Gwyneth Paltrow and her crackpot diet may be laughable – but it's pure genius | Hadley Freeman

It's easy to make fun of Gwyneth Paltrow's nonsense about exercise, food, and inner journeys, but she's laughing all the way to the bank

You might think that early April had been all about one particular towering if divisive figure, one who polarised nations with her extraordinary pronouncements. Love her or hate her, you have to admit, that woman made an impact and that woman is, of course, Gwyneth Paltrow.

Paltrow's latest contribution to ameliorating the terrible malnutrition suffered by swaths of the world's population – everyone but Paltrow, in fact – has just been published in the UK under the title It's All Good. And indeed it is, if your approach to food is completely crackpot served up with a hefty side of overprivilege. In short, if you thought Pippa Middleton's book Celebrate read more like an internet parody than an actual book written by an actual person for which publishers paid actual money, you ain't seen nothing until you've read La Paltrow's contribution to the genre.

While ostensibly a cookbook, It's All Good is a cookbook characterised by a complete fear of food. Paltrow explains in the beginning how she was inspired to write the book when she nearly died after eating too many french fries (I am not exaggerating here) and so went to a doctor, submitted herself to more medical tests than a sufferer of Munchausen's syndrome and came up with the diagnosis that her body was in crisis. A doctor duly decreed that she is allergic to pretty much everything, including peppers, corn and aubergine, and should eat next to nothing. Except quinoa. And maybe some pomegranate on special occasions.

Gwyneth, with the kind of self-centred self-righteousness that only Hollywood A-listers can master, decided that if she needs to follow this medically dubious "elimination" diet (a diet one doctor has already described as "at best non-evidence-based hope, and at worst plain old malpractice"), then so does everyone else in the world. Hence It's All Good, a cookbook that is food-phobic, a treatise on nutrition that contains about as much actual science as a Gillian McKeith book. In short, Paltrow's concept of nutrition casts extreme doubt on the efficacy of the private schools system in Manhattan that educated her so expensively.

The food and literary establishments have described It's All Good as "laughable Hollywood neuroticism about eating taken to the next level" and "quack science". Yahoo gleefully pointed out that to eat as Paltrow suggests would cost $300 (about £200) a day, which I actually think is quite a bargain considering Paltrow once recommended a detox costing £275 for 21 days, and that involved nearly no food at all. In any case, it feels like a bit of a wasted jab on Yahoo's part to say that Gwyneth's $300 diet smacks of Marie Antoinette-esque privilege: did they not read the section in which she blithely notes how she has so many apples to spare thanks to the orchard around her massive house in the Hamptons?

It's easy to make fun of Paltrow – I've just done it for 450 words without breaking a sweat – but I've begun to think that, actually, she might be a genius. True, genius is not really a word that one associates with a 40-year-old who has a penchant for boasting that she has "the butt of a 22-year-old stripper", or announcing "I would rather die than let my kids eat Cup-a-Soup." But it has become increasingly clear to me that Paltrow is brilliantly trolling the world.

Just as some youngsters today do not know who Margaret Thatcher is, so there must be a whole generation that doesn't know Paltrow was once a talented actor as opposed to a cheerleader for tofu. However, during the past decade Paltrow appears to have decided to jettison her career and become a full-time spouter of nonsense about food, exercise and her own inner journey, all detailed on her website, Goop. This now seems to give her so much more pleasure than acting, and considering her next role is in Iron Man 3, that's understandable. But because I refuse to believe that anyone can be as bizarre as Paltrow presents herself, I suspect she is engaging in a giant satire on the world, creating a self-image that is as much a parody of the modern-day celebrity as William Boot was of the 20th-century journalist.

Consider: 1. An obsession with food, dieting, exercise and crackpot theories thereof; 2. A stonkingly myopic sense of overprivilege; 3. Giving one's children extraordinary names; 4. An unfortunate tendency to dabble in embarrassing hip-hop moves and parlance.

These are the cliched characteristics of a celebrity today and Paltrow embodies them all to an extraordinarily overblown degree. The net result is that she now gets far more press for being this parody of a celebrity than she ever got for being an actual celebrity. Sure, a lot of the attention might be negative, but at least it's attention, and, as some female columnists have also learned, making oneself into a laughable figure can be a very lucrative sideline.

Mail Online is so enthralled with pronouncements about Gwyneth's butt and her gluten intolerance that they basically have a whole section dedicated to her. This is because the media itself is as fond of spreading misinformation about food, female body shape and exercise as Paltrow and, as a result, her nonsensical book has currently garnered twice as many Google hits as Iron Man 3.

Paltrow seems to have realised at just the right point that the difference between being a 20th- and 21st-century celebrity is that the former required some talent and the latter requires only self-exposure, and if that means becoming a laughing stock along the way, she can laugh herself all the way to the bank. Gwyneth Paltrow: modern-day genius or embodiment of modern day ills? Whatever, it's all good.


Hadley Freeman

The GuardianTramp

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