Gwyneth Paltrow's New Goop Netflix Series Is Actually the Craziest Thing You'll See on TV
I woke up sick this morning, so I decided to work from home. Coincidentally, Gwyneth Paltrow's Netflix series "The Goop Lab" also premiered this weekend (you know, the one with the advertisement of her inside a cartoon vulva?). So, I spent the last four hours bingeing the show's six episodes while I worked. I knew it would be a wild ride—I just didn't know how wild (and, tbh, nothing could've prepared me).
The trailer for "The Goop Lab" began with Paltrow explaining why she founded Goop in the first place.
"When I started Goop in 2008, I was like, my calling is something else other than making out with Matt Damon on screen, or whatever." That thought has now become worth $250 million. Let that sit with you for a moment.
To create some sort of organization, I've broken down what you need to know by episode. Before we begin, I will reiterate the line each episode of "The Goop Lab," begins with:
"The following series is designed to entertain and inform—not provide medical advice. You should always consult your doctor when it comes to your personal health, or before you start any treatment." It doesn't take too long to notice they spend the rest of each episode trying to convince you of the opposite.
Episode 1: The Healing Trip
As you might expect, "the healing trip" is less about a relaxing vacation and more about magical mushrooms. Several Goop staffers go on a retreat in Jamaica where they drink magical mushroom tea, lay on a yoga mat and experience their "journey" for a few hours. The staffers are also told that anything they did there was perfect, and there's no way to do it wrong.
Each staffer begins to experience some wild hallucinations or seriously raw emotions (some both). "Start by letting go of your name and then your job title," the experience began. Honestly, it was pretty hard to watch the convulsions and intense emotional pain that some of them were experiencing. One staff member in particular started "feeling the energy" of her deceased father who died by suicide, and it was a lot to take in.
The series also has one or two "case studies" presented in each episode—which is a loose term for an individual who also believes in this stuff and had a positive experience with it. The professionals featured on this episode (Will Siu, M.D., and Mark Hayden, M.S.W.) make sure we know they aren't recommending anyone should be tripping on mushrooms, except under their expert care and guidance. OK.
Episode 2: Cold Comfort
This episode leads staffers to an icy Lake Tahoe retreat where they work with motivational speaker and author Wim Hof to learn his eponymous method that supposedly optimizes athletic performance, improves immunity, mitigates symptoms of chronic disease and buffers against mental health triggers.
I had actually heard of this guy before and knew he believes that swimming in icy waters makes him mentally strong. (Or mentally insane, I'll let you decide.) In this episode, he leads another set of Goop staffers to a cabin where they practice breathing techniques while he makes some tribal-sounding noises. There are more emotions felt here. He tells them that the cold water is a great way to help them deal with their stress.
"Your body is becoming alkaline," Hof says. "The soul knows no fear."
After learning the special breathing techniques of the Wim Hof Method, they put on their swimsuits to practice "snow-ga." (Yes, yoga in the snow.) They end their experience with a swim in the icy winter waters of Lake Tahoe.
Then, he made an exhausted-looking Gwyneth Paltrow (who was fasting at the time) first do some pushups and then repeat the same amount of pushups after using his breathing techniques.
"The breathing makes your muscle tissues alkaline so you'll be able to do more pushups," Hof says.
Paltrow did, in fact, do a few more pushups than she did a few minutes prior. "I thought I was going to pass out during the breathing and then it kind of passed," she says.
This is when I really felt my brain start to become mush.
Episode 3: The Pleasure Is Ours
In this episode, Gwyneth and her partner-in-crime, Elise Loehnen, chief content officer of Goop, meet with Betty Dodson, a sexologist, and the president of her foundation, Carlin Ross.
Dodson and Ross explain there's a lot of shame surrounding women's body parts, and they lead workshops where women meet together naked and have conversations about sexual health, their bodies and learning to ask for what they need. There's a lot more overt sexuality in this episode, but I'll spare you the raunchy details (if you want to know more, watch it for yourself).
Next, a new crew of Goop staffers meet with another sex-pert, Isabella Frappier, who is a sexuality doula. I have no idea what that's supposed to mean, but she helps some of the staffers find self-confidence through a photo shoot and teaches them how to be confident in asking for what they want in bed by giving each other hand massages.
At the end of this episode, an even more exhausted Gwyneth is crumpled on the couch and "salivating for chia pudding." She is apparently still fasting.
