Every February, to help celebrate Darwin Day, the Science section of AiPT! Comics cranks up the critical thinking for SKEPTICISM MONTH! Skepticism is an approach to evaluating claims that emphasizes evidence and applies the tools of science. All month we’ll be highlighting skepticism in pop culture and skepticism of pop culture.
Today Rob Palmer, Guerilla Skeptics on Wikipedia editor, explains how the world Gwyneth Paltrow lives in is much more far-fetched than any version of the Marvel Universe.
Pepper Potts is dangerous — and perhaps downright villainous.
Yes, you read that right! It turns out that the CEO of Stark Industries — Iron Man’s fiancé — has become one of the most successful suppliers of dangerous products in human history. No, I’m not talking about the advanced, lethal, military weaponry produced by SI. I mean the “health”-related products her company sells, and the bad health advice it promotes.
I’m talking about the woman who brings Pepper to life, Gwyneth Paltrow, and her real-life company, called Goop. Unfortunately for Marvel fans, and humans everywhere, Goop is one of the most successful snake-oil dealers of all time. Whether or not she’s perpetrating this harm knowingly, or actually believes in the nonsense she sells, doesn’t really matter. Thanos thought he was the good guy, yet due to his climactic snap, poof went half the population of the entire universe.
But, of course, the victims of Thanos are fictional characters, many of whom will likely return unscathed by the end of Avengers: Endgame. However, in the real world, those ripped-off or hurt by Goop’s products and advice may not be so lucky.
If you’re not a “well-off white woman” (the supposed demographic target for Goop), or a skeptic concerned with such matters, you might not have the foggiest notion of what I’m talking about. Goop began in 2008 as a mere newsletter distributed by Paltrow, was incorporated in 2011, and has grown into a hugely successful “lifestyle brand” giant. Goop’s success has even had other celebrities launch their own lifestyle websites in attempts to duplicate what Paltrow’s done. By 2018, just 10 years after its founding, Goop was worth 250 million dollars.
Goop’s Wikipedia article is a good place to find much of the valid, reliable criticism of the company, collected in a single place, including the appropriate news sources used as references. Here are some of the most ludicrous and dangerous examples of health claims and products which Goop has pushed on its customers, as documented on Wikipedia as of today:
— In 2015, Goop advocated for vaginal steaming, which uses a combination of infrared light and steam to cleanse “lady parts.” Paltrow suggested this has healing properties, but gynecologists countered that there’s no medical evidence showing this treatment does anything useful, and it could be dangerous. This triggered a social media dust-up between Paltrow and Jennifer Gunter, a San Francisco based OB/GYN, who is a specialist in vaginal health.
— In 2015, Goop resurfaced a disproven health claim, stating that breast cancer may be linked to wearing underwire bras. The claim was swiftly criticized by Gunter, who explained that cancer risk is increased because it’s harder to properly screen large breasts, not because larger breasts are exposed to underwire bras. As of this writing, amazingly, the post is still on the Goop site.
— In 2017, Goop marketed the “Jade Egg” for $66. According to Goop, this is “used by women to increase sexual energy, health, and pleasure.” Gynecologists were critical of this product, with Gunter calling claims about it “a load of garbage.” In fact, Goop agreed to pay $145,000 to settle a lawsuit regarding these claims, plus others about an herbal remedy, both of which were without any scientific basis.
— In 2017, Goop marketed “Body Vibes” — wearable stickers that “re-balance the energy frequency in our bodies” and “come pre-programmed to an ideal frequency, allowing them to target imbalances.” The advertisement also claimed that the stickers were made with “the same conductive carbon material NASA uses to line space suits so they can monitor an astronaut’s vitals.” When it made national news that NASA pointed out there was no such material in their spacesuits, Goop removed all references to NASA from their promotional material. However, health claims made for the stickers were not impacted, and sale of the stickers was not terminated.
— Goop promoted and marketed a coffee enema device from Implant O’Rama. (Would you purchase a medical device with “O’Rama” in the name? You can’t make this sh*t up!) This was sold despite the lack of scientific evidence regarding its usefulness, and in spite of evidence of coffee enemas’ potentially dangerous results, ranging from infection to death.
— In 2018, Goop was criticized for posting articles by an author, the “medical medium” Anthony William. This “psychic” says he uses paranormal abilities to converse with an entity who provides health advice to disseminate to humanity. Goop promoted William, saying he “is one of the most unconventional and surprisingly insightful healers today … the voice of a divine force called Spirit guides him to identify the roots of his patients’ hard-to-diagnose illnesses and find the best solutions to restore their health …”
There has been some pushback from the scientific, medical, and skeptical communities, including a 2015 book called “Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?” by Timothy Caulfield, but Goop’s growth continues virtually undeterred. Unfortunately, just this month, the Goop Empire has made yet another conquest on its path towards galactic domination. The streaming giant Netflix has signed a deal to produce a Goop series. This as-of-yet unnamed docuseries will help Paltrow and her minions promote her company, continue to give questionable and bad health advice, and sell its ineffective and dangerous products to an even wider audience.
So, does Paltrow believe her own BS? Or is she crazy like a fox? Does it matter? In either case, I think Gwyneth and Goop would make appropriate villains in a future Avengers film. Too bad Paltrow has just announced that Endgame will represent her final involvement in the Marvel universe. I’d really enjoy seeing Iron Man, Captain America, and the whole team take down the Goop Empire once and for all. Or maybe Thanos could be the hero this time, and do the universe a huge favor with a strategically targeted snap.