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Who's afraid of “The Goop Lab”, the documentary series by Gwyneth Paltrow broadcast on Netflix?

Available since January 24 on the streaming platform, “The Goop Lab” is accused of promoting eccentric therapies.

“Hi Netflix, today I’m canceling my subscription because I don’t want to support a company that promotes dangerous pseudo-sciences. If you cancel The Goop Lab, I will re-subscribe immediately. “ This message*, and others of the same type*, were published on Twitter in early January, after the announcement of the broadcast of the documentary series The Goop Lab on the streaming platform of the American firm.

In the episodes available since January 24, Gwyneth Paltrow evokes psychedelic experiences or “energy healings”, surrounded by young women. All are employees of Goop, the company founded by the American actress who co-produces The Goop Lab. One appears the face riddled with needles, the other the body agitated by spasms. And to understand why the series aroused so many negative reactions before even having been viewed, you have to know Goop.

Oscar winner nine years earlier for his role in Shakespeare in Love, Gwyneth Paltrow launched in 2008 his website called Goop, “a word that means nothing and could say everything”, and which contains his initials and two double “o”, “because all the successful brands on the internet” are written like this, can we read on the brand's website *. The concept is ultra-basic. On Goop, Gwyneth shares her favorites in terms of travel, cooking and beauty. “My life is beautiful, and I have something to do with it, explains the actress at the time in a presentation text transcribed by here is. I want to feed on real things, and do it without wasting my time. “

Carried by a newsletter, Goop is not long in gaining a place among the fans of the star who admire him because she “seems healthy, happy and at peace with herself”, writes Sarah Jio, columnist at Glamour*. A year after the launch of the site, nearly 150,000 people receive weekly news from the actress, who generously shares her recipe for banana muffins, her favorite books (recommended by her friends, Madonna or Ethan Hawke *), its favorite restaurants (preferably very chic) ​​or its advice on how to feel good about yourself.

A mocking time – whether for his suggestions close to common sense (favor sleep or exercise) or revealing his disconnection from everyday realities (like his tips for booking in a posh New York restaurant … that does not take of reservation, reminds The New York Times*) -, Gwyneth Paltrow still seduced and quickly established herself as the new wellness guru.

Goop helped sell to Americans the idea that 'wellness' meant buying things until you felt better.The Atlantic websitein an article about Goop

More than ten years after its launch, the company is valued at $ 250 million, according to estimates by the New york times* published in 2018. Goop employs 250 people, while the site is visited each month by more than 1.8 million visitors. There are even six Goop stores and dozens of corners around the world. Because Goop is no longer just a recommendation site. Since 2014, he has offered products for sale, like an online concept store. There are Chanel bags and Rolex watches as well as vibrators and anti-aging oils. According to the Bloomberg * site, 70% of the company's turnover comes from the sale of these products.

It is also one of these funny objects offered in the section “Wellness” (“well-being”) of the e-shop that caused a stir in 2017. A jade egg, sold for 66 dollars (around 60 euros), supposedly “used in ancient China by queens and concubines to stay in shape for emperors” and supposed to improve “muscle tone of the vagina” and the“hormonal balance”, reports the Mother Jones site *. Allegations immediately refuted by gynecologist Jen Gunter, at war with Goop since an article published on the site two years earlier, reported a possible link between underwired bras and breast cancer.

And the doctor is not the only one to rebel. In a book published in 2015 and titled provocatively Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything? (Is Gwyneth Paltrow wrong on everything?), the professor of health law Timothy Caulfield already denounced the negative impact on public health of the promotion of questionable treatments by celebrities, like the Oscar-winning actress.

A rose quartz egg offered for sale on the Goop site. (GOOP)

In 2017, the jade egg and 50 other products * sold on Goop were the subject of a complaint to the California prosecutor on behalf of Truth in Advertising, an association fighting against false advertising. . In 2018, Goop agreed to pay 145,000 to end the lawsuits that challenged the non-scientifically proven claims for three of these products. dollars (about 132,000 euros), stop praising their effectiveness and reimburse buyers, says the site Bloomberg *. Minimal financial consequences for society, but which had other repercussions. The Condé Nast group, which had just partnered with Goop to launch its version in paper magazine, preferred to end this partnership after only two issues.

Today, Goop no longer has the opportunity to sell products whose claimed benefits have not been scientifically proven. To avoid “bad buzz”, the company also has a team dedicated to the quality of the items offered. And on its site, Goop undertakes * to “examine the scientific literature to ensure accurate claims”.

