The people in the room seem shocked to have witnessed this moment of intra-realm wire-crossing. Jackson does not. “So this is what happens when I’m open and they’re determined,” she says breezily, explaining how the spirits of the dead might try to communicate with those who are not a reading’s appointed “sitters.” A title card echoes her claim: “Lindsay did not have any communication with Laura Lynne Jackson prior to this taping.”
Is this evidence? Is it trolling? Is it something else? Goop—the name, the story goes, derived from Gwyneth Paltrow’s initials and her assumption that the most successful websites have an “oo” in them—has evolved, since 2008, from a newsletter into a website into a commercial platform into a series of books into a powerful and lucrative brand. As it has expanded, it has also become infamous for selling products that traffic in the culture of “wellness” with little evident regard for the science of it. (In 2018, the company settled a false-advertising case brought by the state of California involving three of its products. One of them was a blend of essential oils that the site claimed could fight depression.) The Goop takedown, whether directed at the yoni egg or the coffee enema or the $125,000 gold dumbbells, has become its own branch of journalism, some of it authored by medical professionals and some by cultural critics who, correctly, take issue with the brand’s blithe assumptions about who can buy their way into wellness and who cannot.
Read: I Gooped myself
The Goop Lab is best understood as a six-episode-long infomercial for Goop. You can also read it, though, as a show about the set of circumstances that led to the star of Shallow Hal becoming, to some, an authority on health. The show’s episodes, led by Paltrow and Elise Loehnen, Goop’s chief content officer, explore topics such as psychedelics (“The Healing Trip”), cold-exposure therapy (“Cold Comfort”), women’s sexual health (“The Pleasure Is Ours”), and energy-field massage (“The Energy Experience”). Goop employees often serve as the appointed topic’s guinea pigs, testing out mushrooms and plunging into Lake Tahoe in winter and explaining in talking-head interviews how the treatments improved their life. The show’s unifying assumption is that there is science beyond “science.” The series is a stylized argument for all that might be achieved, on behalf of the body and the soul and the culture that contains them, if humans could look beyond the dull contingencies of fact.
This is, on the soft-lit surface of things, an optimistic premise. The show’s appointed authorities often note, in discussions with Paltrow and Loehnen set in Goop’s gleaming offices, that progress requires its own kind of faith. (One of them points out that the world was assumed to be flat until people of vision determined it to be otherwise.) Several of them note as well that true visionaries are often mocked, in their age, by those who are insufficiently open of mind. They have a point. The show’s strongest episode features Betty Dodson, the feminist sex educator, discussing the physics of women’s orgasms; it reads as a timely corrective to American culture’s tendency to treat women’s bodies as agents of shame.