Watching the final scene of Iron Man 3 was kind of like a dream. Gwyneth Paltrow was running around in a sports bra and yoga pants doing intense fight scenes while Robert Downey, Jr. laid on his back on the ground. Gwyneth’s abs called to be worshipped and she was presented as such a badass that, for a second, I forgot that she had been voted the “Most Hated Celebrity” by Star Magazine. In that moment, I didn’t hate Gwyneth Paltrow. When I talked on the phone with my mom the next day about the film, we agreed that we didn’t hate Paltrow either.
I wanted answers. Why did the world hate her? New York Magazine cited how she tries too hard “at acts that should be effortless, like digesting.” Strangely enough, I researched and remembered that Paltrow had also been recently crowned “Most Beautiful Woman in the World” by People Magazine, the editor citing Paltrow was supreme because she is “so relatable as a wife and a mother.” As I watched Gwyneth glide and dip and twist across a burning ship, abs glistening in the moonlight, I found her empowering and interesting not someone that tries too hard. What did I care if someone tried too hard anyway? I agreed with People Magazine, Gwyneth seemed more like a role model than a girl for the tabloids to pick on.
Everyone who I’ve talked to about “The Gwyneth Problem” says that she tries to tell you what to do with your life, is an elitist, and is too perfect. I asked if their hatred was similar to everyone’s disdain for Anne Hathaway. One friend replied that while Anne seemed fake, “almost like she was trying to win an Oscar for playing Anne Hathaway”, Gwyneth just had a bad personality. A friend cited that it was possible that people were jealous of Gwyneth for her perfect life. Reasons ranged from “It’s because she moved to London and she thinks she a Londoner now” to “She made a cleanse called ‘Goop’ to help you poop.” I found these answers troubling. Would a man be ostracized for being too perfect? I tried to think of male celebrities who seem perfect but I failed at finding one who was perfect all around: healthy, clean of substances, attractive, good family life, etc. The closest I could get was Brad Pitt. He’s healthy, a good actor, clean, attractive, in a committed relationship, and has a well-balanced family. But he had flaws: he was in the tabloids for his weird facial hair, his strange family life with Angelina, and his betrayal of America’s sweetheart. When it came to family life I remembered that Gwyneth had been in the tabloids for naming her first child with Chris Martin “Apple”. Did that count as an imperfection on her perfect record?
I understood that people disliked people who acted perfect. With perfection one can perceive a sense of authority and we all like to defy authority. But Gwyneth didn’t feel like an authoritative figure to me, she seemed normal, and like she was just trying to help people be healthy. I watched a few interviews with her and saw why people might dislike her. For the most part, for me at least, I understood that no one wants to be told what to do from a skinny white woman. She didn’t have the relatability or the authoritative sense of an old fat woman. She wasn’t old enough to feel like a true nurturer and she wasn’t imperfect enough to feel non-threatening. She did seem a little abrasive, like you should do what she says: less like a friendly suggestion, more like the pushy know-it-all friend. Once again my mind turned to what it would be like if a man were to act in this manner. Would we be mad at Leo DiCaprio if he told us to try his juice cleanse? Would we call Nic Cage a dick or a snob for caring about our health? Did gender have anything to do with this at all?
I thought back to the days when my mother would tell me to do this or that. It drove me insane. If she asked me to take out the dog, more forcefully and less suggestively, I would automatically resist. We don’t like being told what to do, period. Was that why Paltrow was hated? Because she felt like she had a good grip on health and life and was trying to share her methods with the world. Because she had a sense of authority over subjects she was good at–like a teacher or mother? I realized it was a sort of gender-based problem. If George Clooney stepped up and unveiled a series of cookbooks, and cleanses, and lifestyle changing ideas, the world would eat them up. Because no one questions when a man holds authority and also has a sense of perfection about him. The perfection is admirable and the authority is respectable. For Paltrow, having a perfect life was irritating and her sense of authority seemed unearned.
So ladies, should we love Gwyneth and stop hating to advance ourselves as a gender? I was reminded of an article I had read on Thought Catalog entitled “24 Lies People Like To Tell Women” that provided some answers to The Paltrow Problem. Two lies described what was happening to Paltrow by the media: “If you are a take-charge person who is hard-working and demanding of others the way many men who are deeply respected in business might be, you are a bitch.” The other: If you don’t smile, and you don’t make yourself as amicable as possible while getting away, you are guilty of being a frigid bitch.” To me this proved that Paltrow deserved respect and support from her fellow females. In order for us ladies to have more strong-willed not-giving-a-shit female role models, we have to support those who are trying desperately to do what the media is trying to desperately to prevent them from doing: be powerful while not always being relatable. Male stars don’t always have to be relatable–their deeds just have to be commendable to other men. To me, Gwyneth Paltrow’s deeds are incredibly commendable–not even taking into account that she is also raising children and starring as kick-ass females in films–I’m just talking her health and lifestyle choices and influence on others health and lifestyle choices. And while she may not always be relatable, at least she’s unapologetic about her choices–a quality that’s all too lacking in females of my generation. So I’d like to raise a glass to Gwyneth and call for my fellow ladies to stop hating and start supporting strong and admirable and sometimes un-amicable females.