Sex, Love & Goop: Gwyneth Paltrow has made the weirdest sex show on the planet

You can just imagine the pitch: ‘The vagina candle woman is going to have a frenzy of orgasm chats with stunned couples in crisis. Think of the meme potential!’

Have you ever actually read the first edition of Goop? It’s an astonishingly normal 200-word email in which Gwyneth Paltrow explains she doesn’t only eat brown rice and seaweed, as people think she does – she actually eats normal food, just in quite a healthy way, and anyway here’s a recipe for turkey ragu. Looking at it now, it’s like peering at an ancient relic from a civilisation that no longer exists: an amulet preserved from a past version of an internet, where a celebrity could break the shackles of only being represented via film junkets and glossy magazines to reach out and teach people how to make banana nut muffins using whole grain flour; where a gleaming, $250m lifestyle industry could be built from a single moment of honesty. Now look: it makes more financial sense for Paltrow to sell jade rollers and hair serum than be in another Iron Man movie, and we all know what “conscious uncoupling” and “I steam-clean my vagina” mean. What a heady 13 years it has been.

Anyway, let’s talk about your orgasms lately. Not been very good, have they? What? Does it make you uncomfortable when I make intense eye contact with you and say “orgasm” like that? While affecting a smirk that can only be described as “defiant”? Well get used to it, buddy. Sex, Love & Goop is an absolute frenzy of them.

The rough format of the show is this: a handful of carefully selected, LA healthy-styled couples have come to Paltrow, for some reason, to help them reconnect via sex and foreplay. These couples span the broad vista of the human experience: an older couple who have been together forever; a younger couple with kids; an artistic couple who seem to have never really ever had a connection in the bedroom; lesbians. Each couple’s fundamental sexual disorder is diagnosed in a Gwyneth-headed roundtable, then they are sent variously to a knowing holistic sex therapist – a lot of elegant, early-grey women always quietly threatening to get a 3D model of the clitoris out – to walk them through exercises that might help them achieve a healthier sex life. Sometimes you see a marriage blow apart in real time, sometimes you see people make that curious noise they do when they discover they have a kink. The word “smörgåsbord” happens a lot. That’s the vibe.

Is this good, though? The answer is complicated. Netflix, more than any other streaming platform or channel, have realised the power of the internet all talking about the same thing at once. They are masters in the dark art of making a vast audience watch something they are not interested in just to know what the hell an even vaster audience is talking about any given week: you will remember the discourse-informing-viewing-hours model from Making a Murderer, Tiger King, Too Hot to Handle, or, lately, Squid Game. But Sex, Love & Goop feels like it might have been talked about like this in early pitch meetings: “The vagina candle woman who was married to Coldplay is going to make the weirdest sex show on the planet! Imagine the meme potential!” But something else came out entirely: a wholesome, non-fun educational documentary for couples on the brink of a crisis. It doesn’t feel like something a streaming giant might have front-and-centre on its homepage, more something from a dusty video cassette you find at the back of the TV stand the year after your parents had all those rows.

Who is Sex, Love & Goop really for? It’s hard to tell. Though Paltrow is in there – and dazzlingly so: she comes across as straightforward, funny and cool, and I can sadly see myself getting talked into having an erection in front of hi-definition Netflix cameras by her as a result – she’s not in there enough to satiate any Goop-heads who might be watching. As a show format it’s not entertaining enough for anyone not in a sexual crisis to watch as an entertained observer. The mood of the entire series is an inch or two off from the start: occasionally, with the “there-are-no-wrong-answers!” nervous tension of the group scenes, it feels like an office team-building away-day, only instead of having platter sandwiches and a brainstorm somebody’s wife gets fingered. If you’re having marriage problems that are rooted in physical intimacy then please, by all means, watch this show with your partner and have an unbearable conversation about pleasure afterwards. Everybody else: I think they are all talking about the new series of You at the moment. Watch that to see what they are going on about instead.

Sex, Love & Goop is on Netflix on 21 October.

Contributor

Joel Golby

The GuardianTramp

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