I Wanted To Really Hate 'Goop Lab', But I Only Kind Of Hated It
Gwyneth Paltrow’s new 6-episode Netflix series, Goop Lab, opens with a disclaimer: The following is designed to entertain and inform — not provide medical information.
Does that mean the Goop team learned their lesson after the Jade Egg lawsuit that resulted in a $145,000 penalty? Though, to be fair, for a company worth $250 million, $145,000 is a drop in the bucket. It’s 0.06 percent, a half of a tenth of a percent, the equivalent of like fifty bucks to your average Joe. But whatever. The disclaimer exists.
I have a disclaimer too: I went into Goop Lab practically trembling with irate skepticism, pitchfork at the ready. I watched it to prove that I was right in my hatred of it and all things Goop. Gwyneth fucking Paltrow, the very picture of privilege with her lanky beauty, obscene wealth, and utter detachment from us dirty, coupon-clipping peasants, cannot possibly create a show worthy of anything more than my flaming disdain. So I clicked “play” on Goop Lab fully committed to thinking it was ridiculous. (Though, I’m curious to sniff her vagina candle. Does anyone know if it’s back in stock yet?)
The first episode, “The Healing Trip,” explores the use of psychedelics in healing. I’ve already read tons of research on this topic, as well as had my own experiences with psilocybin (“magic mushrooms”), LSD, and MDMA (ecstasy), so I was already a believer. My curiosity was piqued.
For the episode, a group of Goop staffers travel to Jamaica (sans Gwyneth, that Party Pooper) where they can legally experience the effects of carefully controlled doses of psilocybin in a contained setting under the care of therapists. “Psychedelic elders,” they call them. They’re there to walk people through tripping their faces off.
“Clouds have a really weird quality,” observes Elise Loehnen, Goop’s chief content officer, during her trip. She’s lying flat on her back on a grass mat in what looks like a luxurious treehouse, gazing dreamily at distant clouds floating over the lush Jamaican landscape. “But things in here have a really normal quality… I think.”
Another employee, similarly splayed out on a grass mat, exclaims, “I was on the way there again, to the light source… ohhh, fuck!”
It reminds me of the time I was tripping on LSD and wrote what I thought was a brilliant poem, only to discover the next day when I read it back that it was complete gobbledygook.
Magic mushroom-induced fake epiphanies aside, the show approached the topic of tripping for healing in a surprisingly scientific manner, citing research done by MAPS, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies. Case study interviews were conducted in an oddly pristine warehouse-sized white room overlooking what appeared to be rolling LA hills, and that was very “goopy.” But the content of the stories was undeniably compelling. One man, a 42-year-old veteran named John, had been experiencing extreme PTSD since a tour in Iraq, his experience so unbearable that he had attempted suicide five times since returning home. He credits psychedelic therapy with giving him his life back.
And so, after episode 1, I am positively distraught by how much I don’t hate Goop Lab.
In episode 2, “Cold Comfort,” Wim Hof, also known as “Iceman,” leads Goop staffers through 25 minutes of “snowga” (snow + yoga) and then makes them jump off a dock into 38-degree farenheit water. This seems insane to me, yet there has been science to indicate that freezing your ass off in some ice water for a few minutes now and then can be a positive thing for your immune system.
And this Wim Hof dude clearly possess remarkable control over his body, to the tune of 26 mostly ice-related world records. He teaches Goop staff that it’s all in the breathing: At one point, he challenges Gwyneth and Elise Loehnen, cloud-admiring editor, to do as many push-ups as they can. Gwyneth comments that she can’t do push-ups while she’s fasting, that she’s so weak, she can barely get from point A to point B. For the love of god, Gwyneth. Eat something already.
But then Hof leads them through a breathing ritual with long breaths in and out, during which Gwyneth reiterates that she’s getting dizzy and might pass out. *throws a banana at poor Gwyneth* After a minute or two of the breathing thing, Hof has the two women get down on the floor and see how many more push-ups they can do. Of course they both far surpass their first attempts.
Episode 3, “The Pleasure Is Ours,” was my favorite episode. There wasn’t any questionable science happening in this one, just pure vaginal empowerment. I wish the episode had been more inclusive to all people with vaginas rather than focusing solely on cis women, but I still loved the empowering tone.
