Confession: I own Gwyneth Paltrow's uber-healthy cookbook and one of those crazy-hard Tracy Anderson workout dvd's. The cookbook I use almost daily. The workout video not so much. When I talk about my Gwyn-ism's I more often than not illicit eye rolls. Like most people, I chortle and guffaw over some of the seemingly pretentious statements she's made over the years. I don't love her...but I also don't hate her. I've come to begrudgingly admire her. So when news of the collapse of her marriage broke this week, people were giving me what I call "the biz." "See?" they said, "she's not so perfect, is she?" It was as if the demise of her marriage meant that she was wrong about the health benefits of kale smoothies.
For those living under a rock, on Wednesday Gwynnie announced that she and husband of ten years, rock star Chris Martin were, err, consciously uncoupling. Witnessing the Goopster fail at something was, for many, the ultimate in cosmic justice being doled out. "Her relentless quest for perfection drove him away!" After all, if you deprive your man of gluten, dairy and sugar for too long...isn't it only natural he'll go looking for it somewhere else? A male co-worker commented, "I'm pretty sure he couldn't stand her." I gave him a second or two to elaborate but that was it.
What is it about GP that brings out our mean girl/mean boy side? When word of imminent and epic Vanity Fair "takedown" story broke, it took on a life of its own. We (me included) were giddy with anticipation. When it didn't materialized the internet was outraged and conspiracy theories ran a muck. (My theory: stay tuned for a GP exclusive in Vanity fair within the year. A grand bargain had to be struck to kill that piece). To be sure, she can say some boneheaded things (click here) but is she really that bad? People who know me may be surprised that I'm making an effort at all to defend her. But could it be that our virulent dislike of her is as much about us as it is about her? Maybe.
As I read story after story celebrating her misfortune, I can't help but feel a wee bit sorry for her. If we're being open minded and honest with ourselves, is Gwyneth really that bad? I am willing to boldly declare: no she isn't. Why? Read on:
She Controls her Narrative: Clearly she's a very disciplined person. She understands the power of celebrity and has been successful at beating the celebrity industrial complex at their own game. Her wedding was top secret, no frills affair: no pics, no profit. When it came time to (begrudgingly) announce her first pregnancy, the pair flooded the market with staged baby bump photos taken by Martin's sister. Post birth, the Goopster slyly walked an empty stroller up and down her Manhattan block, letting the paps snap away. Her divorce? She posted it on her own website. Screw the whole rep-statement-via-People-magazine-route.
She Tries New Things: She didn't need to do the website thing or sing a country song live at that awards show. She didn't need to guest star on Glee. All of for which she received major amounts of grief. I get the sense she likes to challenge herself. Status quo? Hell no.
She Faces adversity and hard times head on: When her father died of throat cancer, it clearly rocked her world as it would anyone. She mourned privately, then quit smoking and made it her mission to take better care of herself and her family. This of course lead to her plans for world domination via goop.com.
She has a lot of loyal, longtime girlfriends: I don't trust anyone who doesn't have girlfriends. This is my go-to fool-proof analysis tool. Anyone who has lots and lots of longtime girlfriends is a good person. From Cameron Diaz to high school pal Julia Cuddihy, the actress has a long list of consistent buddies.
Because we can't have it both ways: We can't dislike her because her life seems easier than ours, then find out it actually isn't, then not like her because she's honest and open about her struggles. Her father died of cancer when she was 30 years old, she suffered a painful miscarriage and now she's going through what I'm assuming is an equally painful divorce. Bad things happen to people no matter how good they look or how much money they have.
We want to think our celebrities have easier lives than us and to some extent this might be true (although Judy Garland or Philip Seymour Hoffman might disagree). Gwyneth, to our annoyance, INSISTS on getting credit for working and struggling (literally) her butt off to get back into shape after giving birth. The more she talked about the workouts, her long days on movie sets the more we rolled our eyes. The more we rolled our eyes, the more she dug in (workout videos, cookbooks celebrating deprivation...) But the thing is, she did pick decent movie rolls, do the workouts and learn how to cook and eat (or not eat) the right things. Money doesn't buy a body like that. Just ask Oprah.
Because no one who REALLY knows her seems to dislike her. We all tend to find her annoying and pretentious from time to time. I get it. But there has never been an ex-boyfriend or former girlfriend who has even hinted at animosity toward her. From Donovan Leitch to Ben Affleck to Brad Pitt, they all seem to be on decent terms with her. For all I know they could all be doing secret, celebratory "glad I got away" fist bumps behind her back. But it just doesn't seem to be the case.
She looks better at 42 than she did at 32. One of the "benefits" of all of the "Gwyneth & Chris" retrospectives slideshows popping up all over the place is that we can compare her ass in 2004 to her ass in 2014. She's a walking talking embodiment of the belief that woman get better with age. We should really try to embrace that. I just might dig out that dang Tracy Anderson DVD and give it another try.