In defense of Gwyneth Paltrow
Brodie Lancaster writes.
Gwyneth Paltrow was recently named the most irritating celebrity in Hollywood by a team of people who are probs very insightful, educated and unbiased. She beat out other “annoying” (otherwise known as successful and not Jennifer Lawrence) women, including Kristen Stewart, Jennifer Lopez and Angelina Jolie for the top spot, so congrats I guess?
It’s not unusual for people (read: Jezebel staffers and Buzzfeed contributors) to take the anti-Gwyneth position; she’s thin, white, wealthy, privileged and friends with Jay-Z and Beyoncé. But being critical of Gwyneth doesn’t make anyone edgy or provocative; it’s a default opinion that is rarely challenged or examined, and has infiltrated celebrity commentary to the point where anything written about her becomes tinged with a tone as snarky and judgmental as a bratty teenager’s Burn Book.
Here’s a quick test to determine whether or not the criticism has affected your judgment:
Does imagining Gwyneth Paltrow saying: “I think that women, especially women in my job, come to me because they know I’m very loving and nonjudgmental and I’m not competitive, and I’ve been through a lot,” make you feel:
a) Comforted that Gwyneth is helping her sisterz to do it for themselves (whatever “it” may be)
b) Dry in the eye sockets on account of excessive exasperated eye-rolling.
If you answered “b”, I’d like you to imagine Michelle Obama or Tina Fey or Mia Farrow or, hell, even Justin Bieber (switch them pronouns) saying the same thing, and gauge the difference in your reaction.
There’s a level of accessibility that celebrities are expected to possess. Despite their personal drivers and Birkins full of Blackberries (full disclosure: I may not be an expert on the intricacies of Hollywood), they’re supposed to behave like the collective girl next door and we’re supposed to fall for it and easily imagine they’re our BFFs. Gwyneth’s reality is so out of reach for us – something she is acutely aware of, P.S. – that she breaks this #1 rule of celebrity by not giving us plebs the opportunity to feel like we’d ever be invited over for a raw quinoa feast around her salvaged oak occasion table to celebrate Moses’ graduation from his Steiner preschool.
But you know what? That’s okay.
Gwyneth been wealthy and privileged her whole life and she refuses to apologise for it. And that’s what really makes people angry. When Anne Hathaway issues a public apology because sassy bloggers didn’t like her Oscars dress (which was more than a little “Gwyneth for Shakespeare in Love”, just sayin’), it gives the Negative Nancy squad more ammunition. They see the effect their criticisms have and it feeds the fire in them. Gwyneth infuriates people because she could care less what you think about the Country Strong soundtrack.
Gwyneth fangirled like the rest of us would have while working with Anjelica Huston on The Royal Tenenbaums; she was instrumental in getting getting Sylvia funded and produced; she counts Brad Pitt and Ben Affleck amongst her beaus (before any of their respective Jennifers came on the scene); she listens to N.W.A. and Public Enemy to unwind during photoshoots; she participated in a sweet interaction with a fan on the morning of 9/11 that wound up saving that person’s life; and she’s honest about the reality of what she puts in her body. Unlike other size 0 actresses, Gwynny does not, in an effort to be likeable, proclaim to shove pizza and burgers in her mouth every day like "one of the boys". Instead, we know she's liable to throw back a few too many beers one night, indulge in a regular inhalation of nicotine, then undo a bit of the damage with persnickety eating. She’s a human person – one who might only be more well-liked if she were to lie for the sake of appeasing critics.
The criticisms leveled at Gwyneth read like little more than jealous jibing at this point. Her positive traits - acting talents, shiny hair and ability to rap along to Straight Outta Compton - are overlooked because she started a website where she outlines the positive ways she’s improved her own life and offers suggestions for willing people to do the same. When Zach Braff’s efforts to disrupt the traditional studio system by crowd-sourcing another movie about a guy with feelings are met with literally millions of dollars, and notorious poor-career-decision-maker (FutureSex/LoveSounds can not make us forget about The Love Guru or the denim suit) Justin Timberlake becomes the 14th man to join Saturday Night Live’s 16-person strong “Five-Timers Club” it’s not too much to ask that – as well as being a little kinder and less nasty to our female celebrities – we hold these bros up to the same standard as we do women like Gwyneth, Kristen, J-Lo and A-Jo.
It’s easier to criticise female celebrities because it’s easier to criticise females in general; they (and we) are expected to fulfill the roles of mother, wife, sister, girlfriend, colleague, workmate and role model, and to do so effortlessly. When one of us slips up – by shamelessly name-dropping her friendship with Hova (like you wouldn’t) or by suggesting you should eat certain foods to make your poop more regular – let’s try not to tear her to shreds over it. Or, I mean, keep hating on Gwynny if you remain unconvinced – she don’t give a goop. She’s got a macrobiotic dinner to prepare for Apple and Blue Ivy and you’re just in her way.
(Images via Getty)