The premise of Hollywood actor Gwyneth Paltrow’s “wellness” empire ‘Goop’ is lauded by many, but viewed by many more as a champion of patronising and unattainable levels of overpriced self-improvement.
It stands to reason, therefore, that the Netflix docuseries The Goop Lab seems to have been scathingly received across the board.
And it is not hard to see why. In the series’ opening sequence, Paltrow asks her predominantly female army of ‘Goopers’, beavering away in their Instagrammable Santa Monica HQ, that “we’re here one time, one life… how can we really, like, milk the shit out of this?”
Each episode begins in the same fashion, with Paltrow and right-hand woman Elise Loehnen — Goop’s painfully earnest chief content officer — draped over a powder pink sofa and interviewing a pair of experts (typically a mildly eccentric alternative health practitioner bolstered by a licensed professional).
Episode one, ‘The Healing Trip’, takes a look at using psychedelic drugs for healing purposes. Before you know it, a small team of Goopers are on their way to Jamaica to experience a psychedelic mushroom-tea ceremony. Punctuated by emotional talking heads whose lives have been changed by psychedelic-assisted therapies and sprinkled with tenuous clinical trial results (a trend echoed throughout the series), the team members sprawl on their yoga mats and experience a mixed bag of intense emotion and fits of laughter. Naturally, they emerge refreshed for life, “with a sense of openness and clarity”. Go figure.
Another episode focuses on extreme athlete Wim Hof’s cold therapy, in which the overworked Goopers frolic about in the snow to practise the idea that breathing exercises and immersion in freezing water offer health and fitness benefits. In ‘The Health-Span Plan’, Paltrow et al. test out various diets that supposedly lower their biological age. And, in ‘The Energy Experience’, the Goopers explore energy healing as a treatment for pain and emotional trauma.
Perhaps the least successful intervention is saved for the series finale: ‘Are you Intuit?’, which features psychic medium Laura Lynne Jackson demonstrating her ‘gift’. It’s an almost gleefully watchable moment when Jackson’s reading with Ana Hito, Goop’s visibly sceptical food editor, doesn’t go entirely to plan.
The series highlight, however, is episode three — ‘The Pleasure is Ours’ — a somewhat graphic lesson on female sexuality by author and sexologist Betty Dodson, aged 90 years.
Encouraging women to first study their own vulvae in a mirror, Dodson leads a group workshop in studying each other’s genitalia, followed by a masterclass in how to control breathing and manoeuvre pelvic floor muscles to achieve a better orgasm: aptly named the ‘rock and roll method’.
The Goop employees then discuss the shame associated with female pleasure before suggestively massaging each other’s hands with oil. Tastefully done and great television thanks to charismatic Dodson, but not one to watch on your commute.
It may be answering questions that no one is asking, but The Goop Lab is mostly innocuous. Once you look past the sun-drenched Los Angeles offices and effusive conversations between designer-clad Paltrow and her guests, each episode offers a mildly entertaining plug for alternative wellness therapies — just don’t take it too seriously.
Netflix. The Goop Lab. California: Netflix; 2020