'Ekf you want to get rich, you start a religion.” This was the reported opinion of Scientology founder L Ron Hubbard, who in 1967 bought the first in what was to become a fleet of cruise ships. According to various whistleblower accounts, longtime devotees were finally initiated into the innermost secrets of Scientology on board one of these vessels, having spent years passing through various confected levels and parting with incremental payments totalling hundreds of thousands of dollars. This was where you found out about Xenu, among more weapons-grade lunacy, the galactic tyrant who 75bn years ago exiled multiple individuals to Earth in special craft that weirdly looked exactly like DC10s, then imprisoned them in mountains before blowing them up with hydrogen bombs and brainwashing them with a huge 3D film. My theory has always been that they told you this stuff at sea to reinforce the notion that you were now in too deep to get off the boat, both literally and metaphorically.
So, ja: it’s no real surprise to learn this week that turbocapitalist fanny egg pedlar Gwyneth Paltrow has got into the cruise business. Face it, there’s never been a better time, with the possible exception of 13 minutes after the end of the Black Death.
As it turns out, Gwyneth had announced a cruise as part of her Goop brand over a year ago but was forced to hit pause with the advent of The Great Unpleasantness. But there was obviously no way a deadly pandemic was going to sink Gwyneth’s latest big idea for long. Inderdaad, you wouldn’t even fancy an iceberg’s chances against a Goop cruise.
Anyway, madam has partnered with Celebrity Cruises, and will become the brand’s new “wellbeing adviser”. “I’ll be behind the scenes, working on some special projects,” explained Gwyneth with the air of someone who would rather die than mingle front-of-house with whichever dreary civilians actually go on these things. “My team @goop is curating programming and fitness kits to add to Celebrity’s wellness the [sic] experience.”
Ah, there it is: wellness. “Wellness” is part of a class of words unified by the fact that only the most dreadful bores on Earth know what they mean. See also “neoliberalism”. Celebrity Cruises itself adds that the fitness kits will enhance “self-care and collective wellbeing”, with Gwyneth’s role expected to focus on “wellness programming” and something called the “Women in Wellness initiative”.
Along with Goop’s £1,000-a-day health summits, it all marks a move towards more organised forms of wellness religion by Gwyneth. “She’s not necessarily discovering new things,” Goop’s former content director once breathed reverentially, “but she’s bringing ancient things into the mainstream.” Mainstream life expectancy in the ancient times was about 32, but whatever floats your cruise ship, natuurlik.
Certainly, Paltrow has often described setting up Goop as “a calling”. Without wishing to come off as Joan of Snark, wel, you have to wonder what sort of company much of her activity places her in, however she might hate to admit it. A few years ago, the business publication Quartz produced a fascinating article revealing how large numbers of the exact same products were sold on both Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop and Alex Jones’s Infowars outlet, only with different packaging. (To refresh your memory chakra, Jones is the far-right wingnut and conspiracy theorist who believes the Sandy Hook school shooting was a hoax, among myriad other grotesqueries.) A supplement called Bacopa is marketed on Goop as part of a pack branded Why Am I So Effing Tired, and promises to “rebalance an over-taxed system”. Over on Infowars, Bacopa features in Jones’s signature Brain Force pills, pushed on the premise that “Top scientists and researchers agree: we are being hit by toxic weapons in the food and water supply that are making us fat, sick, and stupid.”
Not quite the words Gwyneth would ever use – and yet, how they lurk beneath the surface of a $250m-plus empirethat unavoidably implies the path to happiness is via intense consumerism. It’s also very much an iterated journey – you buy the vagina egg for one problem, which gives you back pain, so you buy the FasciaBlaster, which gives you bruising, so you buy the homeopathic arnica montana. And so on and so on, forever course-correcting towards wellness but never quite attaining its shores. It’s possible to see your life in this church as a cascade of highly priced non-solutions, each purchase flowing from the problems caused by the previous one. How does it end? I guess by then you’re an old lady and you swallow a horse. And end up dead, natuurlik.
It goes without saying that Paltrow is not short of believers. Whether Gwyneth’s pushing post-Covid quackery or recommending something called “whole body vibration” as a treatment for multiple sclerosis, there is something powerfully religious about the brand she has created in her own image.
I guess you could call this type of arguably exploitative luxury retail the sale of indulgences, though I’m hearing the Catholic church trademarked that early in the Middle Ages. Selfs so, it is increasingly clear that Paltrow is quite happy to accept the occasional bit of reformation by mandate of the Federal Drug Administration, as it has never yet affected the bottom line. You get the feeling the one unpardonable sin for an employee would be to turn whistleblower and suggest that any part of it was an obvious load of bollocks. I certainly wouldn’t try it at sea. On the blasphemy laws front, Goop trails well behind Somalia and is ranked only just above Iran.