A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Goop Lab features frank discussion on a variety of "wellness" topics, including female sexuality. The third episode, "The Pleasure is Ours," features graphic talk of vibrators and intercourse, anatomical exploration that includes full-color, close-up photos of women's vulvas, and footage of a woman masturbating to orgasm. Episode one, "The Healing Trip," discusses and shows the use of "magic mushrooms" and MDMA to treat various psychological issues. The show could also be accused of promoting disordered eating, as it touts punishing diets and fasting as a way to achieve health and longevity. Parents and teens who watch can discuss this issue as well as the ultimate goals of the wellness industry and why people choose to try unproven methods for their health.
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What's the story?
THE GOOP LAB is a documentary-style Netflix series hosted by Oscar-winning actress (and New Age lifestyle brand maven) Gwyneth Paltrow and her company's Chief Content Officer, Elise Loehnen. Each episode centers on a different aspect of "wellness" -- some more down-to-earth than others. Subjects range from aging to sexual pleasure to exploring the use of psychedelic drugs in therapy. Paltrow invites psychics and "energy healers" to talk about what they do, while Goop staffers check out these techniques and experiences first-hand.
Is it any good?
Though presented as a tribute to curiosity and exploration, the absence of critical thinking and balance means that at its heart the series is little more than aspirational lifestyle sponcon. It's one thing to talk about offbeat cures and alternative medicine -- most doctors agree that the mind-body connection is real. It's another thing entirely when a media personality like Paltrow presents theories and methods on a huge platform like The Goop Lab without scrutiny, without bringing in doctors and scientists who may have differing points of view, in order to provide a clearer and more accurate picture. In episodes like "Are You Intuit?" (which centers on the idea of psychic mediums talking to the dead) and "The Energy Experience" (in which celebrity "energy healer" John Amaral waves his hands over clients in an effort to heal their bodies and minds), we are presented with some pretty out-there claims that aren't challenged or investigated in any concrete way. When the people being subjected to these cure-alls are paid Goop staffers, how confident can we be that anyone is truthfully expressing their opinion?
That said, the series is not without its high points. In particular, the third episode ("The Pleasure is Ours") featuring longtime sex educator Betty Dodson is a graphic, groundbreaking look at female sexual health that may be eye-opening and healing for many viewers. It could go a long way toward destigmatizing the discussion around women's sexuality and empowering women to increase their bodily self-awareness. It's a lesson Paltrow herself apparently needed, as she proclaims in the episode not to have realized there is a difference between the vagina and the vulva. And therein lies The Goop Lab rub: the same wealthy, beautiful celebrity who sold her fans on the health benefits of putting jade "eggs" in their vaginas (a move that cost the company $145,000 when they were sued over making these false claims) reveals herself to be wholly unqualified to be sharing this kind of advice. Her show's not the worst thing in the world, so long as viewers realize there's a difference between anecdotal evidence and scientific proof, heeding the disclaimer that prefaces each episode: “The following series is designed to entertain and inform -- not provide medical advice."
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the messages conveyed on The Goop Lab about wellness and health. Do certain ideas stand out more than others in terms of helpfulness? Do any of the methods they advertise seem potentially harmful?
In "The Health Span Plan" episode of The Goop Lab, Paltrow is shown engaging in a 5-day fasting program ("The ProLon Diet") developed by a doctor at USC, and presents this as a way to shave years off your life -- though she spends much of the episode complaining about how weak and terrible she feels. She sells this same fasting plan on her website for $249. Could this be seen as a conflict of interest? How or why?
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