The fact remains that Goop's success and his taste for provocation have not been denied since. At the start of 2020, the brand redid its talk by selling a scented candle from the Heretic brand called “This Smells Like My Vagina” (“It smells like my vagina”). Sold for 75 dollars (around 68 euros), it diffuses an odor presented as “funny, beautiful, sexy and beautifully unexpected”. Elapsed in a few hours according to Business Insider *, the product has since been out of stock.

The candle
The candle “This Smells Like My Vagina”, out of stock on the Goop site. (GOOP)

The popularity of Goop is due to several factors. For The Atlantic *, it's already because “wealthy people [auxquelles s’adresse le site] are more likely to be healthy than the poor from the start “. They are therefore more inclined to turn to alternative treatments in the hope of further increasing this health capital. For Professor Caulfield, interviewed by Bloomberg *, this success is also due to the difference in treatment between men and women when it comes to health. According to him, women being taken less seriously or less well cared for than men, they tend to turn more easily to advice provided outside of a conventional medical course. Today, many products and techniques (such as intravenous therapy) are used by women because they combine them with Goop.

A good story will always be more powerful than scientific data.Timothy Caulfield, professor of health lawat Bloomberg

In this context, the series The Goop Lab Does it convey dangerous or false ideas, as supposed by Internet users and scientists who rebelled on Twitter? Each of the six 30-minute episodes is devoted to an experiment, the guinea pigs all being employees of Goop. They try psychotropic psychotherapy by ingesting a herbal tea of ​​psilocybes (hallucinogenic mushrooms) in Jamaica, have the energy manipulated by a practitioner in an impressive convulsion session of the bodies or agree to change their diet to see if it influences on their biological age.

To prevent accusations, each episode is preceded by a statement that it is entertainment and not a medical magazine. None of them actually give advice. The magazine Rolling Stone * set out to check what was advanced in the series, such as PRP therapy (for Platelet Rich Plasma, plasma enriched in platelets) presented as a facial rejuvenation technique.

In the episode, we see Gwyneth Paltrow being injected into the face with her own plasma (collected after centrifuging a little of her blood). According to Goop CEO, father of children found “that she had rejuvenated by five years” at the end of this treatment. But Rolling Stone ensures he “today there is no evidence of the effectiveness of this treatment”, also recalling that the Department of Health of New Mexico (United States) closed in 2018 a spa that practiced this technique after two clients were infected with HIV.

We can also ask legitimate questions about some of the speakers, such as the medium Laura Lynne Jackson who “communicate with the consciousness of people who have left their bodies and are on the other side”, in the last episode of the series.

The medium & nbsp; Laura Lynne Jackson during a workshop with Goop employees.
Medium Laura Lynne Jackson at a workshop with Goop employees. (ADAM ROSE / NETFLIX)

But other experiences presented in The Goop Lab are more attractive, like the cold therapy presented by Wim Hof. This Dutchman developed in the 2000s a method of meditation and mastery of breathing that allows, at first, to resist the cold, which would have many benefits, such as stress reduction. As Vulture * writes, “If you are the type of person who thinks that Western medicine does not always treat illnesses properly, many things that you will see in The Goop Lab you will find interesting “.

I was prepared to hate 'The Goop Lab' (…) but a few episodes prove useful (…). Even my boss complained that some episodes were not long enough.Jen Chaney, journaliston the Vulture site

We can also rejoice in the episode that speaks unabashedly of female sexual pleasure. Led by Betty Dodson, a nonagenarian sex educator who, since the 1970s, has run workshops to teach women about their bodies and orgasms, some Goop employees are invited to speak openly about their sexuality and their fears . This episode makes the choice to show photos of the sexes of women, too often hidden and therefore unknown by the own concerned.

Without adhering to all the experiences described, there are ultimately few reasons to rebel against this documentary series. The main criticism that can be made of The Goop Lab is that it is an advertisement of almost three and a half hours for the brand. For Gwyneth Paltrow's company, it is a magnificent rehabilitation spot where we discover that each employee seems extremely happy to work (even playing guinea pigs to test strange techniques) in a benevolent space where is not afraid to be vulnerable to colleagues. An ideal company, therefore, which would almost make us forget that it sells us cans of collagen tea at 78 euros per pack of twelve.

* All links followed by an asterisk are in English.

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