The following series is designed to entertain and inform—not provide medical advice,” the Netflix docuseries “the goop lab with Gwyneth Paltrow” warns before every episode. It would be a good sentiment, had actress Gwenyth Paltrow not referred to all of her pseudoscientific claims as “medicine,” a term she uses to describe anything from shrooms and ecstasy to guided breathing exercises.
In September 2008, Paltrow started a lifestyle and wellness blog called goop. The G and P were for her name and the double O’s were included, according to the New York Times, because someone told her successful internet companies have double O’s in their name.
The website started out as a blog for travel, beauty and dieting, but a quick glance at their “Wellness” tab reveals that it is not simply that. It is chock full of “health tips.” Certain things aren’t actually that bad—there’s a lot on the website about women’s sexual liberation and mental health issues.
However, there are also articles that are downright dangerous. Others still are shameless cash grabs, like their recommendation of a $27 small bottle of essential oils because “energy practitioners suggest clearing your energy field once a week.” It is conveniently located in the Goop shop, next to a $98 black tank top.
“The goop lab” is the logical next step to this blog. It features Paltrow and a handful of her employees talking about and trying out alternative medicines. Like goop.com, many of the messages aren’t dangerous. Some ideas, specifically that people should open up more and people with chronic pain should meditate, are even good.
But, like goop.com, the show quickly turns to pseudoscience. The first five minutes of the first episode already fall into the fallacy of the ancients: People have been using shrooms to treat things since the Dark Ages, why don’t we?
The “support” for many of Paltrow’s claims sound real because of her use of scientific jargon, but, when closely examined, are actually based in nothing. For example, “the goop lab” refers to psychedelics as a type of “healing modality” and asserts that certain breathing exercises will “turn your muscles completely alkaline.”
The second episode, which features those breathing exercises, is their most egregious offense. Paltrow invites a man named Wim Hof to her show to teach people how to get rid of chronic pain, eliminate disease and turn their lives around all with special breathing and cold water.
While there is evidence that Hof is able to do extraordinary things like regulate his body temperature and reduce cold symptoms, his method is dangerous. What “the goop lab” doesn’t mention is that multiple people have died from it. In fact, “the goop lab” carelessly breezes over any possible side effects from the treatments they suggest, citing singular case studies as their evidence that something is irrefutably real and useful.
Still, I could have forgiven “the goop lab” for every single one of its offenses, if it were just a good show. Ultimately, it’s just a splicing together of a bunch of different scenes that don’t provide a common thread or narrative. It’s just Paltrow and her employees doing drugs while they drip with privilege and a lack of self-awareness, all interspersed with personal interviews of “case studies.”
If you’re really interested in a scientific/medical docuseries, I would recommend “Ask the Doctor,” a 2017 Netflix series featuring real medical professionals. Or, if you prefer the podcast format, “Sawbones: A Marital Tour of Misguided Medicine” is an ongoing medical history podcast that has recently started delving into modern issues—and yes, they have a goop episode.