While the health professionals have been studying case numbers and R values, some of us have been waiting for one particular GP to give us a sign that the world is returning to normal. At last we have it: that GP is Gwyneth Paltrow and the sign is that her Goop cruise is back on. Four Caribbean “wellness” trips will set sail this autumn with experts, although not necessarily the Gwynster herself, on hand to address the “emotional, physical and spiritual needs of today’s modern traveler”. Wellness is healing.
The maiden voyage, aboard a swanky Celebrity Cruises ship, will set sail from Miami on October 9. Among the crew will be Colette Dong, a trampoline impresario, and Deganit Nuur, a clairvoyant intuitive, spiritual teacher and acupuncturist. The average weight gain on a cruise is said to be a pound a day. If these cruisers put on half a stone in a week, I expect they’ll want their money back.
“As our guests have returned to travel, they’ve expressed how sailing has been a source of healing for them after a very challenging year,” said Celebrity Cruises president and CEO Lisa Lutoff-Perlo.
“Nowhere else can guests experience this powerful confluence of the serenity of the sea with physical and emotional wellness.”
It must be a comfort to survivors of the Diamond Princess, which was quarantined for a month last year, while 700 of its 3,700 passengers got Covid-19.
Paltrow’s move into international waters is another step on her irresistible trajectory from unknown beauty in Se7en to vagina-egg Jeff Bezos. As the saying goes: first they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they attack you — and then you win. And for all we have mocked and raised eyebrows, Paltrow is certainly winning.
Since it started life as a muffin-recipe newsletter in 2008, Goop has grown into a company worth a quarter of a billion dollars. It has always been generous with chances for ridicule. Paltrow called it Goop because she was told that all successful Internet companies have an “oo” in them: Google, Yahoo, Facebook. Then were the products: the This Smells Like My Vagina candle ($75); the jade vagina egg ($66); the Olga gold dildo ($3,490); the Ouija board ($1,995); the psychic vampire repellent ($27).
Paltrow’s move into international waters is another step on her irresistible trajectory from unknown beauty in Se7en to vagina-egg Jeff Bezos.
Articles on Goop have suggested that steaming your vagina with mugwort would cleanse your uterus; that coffee enemas could clear toxins; that your underwired bra could be causing breast cancer; that “negativity” changes the chemical structure of water. Paltrow let herself be stung by bees, went to a premiere with cupping marks on her back, admitted to smoking one cigarette a week, and tried to “consciously uncouple” rather than divorce Chris Martin — but that all seems to have worked out for everyone involved, including their two children, Apple and Moses.
Scientists and doctors warned us of misinformation, pseudoscience and snake oil. In 2018 Goop was fined $145,000 over “unsubstantiated” marketing claims about the vagina eggs. The Web site is now abundant in disclaimers. When the fly-on-the-wall show The Goop Lab launched on Netflix last year, Sir Simon Stevens, then chief executive of the NHS in England, criticized it for promoting treatments with “considerable risks to health”. Sounds like he could do with an espresso up his backside.
Paltrow has stuck to her finely toned guns. Now she finds herself astride an empire of clothes, podcasts, books, food, fitness, TV shows and advertising. She has worked out that in an era of constant, immediate criticism, you must learn to accept it, as you can never please everyone. Launch some new vagina-themed products, carry on as you were. In all the hoo-ha, her critics seem to have forgotten that this stuff is, among other things, hilarious. Why would anyone think that someone who spends three and a half thousand dollars on a golden dildo lacks a sense of humor?
Her masterstroke was seeing that the concept of wellness echoes perfectly with the concept of being Gwyneth Paltrow. Unusually among film stars, she has never made any secret of the work that goes into being her. She told us about the two hours of exercise a day, the monk-like diet, the occasional Guinness. When asked about quitting Hollywood to focus on Goop, she told The New York Times that “it started to feel frustrating not to have true agency, like to be beholden to other people to give you a job”. That, at least, is relatable.
For her customers, wellness has always been about agency, too. In a world where you’ll make less than your parents, where you are powerless over the environment and Afghanistan and pandemics and cancer, Goop restores an element of control. Medicine — the version with drugs and evidence — is often about managing situations that are out of your hands. By contrast, the Goop version of wellness says: go on, steam your vagina. Maybe you’ll feel better. You can’t feel worse.
But whatever the ardor of your aspiration, however hard you work, you can never complete the Goop program. The more intense the desire, the more elusive the wellness mirage becomes. You can eat every ancient grain, wear every anorak face mask, souse yourself in psychic vampire repellent. You can go on every cruise. While you beetle away downstairs, America’s flaxen-haired twaddle goddess will still be standing on the Goop deck, eyes set implacably to the horizon, winning. You’ll never be Gwyneth.
Ed Cumming is a regular contributor to The Guardian