At the very start of this piece, I’d like to state on the record that I have no issues at all with Gwyneth Paltrow . She has had no negative impact on my life that I’m aware of, so I have no personal reason to be unpleasant to her. She does, admittedly, receive a lot of criticism , but is that really fair? After all, she’s actually doing remarkably well for someone who was stranded here after travelling from an alternative dimension where the language, social norms and even the laws of nature are completely different.
Because that’s the most logical explanation for the stuff she regularly says and does. Her unfamiliarity with our language would explain all the weird stuff she says , like calling a divorce “ conscious uncoupling ”, which I believe is something Thomas the Tank Engine does when he needs to drop his coaches off. Confusion over our social norms is consistent with her breathtakingly ridiculous proclamations . And a radically different understanding of how science works would lead to many of the diets and beauty treatments she uses (and sells for ridiculous amounts via her Goopwebsite).
For someone of even the slightest scientific inclination, Goop is a veritable cornucopia of What-The-Fuck? There’s “ spirit truffles ”, which contain “ spirit dust ” which apparently “feeds harmony and extrasensory perception through pineal gland de-calcification and activation”. In fairness to Goop, those are definitely all real words. They’ve got us there.
There’s the “morning smoothie ” which lists as an ingredient Cordyceps, the parasitic fungus which genuinely turns insects into zombies by infecting their brains . Gwyneth Paltrow is literally telling her fans to consume brain-controlling fungus!
At least things have an actual physical presence. The less said about the products that work by being infused with positive vibes and good intentions, the better . Same goes for vaginal steaming .
But never let it be said that Gwyneth Paltrow isn’t willing to suffer for her beliefs, as she’s recently revealed her latest interest is apitherapy, specifically the practice of deliberately getting bees to sting her, to supposedly get rid of inflammation and scarring.
There’s a lot to question about this claim. Firstly, using bee stings to get rid of inflammation is like using petrol bombs to get rid of a house fire. Bee stings, like most insect venom, cause inflammation ! If you’ve ever been stung by anything, you know this, as the sting site swells up like a small-but-angry red balloon.
Secondly, many people have pointed out that it’s a bit much, at a time when bees are under threat , for a millionaire to kill them en-masse for a beauty treatment with no basis in logic or reality? This is a semi-valid criticism, based on the notion that bees die as soon as they sting you. This is onlypartially true ; it’s usually only honey bees that this applies to, so it depends on the bees used (presumably they aren’t killer bees , but you never know with Gwyneth “delicious brain fungus” Paltrow).
A bee dies after stinging if it has a barb in the stinger, meaning it gets caught in the victim’s skin and is ripped our as the bee flies off post-sting, causing massive physical trauma and eventual death. But this only happens if the victim has sufficiently tough, thick skin. But surely if anyone has smooth, delicate skin it’s Gwyneth Paltrow, given all she does to maintain it? Maybe a bee stinging it is like pushing a knitting needle through candy floss? So we can give her the benefit of a doubt there.
It’s apparently a very old idea going back thousands of years, and we know that in pseudoscience circles age is a perfectly valid substitute for “evidence that is actually works”. You can sort of see some rationale behind it; bee stings obviously have a definite physical effect on the body, they’re 100% natural (another substitute for effectiveness ), and a localised swelling certainly would remove wrinkles , albeit temporarily and painfully.
One wonders, is this the “$5 wrinkle trick” that a mom discovered that “doctors hate”, according to those irksome web adverts ? It adds up: Gwyneth Paltrow is a mother, $5 worth of bees is probably sufficient for the method, and if you’re encouraging people to pump themselves full of venom for no good reason then doctors most certainly would strongly object to that, given how much extra work it would mean for them.
But it would be churlish to hold Gwyneth Paltrow solely responsible for this, as the issue is much bigger than her. The beauty industry regularly and openly misuses science when it comes to hawking their products to an unsuspecting population. Beauty products like to include just enough science-sounding words and phrases to seem credible ( pentapeptides, anyone ?) without actually having to do anything as hard as conforming to the rigorous rules of actual science .
In a society where women are constantly harassed to look their best but paradoxically criticised for attempting to do so , it’s hardly surprising that any claim from a powerful industry to be able to enhance or fix appearance with minimum effort is going to be seized upon by anyone unfortunate enough to be vulnerable to the laws of nature (i.e. everyone, except possibly Gwyneth Paltrow).
Paltrow’s latest claim is just another symptom of this, albeit an especially bizarre and surreal one. This again is hardly surprising, given how many high-profile figures end up developing their own egocentric model of how reality works , and such is the way the human mind works when itcomes to successful, confident figures that they’ll always have their believers and supporters.
It makes you wonder what she’ll promote as a beauty aid next, though. Eating trees? Freefall yoga? Snail slime? That last one is actually real , so it’s probably only a matter of time.
Dean Burnett gave up caring about his the quality of his skin during his acne-riddled adolescence. He’s on Twitter as @garwboy .
The Idiot Brain by Dean Burnett (Guardian Faber, £12.99). To order a copy for £7.99, go to bookshop.theguardian.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min. p&p of £1.99.