Episode 4: The Health-Span Plan
This was certainly the most normal-ish episode of all—except for when Gwyneth's blood was drawn in order to be rubbed on her face, but we'll get to that later. This episode is all about longevity and focusing on one's biological age over their chronological age to achieve optimal health.
Here, Valter Longo, Ph.D., a gerontology professor at USC, explains that calculating one's biological age is more predictive of one's mortality risk and chronic disease than one's actual age.
A staffer named Kelly joins Gwyneth and Elise on this adventure to turn back their biological clocks, and they're each given a different diet plan to undergo for a few days or weeks after getting their blood drawn to calculate their current biological age. Turns out, Kelly's "biological age" is a year younger than her chronological age, while Elise and Gwyneth both have biological ages that are two years younger than their actual ages.
Elise gets a box of pescatarian food to eat for a few weeks alongside Kelly and her box of vegan food, while Gwyneth gets a box full of powders and bars for a "fasting-mimicking diet" she is supposed to do for five days. (It's unclear if this is the same fasting diet from previous episodes or if she's always fasting.)
While they follow various diets, they also undergo various "natural" anti-aging procedures, such as getting their cheeks threaded in lieu of a face-lift, facial acupuncture in lieu of Botox, and a vampire facial, where their blood is drawn and spun in a centrifuge to isolate platelets before they're spread on their faces.
"I like that it's my own material, it's not a toxin." Gwyneth says. Then she says something about how people are willing to put anything on or in their face in order to age better. (All I could think was, "Like your own blood?")
At the end of it all, Kelly's biological clock didn't change after the cheek-threading and vegan diet, Elise lowers her biological age by one more year with acupuncture and a pescatarian diet (although she says she needs meat in her life again) and Gwyneth drops an extra two years on her biological clock after the fasting and vampire facial.
The doctor then tells them to eat healthy, exercise, sleep and don't smoke. (So, basically what we already know.)
Paltrow responds by saying, "It's like they say, the tenets of wellness are typically free." Yep, this is coming from the founder of Goop. I can just picture her laughing as she decides which $500 wellness product she will sell us next.
Chapter 5: The Energy Experience
This episode was the most uncomfortable for me because I don't like horror movies and I felt like I was watching The Exorcist. I really don't have much to say, except this chiropractor has made millions by waving his hand around people's bodies and causing them to dry heave (several of the staffers began choking up their own vomit during this experience).
This was the first time John Amaral, D.C., was letting people film his work in helping release the emotional energy that gets backed up in the body.
"The more connected you are energetically, the more energetic you will feel," he says.
Our case study here was Julianne Hough, dancer and TV personality, who has been going to Amaral since 2013. We see Amaral cause Julianne and some Goop staffers to convulse and make strange noises. This is definitely harder to watch than the staffers tripping on mushrooms in the first episode.
The episode closes with Amaral doing his thing on GP, where she says she is always tired and depleted of energy. (Side note: Why is the most "well" woman in the world always tired? And how is she always depleted of energy when she has this guy on retainer?)
Chapter 6: Are You Intuit?
We've made it to the last episode. I'm exhausted from this show and I haven't eaten in four hours, which makes me feel just like Gwyneth. I immediately break my fast with a piece of toast that's loaded with gluten, and now I no longer feel like Gwyneth.
In the last episode, we take a look into the world of Laura Lynne Jackson, who is a self-proclaimed psychic medium.
I pretty much tuned out as soon as she said that everyone was a psychic and a medium. She had some Goop staffers "tap in" to their powers, and it all felt very forced watching them try to resonate with whatever the other person was "seeing." One of the staffers, Ana, wasn't buying it, and neither was I.
The Bottom Line
I feel like I learned two important wellness lessons today. The first one is, every episode required taking a few quiet moments to feel your emotions—no matter how deep or painful they may be. How many of us actually take the time to process our emotions, or to just be still in our crazy-busy lives these days? I know I don't.
This series also reminded me of the importance of community and letting people in. While I don't exactly want to grow closer to people through swimming in an icy lake or tripping on mushrooms, it's important for us all to remember to make time to spend with loved ones. Our social life actually has a pretty big impact on our health, and eating, moving and living in a community takes a lot of effort in today's world. As Paltrow says, "It's like they say, the tenets of wellness are typically free."