Rachel Lewis in Bitchmedia:
Introducing her new Netflix series, The Goop Lab, Gwyneth Paltrow explains that Goop, the lifestyle brand she founded in 2008, is laddering up to one thing—namely, what she calls the “optimization of self.” She defines the phrase, saying, “We’re here one time, one life, like, how can we really like milk the shit out of this?” The structure of the show is such that Paltrow, the face of Goop, and Elise Loehnen, Goop’s chief content officer and cohost of the Goop podcast, discuss wellness, mental health, and all things Goop-y. The camera flits between Paltrow and Loehnen sitting in the office and having discussions about depression, anxiety, trauma, and vaginal health with various experts and members of the Goop team (called goopers), a team made up very thin, very stylish people of a wide range of genders and races. The message is that everyone at Goop is out in the world every day, experiencing wellness and attempting to both bond with one another and fix themselves.
The six-episode mini-series kicks off on a memorable note: In “The Healing Trip,” Paltrow’s team is offered the chance to travel to Jamaica to try mushrooms and heal together. They lie on patterned mats on the floor; a lot of white people hug and cry and deal with deep, traumatizing emotions. One jokes, “Someone put a heart monitor on me!” laughing in a way that seems as terrified as it is inspired. As the retreat wraps up, Loehnen tells the camera, “This is not a typical workspace experience, although I kind of wonder if it wouldn’t be incredibly therapeutic for workspace teams if you felt really safe and wanted to become even more intimate and connected with the people that you spend the majority of your day with.” Encouraging coworkers not only to do drugs together, but to explore trauma en masse seems like an HR disaster waiting to happen. But in the world (or, rather, the career) of Goop, it’s just another day at the office.
Likewise, watching the Goop team in the second episode, “Cold Comfort,” “learn to breathe” felt like watching a very quiet, very gentle hazing. (“It was basically all of the symptoms of a panic attack,” one female participant says.) The team does “snowga” together, a practice that basically involves a group of skinny, beautiful people standing in the snow in bathing suits and bare feet and doing yoga, their arms swaying from side to side before their bodies pivot into warrior pose. The fact that Goop’s leadership views these exercises as a fun bonding activity points to a position that’s increasingly expressed by business experts but ignored by company leaders: Give your workers benefits and good salaries, and let them do their jobs. An April 2019 article in Fast Company asserts that “Companies offer all sorts of benefits and extras to attract the most favored workers, from healthcare and stock options to free food. But all those perks come at a price: your freedom.”