Is Gwyneth Paltrow the World's Most Beautiful because we hate her? Or do we hate her because she's beautiful?
Up until this morning Gwyneth Paltrow wasn't having a very good week in public. (Does Gwyneth Paltrow ever have a good week in public? Is a good week in public when she stays in hiding, having a good Goop week, or whatever it is that she does in private?) Paltrow was so busy getting lampooned and lambasted for her sold-on-Goop bikinis for toddlers that it was hard to acknowledge that beautiful face of hers. Vulture published such a wonderful catalogue of all the times she brought up the fact/bragged about her friendship with Jay-Z that, really, it was tough to notice her stellar looks. At The Cut an infographic tried to deduce why she was named the most "hated" celebrity last week, so, to be honest, it was quite difficult to focus on how gorgeous she is this week.
But then, out of the blue, this morning People magazine up and named Gwyneth Paltrow the "World's Most Beautiful Woman." Which begs the question: Is People just blissfully out of touch with how most of the world feels? Or do Gwyneth and her hatable celebrity equals—ahem, Anne Hathaway—not quite deserve all the hatred everybody's so overwhelmed with flinging their way?
Of course, we have to consider all the reasons People might have chosen Paltrow for this honor. First off, she's doing a ton of publicity for Iron Man 3, and she's got that horrible new cookbook that just came out. So, yes, this could be just some skillful PR. Then again, as Whitney Jefferson mentioned on Twitter, People, which chose Channing Tatum over Ryan Gosling for their "Sexiest Man" title, could just be trolling for attention.
However: People is a magazine with a total paid and verified circulation of around 3.6 million, according to the Alliance for Audited Media, coming in ninth on the list of that organization's Top 25 U.S. Consumer Magazines in that criteria. Perhaps there are plenty of people on that circulation list who do not feel the Gwyneth hate. Perhaps there are some who don't subscribe to the lampooning and mud-slinging. Perhaps—perhaps—they've never even heard of it. (We've reached out to People for comment, and will update if we hear back. Update: We heard back from People PR who said that "PEOPLE does not comment on its editorial process.")
But most of the tuned-in crowd hates Gwyneth Paltrow because she just loves to be a celebrity. She name-drops like its nobody's business, and Goop assumes that we all want to live the way she does. Her main activity for the last decade has not been acting; it has been promoting her famous-person lifestyle. (Makes you almost forget that she once enchanted as the wonderfully off-color Margot Tenenbaum.) For that, Gwyneth Paltrow certainly deserves all that comes to her.
But we are living in a tuned-in time when the act of hating Anne Hathaway is, apparently, past its prime. In her road to the Oscars this year Hathaway became the subject of unending backlash (of which we were not immune), but following her Best Supporting Actress win, there emerged a kind of backlash to the backlash. Writers tried to deconstruct our collective Hathahate (ugh)—is it sexism? Is it because she's happy?—and even Lena Dunham chimed in in rushing to her defense.
Perhaps—perhaps—Paltrow deserves the same kind of second-guessing of the second-guessing. People's cover story excerpt presents her as a family woman who tries to promote healthiness and good (Goop?) body image. It's easy to counter that with reports of her insane diet from her new book, but maybe those are truly noble efforts. Gwyneth Paltrow can be patently silly, and she deserves to be mocked, but the world's most beautiful woman doesn't need all of the world's vitriol. Just a little.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.