A cataclysmic event like this month’s election has a way of dividing everything into “Before” and “After”: The jovial podcast episode that was obviously taped Before, the six-pack in the fridge purchased in the haze of After. Under such gloomy conditions, it’s comforting when something happens to remind us that certain things remain constant, even when the world is crumbling. To be specific, Gwyneth Paltrow has said something annoying.
At a conference over the weekend sponsored by Airbnb, the actress indicated she is feeling giddily optimistic about the presidency of Donald J. Trump. “It’s such an exciting time to be an American because we are at this amazing inflection point,” the Goop founder told the audience. “People are clearly tired of the status quo, and … it’s sort of like someone threw it all in the air and we’re going to see how it all lands.”
It’s “exciting” to watch Titanic. It’s less exciting to actually drown. Paltrow’s apparently congenital inability to recognize the difference is a running theme in her public life. To be fair, it’s understandable that she doesn’t feel directly threatened by the results of the election. Willowy blond kazillionaires will probably do just fine in Donald Trump’s America. But it’s less understandable that she apparently lacks the imagination to foresee that not everyone will fare so well.
In a sentence that has surely never been written before, Paltrow sounds a lot like Slavoj Žižek. Both are electrified by the prospect that Trump will usher in a radically disruptive political era. Žižek, a schlubby Slovenian revered in dorm rooms throughout the land, has been arguing for months now that Trump’s election would bring a kind of cathartic chaos to the American political system. “In this situation in which we are now, only some kind of a shakeup can save us,” Zizek told Al Jazeera last week. “And one good thing about Donald Trump—and it’s an obscenity to call this a good thing—is that he put [the system] into great disarray; it almost fell apart.” In April, he said that Trump’s “dirty jokes” were merely a cover for the fact that Trump is just a centrist liberal.
Like Žižek, Paltrow seems to take it as a given that she’s on the right side of history. She is, after all, a long-time donor to Democratic causes and candidates. She hosted a fundraising event for President Obama in 2012. But Radar reported last year that her offer to organize a fundraiser for Clinton was rejected. As Allie Jones points out in the Cut, Paltrow has made almost no public efforts to support Clinton since then, aside from posting a cheerful Instagram photo of herself wearing a pantsuit on Election Day.
But no matter the motivation, Paltrow’s neutrality before the election, and her bemused fascination afterward, may actually be an inadvertent gift to Clinton and Democratic causes. As Amanda Hess wrote this week in the New York Times, conservative news outlets have been reveling in the pre-election anxiety and post-election angst of liberal celebrities like Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lawrence. “‘Grieving’ Lena Dunham Seeks Answers in Arizona Wilderness After Trump Win,” one Breitbart headline crowed. Celebrities may think they’re helping out by lending their voices, but increasingly, they seem to be galvanizing the opposition. With that in mind, if Paltrow had offered an extra Instagram post, in-jokey Funny or Die video, or limited-edition “Goop’s With Her” tee-shirt (pima cotton, $216), it’s hard to imagine that it would have made a difference for Clinton. More than likely, it would have inspired another round of mockery. But wouldn’t it have been “exciting” while it lasted?