Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle/skin-care/health product brand Goop has long been the target of jokes skewering its willful inaccessibility (see: jade egg lawsuit, shockingly overpriced products and most recently, this candle debacle). The newest Goop project, a six-episode docuseries on Netflix continues the company’s failed attempts to induct consumers into the carefully manicured, pseudo-spiritual brand of capitalism.
“The Goop Lab” follows the titular brand’s employees jet-setting across the globe to try the latest in alternative medicines and treatments. Intercut with footage of these firsthand experiences, Paltrow and Goop’s Chief Content Officer, Elise Loehnen, interview hand-selected experts on each episode’s main theme. Testimonials of non-Goop affiliated people also attempt to lend credibility to the methods using their personal accounts of unbridled success.
Topics range from the psychotherapeutic benefits of magic mushrooms to the quest to bring female pleasure into the mainstream to the healing power of cold water and breathing. That last one was particularly Goop-y. Apparently, snowga — the practice of doing yoga in the snow while wearing only a swimsuit — might be the next trend to sweep the nation.
On the surface, “The Goop Lab” doesn’t seem to have bad intentions. A genuine interest in bringing unconventional yet helpful treatment techniques into Western medicine is not inherently negative. Unfortunately, for Goop, authenticity does not appear to be a pressing concern. Goop itself does not advertise any of its own products or directly attempt to profit from selling the show’s featured methods to consumers. However, the underlying assumption that Goop is in any way affiliated with the success of alternative medicine calls the program’s integrity into question.
While Goop definitely pats itself on the back for showcasing how open-minded it is as a company, ironically, the emphasis on showing Goop employees trying hallucinogenic mushroom tea or taking part in genital show-and-tell sessions become part of what makes “The Goop Lab” questionable. In order to show how effective these ‘East-meets-West’ treatments are, the interviewees must speak at length about personal traumas or obstacles they hope the techniques can help them overcome. By equating complete recovery of mental and physical illnesses to practices not entirely accepted by modern science, “The Goop Lab” uses these testimonials as rhetorical devices rather than truly sensitive issues.
One of Goop’s most notorious issues, its inflated prices, is almost completely left out of its docuseries, which leaves its viewers wondering: Who can actually go to Jamaica to try psilocybin? Who can afford the luxury of exploring female sensuality with floral-themed professional photoshoots? Who has the time to go to California and jump into the freezing waters of Lake Tahoe so they can finally feel something again? Quite simply, Gwyneth Paltrow, her employees and a few lucky, very wealthy health and wellness enthusiasts.
“The Goop Lab” has carved a space for itself in the current wave of self-care culture and provides its audience with the wish-fulfillment content it usually gets from Instagram influencers and travel vloggers. Just as Internet entrepreneurs have realized the money-making potential of R&R on social media, Goop has positioned itself as the go-to brand for spiritual healing and the metaphysical answer to all of life’s problems.
Whether Goop can come through on its promise of a better existence remains to be seen. For now, “The Goop Lab” presents an image of what the company strives to be and what the ideal state of being looks like. As long as that image continues to be inaccessible to average consumers and relies on flimsy scientific support, the experiments on this Netflix series will succeed only for the tax bracket that can manage the cost of utter indulgence.