There’s a veritable encyclopedia of quotes those who are annoyed by her can cite to prove what they perceive as her unconscionable lack of self-awareness and apparently unstomachable pretentiousness. Perhaps, as Star magazine quoted when naming the Oscar winner the year’s Most Hated Celebrity, it’s when she said, “I’m really fucking good at my job. People who are interesting and good know that, and that’s all that matters,” that irks these malcontents the most. Maybe it was when she proudly asserted, “I am who I am; I can’t pretend to be somebody who makes $25,000 a year,” or “I would rather die than let my kid eat Cup-a-Soup,” that this exceptionally passionate faction of people decided that they just can’t with Gwyneth anymore.
Maybe it was a more recent moment that sent these haters over the edge, as when she told Harper’s Bazaar, “It’s what makes life, finding the balance between cigarettes and tofu.” Or when the haters found out that eating as the GOOP maven suggests in her new cookbook would cost a family $300 a day. Whatever it is—and if it’s not one of those choice moments, perhaps it’s from the 157,000 sites returned from the Google search for “Gwyneth Paltrow annoying quotes”—something about Paltrow grates a lot of people like few other celebrities’ personalities do.
And yet this is the woman who met Coldplay singer Chris Martin in 2002, married him, and moved off to London, where she was immediately stricken with Madonna syndrome and began talking in a British accent. “I don’t fit into the bad side of American psychology. The British are much more intelligent and civilized than the Americans,” the A-list Benedict Arnold said in 2006. This is also the mother who elicited one of the first global WTFs by naming her daughter Apple in 2004.
That’s all to say that Gwyneth Paltrow has been, for lack of a more sophisticated word, “annoying” people for over a decade now. With the whole fascination over the hatred surfacing yet again on the occasion of her Iron Man press onslaught, it’s hard to greet the conversation this time with anything more than an exasperated shrug—we’re still harping on this? Or is there, with our newly heightened obsession over the likability of our Hollywood stars (specifically, starlets) reason anew to dissect that very Gwynethness of Gwyneth Paltrow that just seems to rub us the wrong way?
“It was a different conversation in the Apple, British accent days,” Louis Peitzman, associate editor at Buzzfeed, tells The Daily Beast. “That was the pre-GOOP days. Things have changed. We’re more annoyed now than in the past. It’s the whole idea that she insists she’s relatable and like everyone else, but she makes it clear time and again that she’s just not.”
GOOP, of course, is the hearty (probably organic) pillar supporting Paltrow’s career renovation—not reinvention, exactly—as an actress and lifestyle guru. It’s Paltrow’s weekly lifestyle newsletter in which she encourages readers to “nourish the inner aspect” by, basically, living like she does. There are recommendations for food, travel, clothes, facilitating bowel movements, and myriad other topics Paltrow fancies herself an expert on.
The idea behind this, at least in how it’s been perceived by the public, is that Paltrow sees herself as a working mom—just like you—and therefore can offer valuable tips on how to maintain a smooth and healthy family life, just as she has. “But there seems to be a disconnect between what she’s offering and what people want, and that’s a really annoying thing,” Eleanor Barkhorn, senior associate editor for The Atlantic’s Sexes channel, tells The Daily Beast.
Eat just like Apple, Moses, Chris, and I do, she might say. You’ll need this fantastic cheese, she may suggest, adding that it only costs $4,000 and you have to import it from Senegal and the maker is only reachable by carrier pigeon. Sure, the cheese very well may be phenomenal, and you would probably enjoy it. But there’s no chance in hell you’ll ever be able to get it.
In other words, she’s insisting on being an authority on how to live life but the things she is telling us to do are ludicrous, image-harming, and, yes, annoying. Plus, it’s coming from an actress who has remained, over the span of decades, extremely successful—she’s starring this weekend in what will likely be one of the summer’s biggest hits, remember. Since her GOOP-y ways seems to be doing so much PR damage, it’s hard not to ask: why bother?
“There are so many celebrities who don’t even try to relate to their fans, who are going for the more aloof persona, like Angelina Jolie,” Barkhorn says. “You wouldn’t ever see her starting a lifestyle website. I think Gwyneth probably could’ve kept this resentment at bay if she hadn’t tried to connect with fans. She’s trying to maintain the trappings of the A-list lifestyle while at the same time seem relatable, and it’s not working.”
