Last night, at an Easter dinner, I got into a discussion about Gwyneth Paltrow with a few strangers whom I was meeting for the first time.
“She’s just like Anne Hathaway, people will always hate her.”
The rhetoric on the topic was the same as it ever was, but the people I was discussing it with were a lot different than my usual crowd. I was suddenly having a conversation about a social inquiry that’s plagued me since Ms. Paltrow won her Oscar for ‘Shakespeare in Love’ with the type of cool individuals who wear all black to an Easter dinner and know more about culture than New York Magazine. So, in the heat of the moment, I threw out a question to the group:
“But do you think that even if Gwyneth Paltrow, let’s say, cured some kind of disease – people would still hate her?”
Without skipping a beat, the group responding with an overwhelming, “Yes.”
I have to say, I was pretty surprised. If Gwyneth woke up tomorrow and discovered that a weird combo of kale, rare Moroccan oil, and a two thousand dollar copper belly chain cured Alzheimer’s, I’m pretty sure she’d be relinquished of her hated past. I let the idea marinate in my brain until I questioned my own optimism; would Americans really be that petty? That shallow? Clapping and applauding her feat but secretly holding a grudge over a movie star because she did a good deed, no matter HOW good the deed was? I can see it now…
Molly (woman about town): “I mean, I know she cured Alzheimer’s and everything, but like, she doesn’t have to keep talking about it. It’s like, we get it; you cured Alzheimer’s.”
I shuddered at the thought. There has to be a good reason for this, right?
I took a stroll through Gwyneth’s recent public affairs. After being announced that she was the ‘Most Hated Celebrity’ last April by Star Magazine, and the downfall of her lifestyle blog GOOP not so shortly after, Gwyneth’s cultural presence has continued to take quite a beating, including visible scoffs after her use of the phrase “conscious uncoupling” when announcing a split with husband and Coldplay front man, Chris Martin.
But even after the stories and articles about her ‘polarizing’ nature, still no one has been able to explain to me: Why? Why is a talented actress so passionately disliked for not doing anything wrong?
To try and help myself solve this riddle, I’ll start by saying that I know she’s had her fair share of pretentious quotes; “I would rather die than let my kid eat Cup-a-Soup.” “I am who I am, I can’t pretend to be someone who makes $25,000 a year.” “I really don’t like drunk women; I think it is such a bad look.” Her now defunct blog GOOP was filled with impossibly expensive items, organic meals that probably took hours to make, and where to find a bikini wax in Paris. On top of that, she’s an incredibly talented actress who was born from money. She’s blonde, skinny, and beautiful. She may well have worn one of the best Oscar dresses in history (the white Tom Ford with the cape), and she’s (well, she was) married to one of the most successful musicians in history and lives internationally with her perfect children. Life is good for Gwyneth; that much is clear.
But the type of visceral, guttural reaction of, “I HATE her,” that you get out of typically 20-30 something year-old women when GP is mentioned at say, an Easter dinner party, is something deeper than celebrity envy.
So what is it? It’s not just jealousy, because if every person who was wealthy and beautiful and shared their secrets on where to find the best organic wine was hated this much, the cover of Vanity Fair would be an empty, empty place. And to be honest, I don’t really know if I’d want my kids eating Cup-a-Soup either; and having said that, I HATE drunk girls. A lot. Probably more than Gwyneth. To come to think of it, after reading through the horde of articles about Gwyneth’s most epic quotes, I pretty much agree with all of them – and I can’t be the only one. So did she murder someone? Did Gwyneth Paltrow start a forest fire? Did I miss the announcement that she’s changing Apple’s name to Adolf? What am I missing?
Later in the conversation, a guy using his sunglasses as a hairband named Patrick made an interesting comparison: “It’s like, Angelina has the same quality, but people don’t hate her because she’s such a philanthropist. If Gwyneth was out there with Michelle Obama everyday doing that “Let’s Move” campaign than people wouldn’t hate her when she says that shit about food.”
He has a good point; the two are pretty similar. They’re beautiful, Academy Award winning actresses with handsome husbands and kids with weird names. Based on Angelina’s past, we should hate her as much as we do Gwyneth (and I just might hate her more – TEAM JENNIFER). Angelina’s weird brother-kissing-Brad Pitt-stealing history never really comes up in conversation anymore. When she sticks her leg out at an award show, or when she adopts another child from a third-world country, the world just laughs and makes fun of it for a second and moves on, not quite the same collective groan that happens when Gwyneth talks about, well, anything. But here’s an interesting thought: without the Goodwill Ambassador title, the multitude of adopted children, and the actual time spent doing charity work in Africa, would Angelina’s Cambodia-themed Louis Vuitton ads be Gwyneth’s GOOP? And vice-versa, had Gwen been actively pursuing a visual platform for providing healthy school lunches, or leading the fight against bulk sales, would she have earned more respect?
The conversation came and went, and just like when you ask people why they hate Gwyneth Paltrow, nobody was able to fully explain the reasoning behind it.
That is, until today.
While writing this article, I’ve come up with a theory that is a little hard to swallow. The reason that people, women specifically, hate Gwyneth Paltrow, is because she’s a mirror. That’s right, a big, giant, popular, American mirror.
Let me explain.
It’s no secret that American life is mostly about material possessions. Everyone wants the new car, the gorgeous house, the Wonder Bread husband with a cute name like ‘Danny’ who gets that raise so little Beckett can one day go to Duke (but mostly so you can get a blow-out, because Jenny got bangs and you will NOT be outdone!). The goal of most of the majority of Americans is to impress your other friends with big things. Life for a lot of people is about what we own, how much money you have, what separates you from the pack and makes your life superior to Linda’s next door. Unfortunately in this case, Gwyneth Paltrow is un-impressible. She’s a mirror to people who see what they want (wealth and superiority), and also can’t yet have (extreme wealth and extreme superiority). I’m not afraid to say that the reason we hate Gwyneth is because Gwyneth Paltrow is the Queen of America.
The Queen of America is pretentious yet honest, wealthy yet sustainable, and sometimes lives in Los Angeles. She buys seafood regularly, is friends with other American royalty (obviously Beyoncé), and offers her advice without hesitation, for she knows it is the best advice to give. Pinterest? Etsy? Are those even things? The Queen of America has GOOP, and GOOP we shall have.
However, the funny thing about the Queen of America is that anyone could’ve been her. If you’re lucky, these lifestyle goals are all attainable things – but Gwyneth beat you all to the punch. And not only was she first, but she blogged about it too. She ruined and exposed the secret plan of every person who worries just a little too much about the appearance of their lives. Because of Gwyneth’s outspoken nature of her enviable life, she has filled the country with materialistic shame, and in turn we’ve taken our anger out on her for it. Gwyneth Paltrow is the most hated celebrity so we don’t have to hate ourselves.
I think Gwyneth just happened to be in the wrong blog at the wrong time. Had she been roughin’ it with Angelina in the bomb fields of Cambodia, or quietly studying literature and memorizing Les Mis lines with Anne Hathaway, her relatability to the average person who works at an ad agency and is excited about brunch would’ve squandered. But this is the life she chose.
So I say, Gwyneth, or ahem excuse me, Queen of America – you keep doing your thing, because America secretly wants you to. All Hail the Queen!