It’s the role of a lifetime . . . the one she was born to play.
Gwyneth Paltrow is Marie Antoinette.
I was trying to put my finger on who Gwyneth Paltrow reminded me of. Gwyneth is fairly unique-looking unless she decides to hitch a ride on the road to plastic surgery Madam-ville, Madam being the Muppet all famous men and women resemble after a good thirty years of hacking, stuffing, and prosthetic cheek puffing of the face. She’s got a manly jaw, a small nose, and an unmistakable air of aristocracy. She’s the ultimate ex-model prom queen of all celebrities–this might explain why it was so awkward watching her try a backroads country persona on for size in the lamely yet ironically titled Country Strong. Gwyneth Paltrow, who has never known anything outside the golden glow of being ridiculously fawned over, is fast on her way out. The gaping awkwardness of an aging starlet from NY trying to fit into a Southern-fried role meant for someone else is as loud of an omen as one can get without the banshees actually coming down from the darkened sky and screaming it at you. Like other pampered royals of times past, sometimes the best thing one can do is pretend that nothing exists outside a perfect world.
Even though the imageproduct that is Gwyneth Paltrow has been shoved down my throat since I was a kid in the pages of Sassy Magazine (she was a preteen model in the long defunct teen mag), I never formed an opinion of her until a couple of years ago. Gwyneth didn’t seem bad or good: she won an Oscar for a movie that I didn’t think was all it was hyped to be and she married a rock star and had his kid. No big deal. Then she started losing her youth and her good looks.
Let me take an aside here to observe just how much our culture damages women. Even though we come in all shapes, colors, and sizes, we are given one very skeletal, often blonde, large-chested/small-nosed/giant-eyed/small-assed/perfect teethed ideal to aspire to. Whether you see through the game or not, you are supposed to be left with a sense of emptiness and inadequacy. You are supposed to consume in order to assuage said inadequacy. Consume we must and consume we do. Yet no matter how hard you consume, you will never be quite as beautiful, thin, or loved (or as expertly Photoshopped) as the “in” people; they’re the elite, you’re not. Media insists that we all aspire to be one of them, Hollywood royalty, on the cover of a magazine, featured in the latest motion picture. Cue Gwyneth Paltrow and her not-quite-all-there blog, GOOP.
It’s the kind of chirpy-annoying rich twit dreck that traffics in doling out all sorts of unwanted advice. It never seems to occur to Paltrow that most normal women don’t want the advice of someone who has never accidentally bounced a check or worried about making rent. We don’t want kitchen tips from one who delights in having a bizarre celebrity fishmonger deliver to her door. It’s evident that Gwyneth Paltrow envisions herself as the editorial team of one deigning to churn out GOOP articles from her lofty peak on Atlantis. She probably believes that she is giving something of herself to the world of mortals; letting fans into her inner circle. The deception is so profound, she may actually have herself fooled. Gwyneth shows no inner self in any form–her blog is regurgitated New Age nonsense gleaned from lifestyle gurus and the suggests the worst soul-crushing feminist-defeating behavior that Self magazine ever had to offer, plus a dash of Martha Stewart-style OCD. We begin to sense the possibility of a morbidly self-obsessed anorexic-bulimic with intellectual leanings and unfortunate pretenses, a privileged WASP with a crushing burden of white-woman guilt engaging in repeated vapid and misled attempts to reach out to an increasingly hostile audience.
Gwyneth feeds the tabloids just as Marie fed the libelles, unaware that she is obtusely offending angry working mothers like so many unwashed eighteenth century peasants. GOOP is her virtual Petit Trianon. The servants–disguised in their modern day form as assistants, nannies, and maids to wash the six-hundred count organic Egyptian sheets and to tend to the bothersome children in their electrified mini-Hummers–do not have a voice, nor do they exist upon the official radar. It is a subtle but persistent message that the little people only count insofar as they keep the ship afloat: their unglamorous stories are unimportant and kept off the register.
“…the innovativeness of Marie Antoinette’s country retreat would attract her subjects’ fierce disapproval, even as it aimed to bolster her autonomy and enhance her prestige,”
Weber, Caroline Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution. (2006) Henry Holt and Co.
What Marie-Gwyneth fails to realize is that pretending to identify with the lower classes by creating an artificial world of homey-ness around yourself is considered a million times more elitist and snobbish than just owning up to your wealth and elevated status. Gwyneth’s best pal, Madonna, has at least had enough sense to epitomize the stereotype of wealthy New York celebrity without apologies or false humility. Only a bad actor is so unable to get outside herself that she cannot create a lovable offstage presence. Even Madonna, for all her public nudity and dashboard confessionals, has at least had the good Midwestern tact not to discuss bowel movements.
In the case of Gwyneth and countless other celebrities I have had a forced awareness of, there is the omnipresent ticking of the clock that dominates every photo, movie, and product endorsement. Though we should rightly envy celebrities for their money and ease of existence–imagine how your life would be if you didn’t have to worry about bills every month and you could actually take a month off without losing your job or your mortgage–don’t envy them the sound of that clock that grows to deafening loudness as it winds down. If you’re Gwyneth Paltrow, which you most likely are not, you’ve got twenty-five glory years at very best. During those years, you will be idol-worshipped, even in the most mundane and stupid aspects of your life. You will be obsessed over, your poster pinned on walls, refrigerators. You will be paid ridiculous amounts of money. You’ll spend ridiculous amounts of money. You’ll be told you have a great deal more talent than you actually have and you’ll believe every word. You’ll go to fancy parties and hang out with fancy people. You will invest everything you have, body, mind, and spirit, in perpetuating the image that you possessed at the beginning of the rainbow.
They always forget to mention the caveat.
At the end of that twenty-five years, you will be thrown away, mocked, and possibly even hated. After all, you had it better than any working stiff for fifteen to twenty-five years, right? How is it possible that one could not manage to stay young forever, even when you never had a real job? Aren’t all those facials and make-up artists doing their magic?
If life were a Greek myth, this particular one would be a tragedy that says if you invest in the world of appearances too heavily, you will inevitably be betrayed by the very thing that brought you success. This is especially true for women who have not risen anywhere near equality in a male-dominated world. When you fall, you’ll lose everything and the only thing more awful than losing it is watching the newer and the younger ones rise up to usurp your monarchy by any means necessary.
Let her eat cake . . . or organic lemon flaxseed oil.