The self-care products of Goop, Gwyneth Paltrow’s unselfconscious aspirational-wellness empire, feel like low-hanging fruit for mockery. There are a bounty of products that sound like period euphemisms (Resurrection Bath, The Honey Mud, Moon Juice), a $90 monthlong vitamin regimen meant to induce weight loss, and two different slabs of rose quartz designed for the face and vagina, respectively. Largely on the strength of dubious luxury health products like these, Goop has become shorthand for the kind of ooey-gooey pseudoscience adopted by super-rich people who don’t understand why their money can’t solve problems like feeling tired and “inflammation.”
An excellent recent profile of Paltrow and the company, written by Taffy Brodesser-Akner for the New York Times Magazine, reported that Paltrow sees such public derision as part of her marketing plan. When people get angry at Goop for making deceptive health claims (no, dildos cannot heal infections) and promoting possibly harmful practices (jade is porous, making it a poor, bacteria-harboring material for an intravaginal “egg”), they write blog posts and post on social media. Those posts drive traffic to the Goop site, where some readers decide they’d actually like to try that thing everyone is angry about, or maybe just purchase a pair of espadrilles and a little anti-wrinkle serum.
But we’ve thus far overlooked another notably absurd corner of the Goop empire: the site’s editorial content about relationships, which presents a vision of interpersonal connection as just another system in need of more balance, positive energy, and a good, thorough detox. The Goop “Relationships” page is housed under the “Work” vertical—a nod, perhaps, to the idea that if you want to live-laugh-love with someone, you have to negotiate-unpack-process with them, too. At first glance, it seems packed with extremely imprecise articles that promise to solve the kind of ultra-basic issues that might spur someone to read relationship advice online. Who doesn’t need a refresher on “How to Have a Good Relationship” or “How to Find Someone”?
But click through those headlines and you’ll be redirected to entire Goop “guides” to these topics: collections of articles that circle around the how-tos without actually addressing them. If you’d like to learn “how to find someone,” for instance, Goop will tell you to read “Getting Smart About Love” and “Profiling for Intent: When Our Thoughts Run Away From Us” first. The former is a Q&A with a “life strategist” who advises readers that they have a “spiritual right” to find a “Love Mate.” The latter features the same woman talking readers through a lengthy thought exercise to help them gain control over “mind quakes” that surface worst case scenarios in the brain. The strategies she suggests could surely help readers in the way a text-message therapist might. But it’s all such New Age–y mush that, after reading the first two pieces in the series, I’m still sitting here alone with my $199 pelvic-floor trainer, with no clearer sense of how to find my Love Mate than I had 20 minutes ago.
Goop, which began as a newsletter that contained Paltrow’s personal recommendations for places to go and things to buy, is intimately intertwined with the person of Gwyneth Paltrow. So, to understand Goop’s theory of relationships, start with Paltrow’s. One of the first major waves of ridicule Paltrow endured came when she and then-husband Chris Martin announced that they would undergo a “conscious uncoupling”—a divorce, in other words, for people as likely to smudge sage in their partner’s closet as burn old photos, and more likely to quibble over who gets the infrared sauna than to argue over a car. The second-ever Goop print magazine featured Paltrow and her fiancé, producer Brad Falchuk, on the cover; an accompanying video on Falchuk ran in the website’s relationships section. “How Goopy is Brad Falchuk?” the video’s title asks, in a rare glimmer of self-awareness for the site.
As if undergoing a hazing ritual performed by Paltrow’s die-hards, Falchuk grins in front of a camera and offers bland, good-sport answers to questions about his betrothed, such as “Have you found Gwyneth’s G. Spot?” That’s a riff on the name of her travel app, G. Spotting, by the way. He names the worst cleanse Paltrow has tried (anything that keeps her from her French fries, apparently) and plays “fuck, marry, kill” with three of Paltrow’s movie characters (goodbye, Margot Tenenbaum). The content is only of note to those who are hungry for scrubbed-clean details about Paltrow’s personal life or who feel some kind of responsibility for making sure Falchuk is worthy of her. It’s a pretty funny video, but viewers learn nothing about Falchuk, of course; it’s all about her. The strategy that underlies this production—publish vapid Gwyneth-adjacent content and people will hand Goop their money—seems to be working.
Like the rest of the site, the relationships section of Goop contains a lot of mostly benign, slightly woo-woo stuff, with a tasteful line of absurdity toed throughout. Explanatory guides that sound like Bustle meets Psychology Today—“Why We Gossip,” “Why We Judge People,” “Why People Cheat,” “Why Navigating Your 20s Is Hard”—contain the occasional bizarre claim, but otherwise, they’re soothing little brain dumps from self-declared psychologists, both certified and armchair.
The unproven science-y claims that seep into the endorsements of Goop’s health products still infect the site’s relationship content. A piece entitled “Happiness Advice from the World’s Happiest Places,” illustrated with a photo of Asian women smiling in hijabs, consists of a Q&A with a man who says if readers take his online quiz backed by “100 million data points,” they’ll get a “happiness self-diagnosis” that “comes with a prescription for rebalancing with evidence-based tips.” An article that promises to tell readers “How to Prepare for the Summer Solstice” with advice from a Ph.D. psychotherapist turns out to be just a horoscope. Another piece features an interview with “A Research Scientist on What Happens to the Brains of Mediums When They Talk to the Other Side.” Not just a scientist—a research scientist who does scientific research. Very official! How does all this qualify as “relationships” coverage? Goop takes the concept pretty loosely! Regardless, in the untamed wilderness of internet relationship advice, someone with psychic multidimensional expertise has a hell of an edge.
Goop’s relationships content is at its best when it sticks to broad, encouraging bromides in pieces like “Step into Your Power and Manifest Your Dreams,” “The Power of Moments,” and “The Power of Empathetic Thought.” So much power, just waiting to be unleashed! Any health benefit of Goop dietary powders may be owed to a placebo effect, and heady musings on self-determination may not help readers achieve their major life goals. But, through its editorial content, Goop has successfully pureed the notions of mental self-help and physical self-care into one non-evidentiary-based smoothie whose pleasant taste matters more than the provenance of its ingredients. The relationship that matters most, the vertical seems to say, is the one we have with ourselves. Outsiders might call it narcissism. At Goop, it’s wellness.