Since its Netflix debut just a week ago, Gwyneth Patrow's The Goop Lab has caused a lot of controversy. The show puts Paltrow's Goop lifestyle brand on screen by having her and her employees go through a series of experimental practices designed to (hopefully) make them feel and / or look better. Now, Simon Stevens, chief executive of England's National Health Service is taking aim at many of the practices explored on the series.
Each of the six-episodes in the freshman season tackles a different topic or procedure, and these range from something as simple as women being encouraged to get out a mirror and look at their vulvas in order to fully understand their bodies, to getting psychic readings, "energy exorcisms," "vampire facials" and even doing mushrooms. Simon Stevens recently spoke at an Oxford Conversations event in England (via The Guardian) and while talking about the impact of fake news on our lives, told those in attendance that many of the procedures shown on The Goop Lab exemplify just that:
And now we have dubious wellness products and dodgy procedures available on the web. Fresh from controversies over jade eggs and unusually scented candles, Goop has just popped up with a new TV series in which Gwyneth Paltrow and her team test vampire facials and back a ‘bodyworker’ who claims to cure both acute psychological trauma and side effects by simply moving his hands two inches above a customer’s body. . . . Her brand peddles psychic vampire repellent, says chemical sunscreen is a bad idea, and promotes colonic irrigation and DIY coffee enema machines, despite them carrying considerable risks to health.
While The Goop Lab tries to make it clear that the show is "designed to entertain, not provide medical advice" in a notice put up before the beginning of each episode, part of Simon Stevens' point is that because these practices aren't confirmed to do what they are said to do, and because they can actually be quite dangerous under normal circumstances or, especially, if done incorrectly, that it's dangerous to show them in such a lighthearted way at all.
And, The Goop Lab is pretty light entertainment. I've watched the whole season, and, aside from the times when participants get emotional about their problems and how things like psychedelic-assisted therapy sessions and doing special breathing exercises that mimic hyperventilating have helped them, there are a lot of laughs, intentional and otherwise.
Also, it's pretty clear throughout that Gwyneth Paltrow and her team (for the most part) believe in the tactics that are used in the show, with Paltrow having invited several practitioners she's clearly worked with before or at least already has some faith in to be interviewed. Plus, you can't watch The Goop Lab without noticing that, while they might throw up the occasional fact that disputes the claims being made, they never have real interviews on the show with doctors, researchers or other health professionals who take issue with the procedures.
Simon Stevens is very worried about therapies like the ones shown on The Goop Lab taking off when they haven't been properly verified to actually work, especially because we live in a time when fake news can be around the world in nearly an instant. To him, this is especially dangerous when all of us either deal with complicated health issues in ourselves or loved ones, and will do almost anything at some point to find answers. According to BBC, at the same event Stevens also said:
While the term 'fake news' makes most people think about politics, people's natural concern for their health, and particularly about that of their loved ones, makes this particularly fertile ground for quacks, charlatans and cranks.