People really hate Gwyneth Paltrow. Last year, Star magazine named her one of “Hollywood’s Most Hated Stars.” But, that same week, she was also named the “World’s Most Beautiful Woman” by People Magazine.
That juxtaposition confused Graydon Carter, editor of Vanity Fair, presumably because he prizes beauty above all else. But, to the non-beautiful, the juxtaposition isn’t all that difficult to explain: People hate Gwyneth in part because she is beautiful.
Apparently there are other reasons to hate Gwyneth. Indeed, Vanity Fair commissioned an article exploring the reasons why people hate Gwyneth, reasons that Carter summarized well in this paragraph:
Half the female staff admired her for creating a healthy family amid the maelstrom of modern-day celebrity—and with a handsome rock-star husband, no less. They thought she was a great actress who deserved the Academy Award she received for Shakespeare in Love. And they envied her abs, her legs, and the fact that she had built a business of being a lifestyle guru. The other half seemed to dislike her for pretty much the same reasons. Some had kind words for Goop, her Web site. Others criticized it both for its privileged Just get your butler to whip up a batch! tone and for what is perceived as a blatant, My life is better than yours thrust.
It should be noted that Carter’s paragraph is excerpted from an editor’s letter, not from the article that he commissioned. And the editor’s letter was written to explain why the article he commissioned wasn’t ultimately published. Carter doesn’t mention it—perhaps he doesn’t recognize it—but people hate Gwyneth, in part, for the very reason the article wasn’t published: People hate Gwyneth because she is in control. (The article wasn’t published presumably because she didn’t want it to be.)
Goop describes itself as “a weekly lifestyle publication and e-commerce shop, curated by Gwyneth Paltrow.” The use of the term “curated,” which seems designed to be maximally grating, also hints at another purpose: the editing and controlling of Gwyneth’s own image. Which is certainly her prerogative, even if in this case, that image is itself about control. Goop pushes juice cleanses, exercise programs, and outrageously expensive clothes and furniture. It offers up helpful tips for throwing celebrity parties and ensuring that your kids eat healthy. And all of it flies under the implicit banner of: This is what Gwyneth does, so why can’t you?
There are a million reasons why none of us can do what Gwyneth does. But it ultimately boils down to this: We aren’t as good as Gwyneth. We can’t throw celebrity parties because we don’t have celebrity friends. Gwyneth does. We can’t afford the furniture. Gwyneth can. We can’t find time to exercise because we don’t have an army of assistants. Gwyneth has.
Gwyneth’s very existence, then, stands in judgment of our lifestyles. If I can do it, she says from that beautiful face perched atop a tall, slender frame, you can too. If you were just better.
Of course, we know, based on empirical evidence, that no one is perfect. So, even while Gwyneth curates her life to project maximum perfection, we look for the faintest crack in her facade. When Gwyneth asks Graydon Carter “what to do to get the ‘haters’ on her side,” the answer seems completely obvious: Let us see your human side. Let us know that you are weak like us. Give us hope that perfection is not required.
Two days ago, Gwyneth announced that she was separating from her
rock star Coldplay-fronting husband. The announcement was met, of course, with a heavy dose of Schadenfreude. But, for Gwyneth, it was an opportunity to relax her facade, to let people in, to get the “haters” on her side.
I regret to report that she did not take advantage of her opportunity.
Her website, Goop, reported the divorce but only in the most carefully curated fashion: “We have always conducted our relationship privately, and we hope that as we consciously uncouple and co-parent, we will be able to continue in the same manner.” The link to the announcement also incorporates the phrase “conscious uncoupling.” It seems that, even in her darkest hour, Gwyneth will not admit that anything—even her husband’s love—is beyond her conscious control.
As long as Gwyneth insists on controlling and curating her life, it will remain difficult to love her. One suspects that only when she can admit ‘conscious’ defeat—or at least some degree of powerlessness in the face of life’s vicissitudes—will she be free to enjoy the uncurated messiness of life. And to be loved.