The bulk of the episode focuses on shredding shame surrounding vaginas and female pleasure. They talk about how so many women think there is something wrong with their vaginas, referencing the common complaint women have that their inner labia are too big/long/flappy. “Shame is a killer of pleasure,” Dodson proclaims, and then the viewer is shown a series of full-frontal naked labias of all different shapes and colors.
It was VAGINAL SHOW AND TELL, PEOPLE, and it was GLORIOUS.
Dodson also addresses “performative receiving” — that intentional moaning and gyrating that so many women do in an effort to validate their partner’s efforts. Dodson says it’s like leaving a bread trail to what doesn’t turn you on.
“Women deserve pleasure,” she says emphatically. And then, I shit you not, she walks a woman through her “rock n roll” method of achieving orgasm, RIGHT THERE ON CAMERA. This is groundbreaking shit, people. And all tastefully done, by the way, I feel like this bears mentioning. But I still really wanted to have sex after.
Episode 4, “The Health-span Plan,” went into woo-woo territory. In this episode, Gwyneth, Elise (Goop’s cloud-admiring chief content officer), and one other Goop staffer test their “biological ages,” then each do a different crazy-restrictive diet for a few weeks, then re-test their biological ages. Biological age is a measure of how your body is performing relative to your actual age, and is based on things like inflammation, metabolism, and cardiovascular function.
For the anti-aging diet, Gwyneth’s “meal plan” consists of a little box of what looks like astronaut food, dried up and packaged in tiny envelopes that look like individual servings of tea. She is honest about how awful the “reconstituted soup” is.
Interestingly, though black women and other women of color have been included in every episode leading up to this one, they now are mysteriously absent. I’m guessing because they know better than to fucking starve themselves and stick shit in their face? I knew I could count on Goop to bring us some bonafide white nonsense, and I feel oddly vindicated that they didn’t let me down.
Please folks, do not try this shit at home.
The women also commit to undergoing various facial rejuvenation techniques, but are clear that they want to do treatments that are “a little bit more natural.” Cut to Elise lying in an esthetician’s chair and being told by a gloved woman, “so, I’m gonna put 100 needles in your face.”
To be fair, by the end of the episode, Elise was positively glowing.
Gwyneth gets the vampire facial, because of course she does. As the technician extracts blood from Gwyneth’s arm in preparation for spinning it in a machine that will separate out the platelets which will then be “needled in” to her face, Gwyneth observes how nice and natural this procedure is, because, she laments, “people shoot a lot of weird stuff into their face.”
Do you even hear yourself, Gwyneth?
By episodes 5, the folks at Goop Lab have apparently decided they are all set with science, though they do attempt a few dubious references to quantum physics and a “double-slit experiment” that I am 99.99% sure is in no way applicable to what I am watching. One of the “experts” in this episode puts our skepticism to rest, noting, “Just because something isn’t proven, doesn’t mean it doesn’t work.”
The last two episodes are still incredibly entertaining though, and I inhale them the way I suppose Bachelor and Real Housewives fans inhale their trash. I mean, who wouldn’t be entertained by Julianne Hough undergoing “energy healing,” wherein she convulses her body like a rabid breakdancer atop a massage table, groaning and screaming, and next to her, Elise, chief content officer of a $250 million company, is furiously coughing and gagging and exclaiming it’s the only way to “let it out”?
Episode 6, “Are You Intuit?” was about psychic mediums, and it went exactly as you suspect it did.
Here’s the thing. Goop is stupid. It’s insanely overpriced woo-woo bullshit and mostly junk science. But I love Gwyneth as a person. I just do. Have your heard her on Dax Shepard’s Armchair Expert? She is so goddamn charming and genuine. Yes, of course she’s disconnected from reality, but I also think she’s completely earnest when, in Goop Lab’s opening credits, she says, “We’re here one time, one life. How can we really, like, milk the shit out of this?”
It’s a question I ask myself almost every day, so I’m kinda here for it. I won’t be seeking the services of an energy healer anytime soon, but I will happily commit myself to mastering the “rock n roll.”
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