When Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin broke the news of their “conscious uncoupling” on GOOP yesterday afternoon, the announcement immediately crashed the lifestyle website and sent the average person into peals of laughter. And after that laughter came the feelings like, “Oh, Gwyneth. It’s too bad you’re getting a separation! Why did you announce it on your lifestyle website, using the most hilarious wording possible? What is a ‘conscious uncoupling,’ and is that better than the way that some people head towards severing a relationship, where they’re throwing vases across the room and having to deal with crazy mediators en route to a divorce?”
The answer, of course, is that Gwyneth Paltrow is better than you. Gwyneth being better than you — she speaks Spanish fluently! Remember her tour of the country with Mario Batali? — is part of her brand. It was unconsciously so when she was mostly an actress: blonde and patrician, capable of being great in one movie and bad in the next, dating Brad Pitt and inspiring him to embrace his own blond patrician era, winning Best Actress as an ingenue.
But once Gwyneth stepped back from movies — ostensibly for her kids, Apple and Moses, but also because the roles weren’t interesting — she started to become her own new hybrid celebrity mom-ster brand, with GOOP the lifestyle company and weekly newsletter advertising the many expensive ways that Gwyneth’s enlightenment is better than yours. In fact, it’s proven popular enough that rumors of Reese Witherspoon’s lifestyle brand and Blake Lively’s lifestyle brand have been percolating.
And unlike fellow lifestyle brand Oprah, Gwyneth remains unrelatable, a Connecticut/NYC princess from Spence, somewhat similar to Martha Stewart. But at least Martha Stewart was running her own business before she became a lifestyle monolith. Gwyneth was an actress, a profession that doesn’t radiate the same glow of accomplishment, especially when you’re not considered one of the greats in the mold of Meryl Streep or even Jessica Chastain.
It is really easy to laugh at Gwyneth’s well-meaning cluelessness. GOOP seems like it comes from a place where she wants people to do yoga and eat well, but instead, it’s aspirational lifestyle porn where people are consuming “good for the earth/soul” lifestyle ideas at the level of the one percent, which kind of goes against the hippie ethos that GOOP is repackaging. Being more in touch with the earth and your spirit shouldn’t be something that your wallet can buy. And because Gwyneth is far more of a brand these days than an actress, it’s easier not to see her as a person, per se, dealing with the sad fallout of a long-term relationship — which is very traumatic! So the public continues to view her as the physical manifestation of every evil, perfect, rich blonde woman who exists in the world and who, by all appearances, has had it relatively easy. And it’s kind of funny, on that level.
So the weird, kind of out-of-nowhere announcement of her separation — unless you read the gossip rags or understood why the Vanity Fair Gwyneth profile that got killed was a big deal (cheating rumors) — is something we commoners can laugh at it. And perhaps we should, for sanity’s sake. It is a fascinating document of somebody genuinely trying to own her story and to present it in the best light possible, when there’s got to be a lot of darkness and weirdness and a story underneath. But why would the public ever get access to that weird story? It’s bad for the brand.