Gwyneth Paltrow's controversial Netflix series is exactly what you'd expect — but, like, 10 times crazier.
Warning: spoilers for "Goop Lab" below.
Gwyneth Paltrow's controversial Netflix series "Goop Lab" will make its debut on Jan. 24, and having gotten access to preview the episodes ahead of time, we can confirm that it's exactly what you'd expect — but, like, 10 times crazier. The series made plenty of waves when it merely announced its soon-to-be existence from a less-than-subtle artistic rendering of a vagina. So of course, the episodes themselves were going to push some boundaries.
Yes, Goop has often been criticized for "shilling snake oil" and recommending out-there, expensive treatments backed by little (to no) science, and that reality is hard to dismiss. What's more, Goop is often associated with so much of what's problematic about the wellness industry as a whole: It can feel elitist, exclusionary — basically, reserved for thin, rich, white people who are themselves not too dissimilar from Paltrow.
On the other hand, there's something to be said for the tremendous success of the now-massive company; Goop is now valued at a reported $250 million. Paltrow has tapped into something that deeply resonates with people. As Taffy Brodesser-Akner pointed out in her New York Times article, critics love to hate on the actress-turned-wellness-queen, but every time a negative story about her or her company surfaces, it just brings more droves of fans to goop.com, many of whom simply aren't finding the answers they are looking for in traditional Western medicine.
But back to the show. Of all the wellness advice offered throughout the "Goop Lab" series, the most sound instruction lies in the disclaimer that runs before each episode: "You should always consult your doctor when it comes to your personal health, or before you start any treatment," reads the forewarning — a message that became all the more necessary as I watched people plunge into freezing cold waters and eat little to nothing for five days straight.
Despite the fact that many of these episodes made me thoroughly uncomfortable, I couldn't help but become absolutely entranced by Paltrow, with her orphic aqua eyes, pastel outfits and aggressively California-cool-girl vibe. As I binged my way though the episodes, I found her to be unfailingly funny and entertaining, and I came to understand why so many flock to her site daily in the hopes of Goop-ifying their lives.
Ahead, the fruits of my binge-watching labors: every single episode of "Goop Lab," ranked from Goop to Goopiest. What, exactly, quantifies something as Goop-y? For the purposes of this list, I used a scale of 1-5 Goops: One indicating that the episode was watchable, slightly weird, and relatively logical; five indicating it was hard to watch, absolutely insane, and baffling as far as who allowed this to air. I'll be the first to admit that this rating system is completely arbitrary and unscientific. But, in a way, that seems kind fitting. Also, the below summaries do spoil the endings of some of the episodes, but they won't take away from the wild experience of actually watching them, if you ask us.
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Episode: "The Health-Span Plan"
The craziest thing that happened in this episode involved Paltrow going on a five-day cleanse, which isn't crazy at all, considering she does (and promotes) fasting and cleanses all the time. Elise Loehnen, Chief Content Officer of Goop and Wendy Lauria, SVP of Marketing at Goop, were also instructed to go on different diets, and by the end of the challenge, the three women had their blood drawn to see which had decreased their "biological age" the most. Paltrow "won" (of course), with a 1.7-year decrease in her biological age, while Loehnen came in second and Lauria was the biggest loser.
For obvious reasons, this episode was problematic and potentially triggering for the many people who struggle with eating disorders. But surprising Goop content, this was not.
Score: 1 out of 5 Goops
Episode: "Are You Intuit"
Given that we've seen mediums and psychics all over mainstream TV, the final episode of the series featuring a famous psychic medium, Laura Lynne Jackson, wasn't that shocking. I'm a big believer in folks connecting to those in the afterworld, and because of this, I ate up every word Jackson was saying, even that part about how we are all intuit if we just believe in our capabilities a bit more.
I even cried when Jackson tried to read Ana, Goop's associate food editor, an admitted skeptic of mediums and psychics in general, but ultimately failed — turns out she was actually reading one of the film crew members standing in the same room. I fell for the whole thing, but I'm pretty sure Ana still thinks it's all a bunch of BS.
Score: 1 out of 5 Goops
Episode: "The Healing Trip"
When it comes to personal experimentation, I'm a virgin to most illegal drugs, and this episode was the first time I'd ever seen anyone high off shrooms — it was weird and wildly entertaining. Each Goop staffer's trip produced thought-provoking insights into humanity, including recollections of "looking up at the sky like when you were a kid" and the realization that they were just "really quiet as a child." One woman said she felt like she went through "five years of therapy in five hours," and I was honestly left wondering why I spent thousands of dollars on a therapist for a year and a half when I could have just spent $100 on a few grams of psychedelics.
Score: 2 out of 5 Goops
Episode: "Cold Comfort"
Wim Hof, a Dutchman in his 60s, is quirky and outgoing, and somehow managed to wrangle six Goop staff members to Lake Tahoe to practice "snowga," barefoot and bikini-clad, while using his strange breathing technique to get through the pain of the frost. After they bop around in the snow and surprisingly don't come down with pneumonia, he convinces them to jump into 44-degree water, which he promises will cure them of all their anxieties.
They all survive, but what's most alarming is that one participant, who had previously suffered severe anxiety and panic attacks, later cited the experience as a "cure" for her panic disorder. She claims she hadn't had a panic attack since the plunge, and has even been working with her psychiatrist to taper off her medication while using the Wim Hof breathing method and taking cold showers often. I'm not sure what's more dangerous — diving into freezing cold waters or promoting the idea that said cold waters can cure a panic disorder.
Score: 3 out of 5 Goops
Episode: "The Pleasure is Ours"
If you thought Paltrow posing inside trippy pink vagina art was shocking, wait until you see the third episode of the series. I was certainly surprised when images of eight to 10 vaginas flashed across my computer screen, and even more alarmed when one doctor assisted her coworker in reaching orgasm with a vibrator on screen.
The outrageousness of this episode is not lost on me, but I have to admit that it was my favorite of the bunch. I agreed with everything the experts were saying, from unrealistic expectations of sex due to a pervasive porn culture, to an egregious lack of sex education in this country. The patent Goop shock factor was clearly being used with a heavy hand in this episode, but all in all, its sex-positive messaging for women is valuable.
Score: 5 out of 5 Goops
Episode: "The Energy Experience"
Everything about this episode went way over my head — and I mean that literally, because according to it there is "energy" that lives above us, below us and everywhere inside of us that needs to be "released." I love Julianne Hough, and was excited to see her face in this episode, until I discovered that she'd been bewitched by John Amaral, D.C., a "body worker" and chiropractor. Watching Hough, Paltrow and other Goop staffers basically experience exorcisms was painful to see, and I grew even more uncomfortable when Amaral and Apostolos Lekkos, DO, a physician, were placing their fingers all over a woman's “lower back” (her butt) to "release energy" there. I think I'll keep my stressed out, anxious "energy" to myself, thanks.
Score: 5 out of 5 Goops
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