So what is working? Her acting, for one. Amid a din of bantering of her personality, Paltrow pulled off a charming guest arc on Glee, winning an Emmy for her work. The buzz over her work in Iron Man 3 is spectacular. The Daily Beast’s Marlow Stern says that she—and her abs—“really shine[s] in this film,” while Vulture is so impressed by her performance that it felt compelled to create a guide to suppressing your hatred of her personality in order to ensure your enjoyment of her work.
That’s not to mention that the same week Star crowned her Most Hated, People crowned her Most Beautiful. It’s what Daily Beast alum Maureen O’Connor at The Cut rightfully calls the “double-edged sword” of the publicity machine: “the same hard-nosed PR strategy that lands you on the cover of People, golden hair bathed in sunlight and wrinkles erased, will also attract haters. To succeed in Hollywood, you must shove yourself down everyone’s throat. To shove yourself down everyone’s throat is to induce gagging.”
But is this whole thing we’ve labeled as Gwyneth Paltrow’s heinous, if not irreparable, image problem something we have just conjured ourselves—the sliver of us who spend entire days on the Internet and Twitter ruminating over whether someone seems a little off-putting? Are teenage girls in the Midwest, for example, walking through their local mall really gossiping about how annoying Gwyneth Paltrow is while picking out new choker necklaces at Claire’s?
“I would love to know the answer to that question because I can’t believe it’s true,” Barkhorn says. “I just wonder who really this all is beyond the people who read blogs and write blogs and consume media really intensely all day.”
The recycled conversation over Paltrow’s personality comes at a time when, more than ever, the media seems to be obsessed with whether a star is likable. Each time Emma Stone or Mila Kunis have a new movie coming out, a flurry of odes to their “coolness” hit the web. Jennifer Lawrence was so refreshing and winning during her Oscar campaign that news outlets dubbed her the Celebrity BFF of the Year. On the opposite end of the spectrum, intense hatred for Anne Hathaway’s very being became a national news story early this year, and now we’re harping on Paltrow again.
Yet Hathaway still won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, and Les Misérables was a global box-office smash. And don’t expect the Paltrow hate to dim Iron Man’s massive cash grab this week. “People talk about this kind of stuff a lot, but performance-wise, they’ll judge her outside of it,” Peitzman says. “It’s true of a lot of actors. Tom Cruise has the worst image for being bat-shit insane. Even reviews of his films acknowledge that. But they’ll follow up by saying he’s still a great action star.”
The bottom line: it’s a shame and maybe even hypocritical that we’re so fixated on actress’s relatability. We demand that our celebrities take risks with their careers, as Paltrow has done with GOOP, venturing into music, and taking unflattering roles in films like Country Strong—all things she’s since been teased for. We insist that they reveal all aspects of their personal lives to us, be truthful about things like how they stay thin and what it takes to maintain the kind of livelihood of people who win Oscars and walk red carpets and brunch with Jay-Z and Beyoncé. “Paltrow is letting it all out there in ways that most celebrities would never do, and she’s unfortunately being trashed for it,” Barkhorn says. So aren’t we, then, being a little unfair about this whole thing?
There are things she could do, sure, to put an end to that bottomless hole she seems to be digging. Quit life as a lifestyle guru, though GOOP is campy-entertaining and her cookbooks do have some good recipes. Stop talking, though her recent endorsement of oral sex on Chelsea Lately was shockingly hilarious. Perhaps, then, none of those things—just keep being Gwynnie, and let her work speak for itself.
“It’s like Zooey Deschanel,” says Peitzman. “There was backlash against her for a while, but now people love her show and she’s more likable on it, so we’ve kind of forgotten the things she’s done that annoy us. The work speaks for itself, but we’re still never going to stop thinking Zooey Deschanel is twee. And we’re never gonna stop thinking Gwyneth Paltrow is annoying.”
Somewhere, as she relishes the sole American Spirit cigarette she allows herself once a week, it’s safe to say that Paltrow is kind of OK with that.