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Making fun of Gwyneth Paltrow has evolved into something of an American pastime in recent years, and, for those who engage, it’s made a lot easier by her lifestyle newsletter-turned-media venture, goop. There's a pretty tidy, polar bifurcation between those who hate her and those who love her. (Personally, I’m predisposed to anyone who’s related to Blythe Danner, though I've tried reading goop many times, and I'm afraid I'm not its target demographic.)
Since goop’s advent in 2008, the world’s been rife with parodies of it, from Stephen Colbert skits to referential send-ups like Bloop from The New York Times’ Jenna Wortham and Racked’s Aminatou Sow. The latest entry in this canon is Gabrielle Moss’ Glop: Nontoxic, Expensive Ideas that Will Make You Look Ridiculous and Feel Pretentious (HarperCollins, December 2016), which grew out of a January 2015 Bustle article that Moss wrote after reading Paltrow's paean to vaginal steaming in goop. The book bills itself as “wickedly funny,” and I can confirm it is. It's split into five sections that read as absurdist koans—Achieve, Exist, Create, Gain, Look At—each filled with ridiculous detoxes (the Raw Ice Detox, the Locked in a Room with No Doors and No Windows Detox), guides to "choosing the Right Shaman to Bring on Your Family Vacation," and an instructive few pages on why "You Need to Eat Bees. Now!"
Making fun of Paltrow has been done so often, and with such glee, that I found Moss’ undertaking rather herculean: How could you harness so much material into one book? Could you? Well, yes; she takes one concept and runs with it, committed and cheekily hilarious. I asked her some questions via email, below, about what the experience was like for her; upon receiving my questions, Moss' publicist responded that a few journalists have accused the book of being mean. The publicist herself was pretty bewildered, commenting that, in a promo for the television show Nightcap on Pop, Paltrow asks if anyone has a humidifier so she can go steam her vagina. She’s even made fun of herself! I bet she’d find Glop funny, too.
MAYUKH SEN: What was your first encounter with goop—when did you first read it? Did you find it ridiculous?
GABRIELLE MOSS: I don't have a very distinct memory of when I first heard about goop—kind of like how a child has no distinct memory of first meeting its mother—but I do remember becoming fixated on the site about 7 or 8 years ago. It was the recession, everyone I knew was scrambling for work, and I just became transfixed by the idea of a celebrity looking at the world and going, "You know what people need? Recommendations for $600 throw pillows and high-end gazpacho bars in Madrid!" I was also fascinated by the faux emotional intimacy of goop, combined with its out-of-touchness—like, this is all just chatting with your bestie, who happens to have seven nannies and does yoga for three hours a day.
MS: Take me back to the experience of writing this article, and the extent to which it served as your inspiration for Glop.
GM: Well, after reading the original article about vaginal steaming, but before trying it at home, I thought it sounded kinda refreshing! I had been reading goop for a while at that point, and though I thought it didn't address my needs or the needs of anyone I knew, I still lusted over the luxury items—like, if I have to live in my own filth and die in a mountain of debt, I can at least have the same under-eye cream used as an Academy Award-winner, right? The experience of vaginal steaming at home kind of opened my eyes to the idea that just because something is recommended by a rich, hot person, doesn't mean that it's actually good or pleasant—which sounds very dumb and obvious now that I'm typing it out, but at the time was quite a revelation. I had always assumed that, you know, a $200 wine is inherently better than a $30 wine. And it often is! But the vaginal steaming experience got me thinking about whether the luxe services and items rich people obsess over might actually be crappy and boring... which eventually led to Glop.
MS: What do you think makes Gwyneth Paltrow, and goop more generally, so easy to parody?
GM: I think Gwyneth actually works to project a persona that's easy to caricature—I think she has a very sharp marketing instinct, and knows that painting her persona in very broad strokes will attract some haters (like me) but will also get her concept across very easily to a lot of people. And that persona—a person who is so rich and perfect that they left reality behind a long time ago, and can maybe help you get to the same level—has been a very effective business strategy for her. So I admire her, in the way that Al Pacino admires Robert DeNiro in Heat.
MS: What sources of inspiration did you draw from? (There are other parodies/send-ups of goop—I'm thinking of Bloop by Aminatou Sow and Jenna Wortham.)
GM: Bloop was definitely on my radar, as was the Paltrow-parodying character Annabel Porter and her "Bloosh" site on "Parks & Recreation," Lindy West's coverage of the goop-pire for Jezebel, Julieanne Smolinski's Medium parody of Paltrow associate Amanda Chantal Bacon... my editor also sent me a comedy book from the '90s called Is Martha Stuart Living? which made me feel like I was part of a long, proud tradition of petty writers being rude about fancy ladies who had more money and status than them.
MS: There are some people who inevitably find the mere idea of making fun of Gwyneth Paltrow and goop mean-spirited (or rooted in jealousy). Have you gotten any pushback of this sort—and if so, how have you responded?
GM: I haven't heard anything like that yet, but I mean, of course I'm jealous! I have to take 3 trains to get in to work, I have a weird relationship with my body, and I recently had a stranger on the street hit me in the face with a soiled blanket. I'd have to be deranged to not be jealous of Gwyneth Paltrow. That said, writing Glop was less rooted in wanting to take her down a peg, and more in wanting us all to kind of admit our jealousy and examine it. Like, yes, we're jealous of rich people flashing their seemingly carefree existences at us on Instagram and elsewhere. So what can we do to not let that envy eat us alive?
MS: Who's the target audience for this book?
GM: I think women who have spent any part of their day wondering if there's something wrong with them because they're not ultra-thin, ultra-rich, perfect moms who look like models and spend their day off grilling a fresh sea bass with Stella McCartney—which is to say, a lot of the women who are reading or hate-reading goop—might enjoy spending some time with the book. I think there's just as many of us as there are, say, people looking for a family-friendly yacht rental service.
Gabrielle Moss' Glop: Nontoxic, Expensive Ideas That Will Make You Look Ridiculous and Feel Pretentious, comes out from Dey Street and HarperCollins on December 6th.