensive line of anti-aging products.
Goop TV is just another symptom of corporations and media networks embracing pseudoscience and anti-intellectualism in the pursuit of controversy and profits. This isn't Netflix's first foray into this kind of programming, and it won't be their last. And while Paltrow certainly deserves some shit, Oprah was mainstreaming junk like this as far back as the early '00s.
Goop: The Website: The TV Show: There's Probably A Podcast also reminds us that fact-checkers and "conspiracy busters" (what kind of arrogant bastard even calls themselves that?) fail to understand that simply telling people the truth isn't enough to make them believe it. We know a lot about why people turn to conspiracy theories. They feel anxious and/or powerless, they're worried about the world, or they themselves are conspiracists. Turning such people away from those looking to exploit them is going to take a little more than calling them misinformed dummies.
The Goop Lab is a bad show with lessons that everyone should ignore. But if we look hard enough, we might find something that even hard-nosed skeptics can learn from. Like how we should think more critically about what our favorite people tell us. Maybe we shouldn't just boycott the show, but also stop supporting the corporations that promote this garbage. Maybe we should start caring more about the actual people who fall for this stuff instead of just condemning them. Because you know what? These new-agey pseudo-conspiracies can be harmful.
For more, check out F*ck Floss: 3 (Thankfully) Debunked Health Myths:
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