The Scoop on Goop

Comment Culture Science and Technology

Earlier this week, The Goop Lab launched on Netflix, meaning that we can all start this new decade with a healthy dose of ‘alternative medicine.’

Gwyneth Paltrow founded her ‘lifestyle brand’ in 2008 and has quickly become the spokesperson of alternative medicine and the concept of ‘wellness.’ On goop.com, you can read articles about what you need to do to make your life perfect; then you can buy all the stuff to make it happen – a standard advertising technique.

However, Goop has a ‘health’ section, which critics have described as, “quackery, pseudoscience, and outright bullshit.” It offers advice on topics ranging from sleep and stress to how to deal with depression, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, and hundreds more.

Every one of these articles has a disclaimer that reminds the reader that this is purely informational. Every episode of The Goop Lab opens with a similar warning; “the following series is designed to entertain and inform – not provide medical advice.”

Yet, the show creates a very different impression, with a purposefully vague focus on ‘healing’ and ‘wellness’. In one of the episodes, the first question asked about ‘energy fields’ therapy is whether it can help with illness. The answer is a resounding yes. From sexual health to psychedelics, detox diets to exorcisms; every single thing is presented as an equally viable treatment, met with wide-eyed amazement from the Goop employees who experience it. Critics have claimed that it offers, ‘some fine information presented alongside unscientific, unproven, potentially harmful therapies.’

History is filled with quack doctors who offer some kind of cure to improve your life. Goop may not be touting the New Age medicine it explores as an alternative to professional healthcare, but it provides a high-profile platform that encourages that impression.

Every single thing is presented as an equally viable treatment, met with wide-eyed amazement from the Goop employees.

Fake medicine is still all too present in our world and there’s a lot of health advice which is devoid of any scientific basis. Anti-vaxxers seem to be everywhere. There are far too many people that claim mental illnesses can be cured by yoga or essential oils (which have also been presented as an option for everything from stress and supporting the immune system, to reducing scarring, or even fighting cancer). ‘Detox diets’ range from harmless-if-unnecessary to dangerous.

History is filled with quack doctors who offer some kind of cure to improve your life.

There are thousands of treatments that have masqueraded as a secret cure, supposedly hidden by actual doctors. Some of these treatments are healthy things presented with exaggerated claims, some have no effect, and many can detrimental to your health. However, any ‘alternative medicine’ becomes extremely dangerous when it is seen as a replacement for actual, science-based healthcare.

The Goop Lab only highlights the ridiculousness of these treatments. In one episode, it’s revealed that Paltrow does not know the difference between the vulva and vagina; this is a spokesperson for ‘sexual wellness,’ who has offered advice on infertility and has encouraged people to steam their vaginas not understanding the basic anatomy she’s claiming to treat.

They thrive not just off social dissatisfaction, but genuine fear that our bodies are not good enough.

A site like Goop easily publishes articles on autoimmune diseases or anorexia, which offer expensive New Age advice and products, and then add a disclaimer at the end that readers should also seek their doctor’s advice. But for anyone who is desperate and ill, hoping for a secret that can fix everything, that disclaimer won’t matter. Sites like Goop claim to offer empowerment and perfection, but really, they thrive not just off social dissatisfaction, but genuine fear that our bodies are not good enough.

It may be true that our current scientific medical knowledge is not the be-all-end-all to health, and there is plenty left to discover about the human body. But another important truth is that the human body is complicated and it is irresponsible to act as if there’s a simple secret to making everything better. And if there is something out there that can, I doubt you’ll find it on goop.com.

 

Image Credit: ‘The Goop Lab’ Title card

 

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