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Why Gwyneth Paltrow Is Actually a Hero

Posted by Kara Baskin  April 24, 2013 12:00 PM

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I’m going to take a minute to defend an innocent person: Gwyneth Paltrow. This is not a parody. Yes, diagrams have been made analyzing her loathsomeness. Her quotes—about strict eating habits, non-British people, and the middle-class—have been swirling around the Internet like a limp Kleenex floating in a Spence gym toilet for years. People just named her their 2013 most beautiful woman, and the backlash has been fierce. But why do we actually hate her so much? At its core, it’s not because she suggests buying $400 cheese graters and helpfully recommends luxury hotels with sheets made of foie on GOOP. And it’s really not because she’s a product of Hollywood nepotism—after all, so are Drew Barrymore, Kate Hudson, Miley Cyrus, the Gyllenhaals, and that witty Lena Dunham. Nobody hates them with such fervor.

Moms especially seem to loathe her, especially in light of revelations that she feeds her children organic air and occasionally lets them have an Oreo. Her successful new cookbook, It’s All Good, has been subject to snipes from health experts, lifestyle gurus, and people who don’t have the time to make kale cupcakes from scratch.

I say: Isn’t it awesome that she owns it? Gwyneth doesn’t apologize for herself. She is who she is, and that’s why I like her. She doesn’t feign woman-of-the-people-ness like Jenny From the Block. She doesn’t try on humility like an ill-fitting prom tiara à la that overwrought girl from your high school drama club nightmares, Anne Hathaway. She’s simply Gwyneth Paltrow, charmed and knowing it, chilling with Mario Batali, godchild to Steven Spielberg, eating her pricy cheese, and partying with Beyonce. She also has two kids and is married to a rock star. She loves it and she owns it, the way I love and own my fleece leggings and my Yellow Toyota Matrix.

So?

We got a lesson in Hollywood-style come-uppance when wholesome Reese Witherspoon, a prime example of a holier-than-thou star, was arrested for disorderly conduct during her agent husband's DUI bust. Years earlier, she’d lectured an audience about how, in order to make it in Hollywood, you didn’t need a sex tape. You just had to be honest and hardworking! Like her! We now know that turned out.

Gwyneth Paltrow, on the other hand, is almost gloriously oblivious to social mores and a preening public. She’s not pandering or pressuring any audience that doesn’t want her. GOOP, her lifestyle site, is cannily aspirational. And I’ll admit it: I click on that site almost like porn—furtively, with a quick pulse. Come on: Who doesn’t want her life every now and again? Magazines are made on this concept. So are books. Do I sometimes dream of squeezing in meetings with my agent in between dinners with Stella McCartney? Do I occasionally long to take tousled Instagram photos of myself backstage at the Oscars? Do I want to condition my hair with authentic $600 Moroccan oils and light bonfires in the backyard of my rambling Hamptons manse while Jay-Z serenades me from the porch? Um, yes. Yes I do. Sounds like an awesome life.

That doesn’t mean that I want to be her kind of mom, or that I want to trade my life for hers permanently. But I like that her life exists, so I can look at it every so often and get inspired, get out of my own head. She might be tone deaf, but she really believes what she’s selling, and I think this makes her accessible. (I mean honestly: What p.r. agent would let her get away with half of her quotes, if she didn't really believe them?) Which is why she's so effortlessly compelling. She doesn't care who she infuriates, because at the end of the day, she's still Gwyneth Paltrow, and that's not such a bad deal.

And when it comes to actually living a quality life, she deserves credit. I admire her for not trotting her husband out at every awards show like a large housepet, a la Halle, Anne, Reese, and so forth. I respect her for not selling photos of her kids. I’ve yet to see her stumbling drunkenly out of a club. And I don’t think she’s been arrested—so far. Basically she lives a charmed life that’s a bit heavy on the organic stuff, with a few celebrity assists. Her main crime against humanity is hocking overpriced bath products.

No, she hasn't had to fight for her bliss, which is the preferred celebrity narrative. Is that really reason enough to loathe someone? I respect that she doesn’t pretend to be refreshingly normal! Or so down to earth! That spin makes me sicker than any recipe from her It's All Good cookbook. I’d rather read about an authentic snob than a phony everywoman, any day.

I know, I know. Now is the time that I acknowledge the real heroes—regular people who work, raise kids, cook their own meals, and live everyday lives far less glamorous than the one enjoyed by Gwyneth Paltrow. There’s nobility and importance in those lives. If all were fair and right in the world, the media would glorify them too. But they peddle the business of celebrity. And Gwyneth might just be one of the last honest-to-goodness, answering-to-nobody stars. She doesn’t try to be an Everymom or an Everywoman, and that’s the secret to her success. Her complete guilelessness, in a way, makes her more relatable than a star who brays about how hard it is to get the kids to school and cook meals and work, when you know full well that she has an army of nannies doing the legwork. In her special way, Gwyneth is authentic. And unlike so many other celebrities, she really doesn't care if you hate her.

And so, even though she’s had plenty of help from people far more powerful than me, her dad and Steven Spielberg and Chris Martin among them, I’m going to bat for her. After all, at the root of all hatred is a twinge of jealousy. Do we loathe her, or do we want to be her for a few minutes? I wouldn’t mind her kitchen, or her hair, or a New York Times best-seller. Or her bank account too. Like GP, I’m just being honest.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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About the author

Kara Baskin (@kcbaskin) is a Boston-based writer, editor, and mom to Andy. She thinks Sriracha and garlic make everything tastier. She loves Steely Dan and "Murder, She Wrote." Her More »

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