The Goop Lab is the new Netflix Original docu-series following Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle site, goop. Paltrow and her team set out to explore various boundary-pushing wellness topics. The opening segment is filled with inspirational and emotional moments viewers can look forward to while watching the series but following that, The Goop Lab issues a warning that the show is not intended to provide medical advice and you should always consult your doctor about any health issues. That state cognitive dissonance -the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change- continues throughout the entirety of the series.
The Goop Lab seeks to explore controversial topics and give viewers and readers access to information so they can make up their own minds. But goop has continuously been under scrutiny even before the brand secured a Netflix deal. Since its inception in 2008, Goop has encouraged its readers to seek out untested and often unsafe medical practices. Additionally, goop has a history of reporting on well-known practices as if they are some type of new phase, most notably acupuncture and in the series itself, psychedelic mushrooms.
In the opening episode, some members of the goop team fly to Jamacia to try psychedelic mushrooms while also undergoing a group therapy session all under the supervision of MAPS, (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) professionals. While I cannot speak to the medical science behind mushrooms, seeing the team treat taking them as a “sacrament,” is bizarre. I am a white woman with no connection to any Native cultures but that being said, this group session is also led by two white people so seeing the use of burning white sage, something considered sacred to many Native cultures, and talk of ancestors connection to earth feels disrespectful.
While cultural appropriation is an issue, the biggest issue with The Goop Lab is the fact it pushes pseudoscience and practices that if I tried to do to fix any number of my ailments would kill me. In the second episode of the series, “Cold Comfort,” the team works with Wim Hof, dutch athlete, and creator of the Wim Hof Method, in order to understand how mindset can change your health. The body and mind are absolutely linked and many conditions and disabilities have both physical and mental symptoms. My Fibromyalgia causes all over joint pain, brain fog, and anxiety – just to list a few symptoms, for example. With Hof, the team seeks to train with meditation, breathing exercises, and exposure to cold in order to regulate your stress levels.
However, during the episode Hof specifically mentions how his “method” can also be used to treat inflammation caused by various conditions. The “method” is treated as a cure-all which historically speaking, when any medical practice, medication, treatment or whatever is treated as a cure-all it usually means it is bunk. I have an autoimmune disease and constantly deal with inflammation in joints and I can guarantee that submerging myself in icy water after rounds of meditation will not cure my Hashimoto’s Disease or any other condition. Instead, it is likely to end with me in the hospital.
The best episode of the series is “The Pleasure is Ours.” There, some of the women of the goop team explore their own bodies and try to unlearn a lot of the stigmas women face around sex and their sexual organs. With guidance from sex educator Betty Dodson, the episode shines at helping women watching understand and accept they deserve to be active participants in their own sexual pleasure. In addition, this is the only episode that doesn’t focus on junk science.
But with only one good episode, there are not a lot of redeeming qualities for the show. From talk of having an alkaline body, to propagating the idea to avoid taking prescription drugs, particularly anti-depressants or anxiety medications, The Goop Lab is full of garbage science. What is scarier is that if someone is desperate enough, they might try it and unlike buying a Himalayan salt lamp in hopes that it cleanses the air and helps your asthma, trying these “wellness tips” are liable to hurt you.
Even worse, there are times where the science is sound but is pushing an ableist mindset. During the fourth episode of the season, “The Health-Span Plan,” Paltrow takes a blood test to determine her chronological age. The idea is that your chronological age is a better determinate of whether you will develop certain diseases than your biological age. As someone who is under 30 with multiple debilitating chronic conditions, the obsession with chronological age is upsetting. Instead of focusing on how natural it is to age and get sick, The Goop Lab is obsessed with health and avoiding disability at all costs. Preventative practices, like cancer screenings and annual check-ups, are essential but never the conversation should never be around a perceived age. Anyone who is not wealthy or able-bodied is not going to do well on this test of youth, and that’s ok.
The Goop Lab is made for rich white women who are terrified of aging and getting sick. As a disabled white woman who is not part of the upper-middle class or 1%, this show is not necessarily for me. However, it doesn’t make this show less dangerous. The Goop Lab peddles wellness tips and cure-alls the same way snake oil salesmen did in the 1800s, it has little to no basis to make the claims it does. My recommendation is if you want a show talking about health or the science behind various wellness options then check out Bill Nye Saves the World or Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak, both available on Netflix.
The Goop Lab is streaming now on Netflix.
The Goop Lab
The Goop Lab is made for rich white women who are terrified of aging and getting sick. As a disabled white woman who is not part of the upper-middle class or 1%, this show is not necessarily for me. However, it doesn’t make this show less dangerous.