At best, Netflix's "Goop Lab" seems like an attractive, harmless stunt -- which makes it easy to forget just how much damage this type of approach can do.
If you've not kept up with Gwyneth Paltrow's "wellness" company Goop, then first of all -- I kind of envy you. You missed out on the jade eggs that you stick in your vagina, the energy healing stickers, and getting stung by bees. Goop is the epitome of new-age voodoo quackery: doing stuff that’s useless, anti-scientific and of course -- very expensive. As if that wasn't enough, some of their recommendations are actually dangerous, like for instance steaming your vagina. For some reason, a lot of what Goop does involves vaginas.
Needless to say, Goop has often been criticized by scientists and actual health experts for their pseudoscientific approach -- criticism that culminated with a lawsuit which Goop lost, being forced to stop making unsubstantiated claims about some of their products.
But Goop is doing quite fine for itself.
A lot of that is Gwyneth Paltrow herself. The founder and face of Goop has proven to have remarkable business acumen and used her highly marketable persona to develop an image that sells.
That image received a great boost from a recent documentary on Netflix, called the Goop Lab. We won't link to that because, well, it's just bad. As you'd expect from a documentary on pseudoscientific practices, the documentary makes no real effort to discuss the validity of the practices employed by Goop. Energy healing, psychedelic drugs, and exorcisms are all explored as valid topics, with the documentary following people whose lives were helped by Goop.
This is dangerous.
Many people see documentaries as reliable and trusted of information, but "evidence-based" and "scientific" are not two concepts with which Goop or the documentary bother too much. It's a celebration of pseudoscience, a guru-type informercial for Goop, projecting a scientific certainty on the likes of vagina-scented candles -- which again, is a real product sold by Goop.
Don't get me wrong, some of the recommendations are reasonable (take a look at your skin, at your hair, see whether you are sexually fulfilled), but the proposed solutions, most often, aren't; and they shouldn't be advertised as such.
The one reason to watch the documentary -- innoculate yourself against this type of BS
Although it's unscientific at best, there is a lot to learn from the Goop Lab -- not about actual wellness ideas, but about how so-called wellness companies trick people into buying expensive snake oil.
So maybe, possibly, if you have nothing better to do, or if you're forced against your will to watch the documentary
The first thing is advertising an endless problem.
There's always some 'energy blockage' or some 'misaligned chakras' or who knows what invented issue -- and there's always the snake oil to deal with it. That's the first step to every made-up problem. The second issue, however, is much more serious.
Inventing problems wouldn't be that bad if it weren't diverging attention from real problems. If there is a serious underlying health problem, the last thing you want is to ignore the reality and "diagnose" with bogus made-up conditions.
Lastly, The Goop Lab presents unproven, unscientific practices -- and although the show carefully avoids making any legally-disputable claims, it promotes things that just don't work. Energy healing, psychics, crystals, it's all there -- every New-Age trinket Goop can throw in your face, it does.
Just look at the last episode: a promotional advertising for Paltrow's personal psychic, Laura Lynne Jackson -- yes, the Goop Empress has a personal psychic. The episode promotes not only Jackson but the entire psychic industry. The episode parades Jackson as a paranormal power, parading her around different Goop employees to show off her "skills". Jackson is introduced as a "Director of Research", although the place where she is working is the Windbridge Research Center, which promotes mediumship and states right on their website that it is "is not to be a substitute for, nor should it ever take the place of, diagnosis or treatment from a professional".
It's concerning that Netflix thinks it's acceptable to screen something like this -- though in truth, Netflix is screening a lot of pseudoscience these days. It's even more worrying that many would see this as a proper documentary. It's the health equivalent of a Nigerian prince asking for money via email, and unfortunately, many are buying.
But there is one good side to all of this. Snake oil is everpresent in this day and age, and oftentimes, it is more subtle than what Goop is doing. So you consider it some kind of inoculation against other threats. A vaccine against pseudoscience, if you will.
Ironically, Goop supports vaccines. Who would have guessed?